So, just because CBD is legal, it doesn’t always mean that a CBD product is legal to sell. And it’s important to understand this difference.
This article summarises the laws affecting those supplying the CBD industry and those manufacturing or selling CBD products.
Please note: if you are after legal advice, please consult a lawyer.
CBD UK Law for Hemp Growers
CBD UK law requires that growers of low-THC cannabis plants like industrial hemp need a license from the Home Office. The license covers both the cultivation and possession of cannabis. Each grower requires a licence.
The license lasts three years with all licenses expiring on 31st December of the applicable year. Each license application needs to define the commercial end-use for the crop, such as extracting oil from the seeds. The terms of the license include lawfully destroying the leaves and flowers as these are controlled parts of the plant.
At the time of writing, the license costs £580 with a renewal fee of £326.
Under EU Laws, hemp strains must contain less than 0.2% THC to be defined as industrial hemp. However, PhytoVista Laboratories only test extracts from plants and not the plants themselves.
CBD UK Law for CBD Products
For the sale of CBD products, it is again the amounts of controlled cannabinoids, such as THC, that determines whether the product is legal to sell.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 covers the controlled cannabinoids. These controlled cannabinoids are unlawful to possess or supply unless they are in a product that meets certain criteria a.k.a. an ‘exempted product’.
The criteria that determine whether a CBD product is exempt from control are:
- The product is not designed to administer the controlled substance
- The product cannot be used to extract the controlled substance
- The product contains no more than 1mg of controlled substance per container
There is a common misconception within the CBD industry that a product is legal to sell if it contains no more than 0.2% THC.
To be legal to sell, CBD UK Law states the amount of controlled substance cannot exceed 1mg per container.
This means that, regardless of container size, no CBD product may contain more than 1mg of THC: a 10ml vial may only contain 1mg and a 25ml bottle may only contain 1mg.
The same applies to other controlled cannabinoids.
In a study commissioned by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC), PhytoVista Laboratories blind tested 30 products. Only 38% of the tested products contained the stated amount of CBD and 50% exceed the legal amount of controlled cannabinoids, such as THC.
So, the only way to know the true CBD or controlled cannabinoid content of a CBD concentrate is to have a sample tested in a reputable CBD testing lab.
CBD Product Labelling
The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has not issued a licence for CBD as medicine. This means that CBD products cannot be sold as medicine. Neither can CBD products claim any therapeutic effects.
CBD as a Food Supplement vs Novel Food
CBD products such as CBD oils, tinctures and teas are sold as food supplements because they cannot claim any medical benefits.
Supplements are considered foods that have concentrated sources of nutrients. The EU has maximum safe limits and guidelines on labelling, presentation and advertising of food supplements.
However, this is not the same as being a ‘novel food’. A food is novel if it was not widely consumed within the EU before May 1997. Novel foods include things like cholesterol-reducing phytosterols and chia seeds and have a different regulatory pathway to food supplements.
Recently, hemp extracts and hemp-derived products were added to the EU’s Novel Foods Catalogue. However, no CBD products have yet to complete the pre-market safety assessment to be legally marketed in the EU.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK accepts the EU’s classification of CBD and are committed to marketplace compliance.
- CBD products must contain less than 1mg of controlled cannabinoid.
- Products containing CBD cannot make medical claims.
- CBD products currently follow food supplements EU regulations. You can find more information from the Home Office about CBD products using this drug licensing factsheet. Or more about the FSA guidance on novel foods on this page.
Is CBD Oil Regulated in the UK?
There is some CBD oil regulation however the UK does not robustly enforce it.
While many companies do comply with regulation, there are some CBD products with inconsistent quality that are harming the reputation of the CBD industry and ultimately damages customer trust.
Do you need a license to sell CBD in the UK?
No, you do not need a license to sell CBD products providing the product has a low THC (or other controlled cannabinoids) content.
Do you need a license to import CBD into the UK?
You can import CBD into the UK without a license. However, the CBD needs to come from an EU-approved industrial hemp strain.
Whilst CBD UK regulation exists it is not strictly enforced. However, that does not mean that a supplier can be complacent.
The outcome of a current application to the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) may see further CBD regulation as a novel food. The outcome could be as early as March 2020. The changes may include labelling requirements and much tighter restrictions on recommended daily amounts.
In the UK, industry bodies like the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) and the British Hemp Association (BHA) are lobbying the government for better CBD and hemp regulation.
The aim of everyone involved is a responsible, safe and thriving CBD industry in the UK.
You can assess whether your CBD products meet with the CBD UK Law on controlled cannabinoid content by having it tested through PhytoVista Laboratories. You can get in touch to obtain a CBD product testing quote from us today.