CBD is certainly gaining popularity in the UK at a spectacular rate, but what does this mean in terms of its legal status? As most of us are probably quite aware of, to some degree or another, CBD is certainly legal – but the intricacies and conditions of this might still be new and confusing territory for many.
The reason that so many people are still (understandably) confused is two-fold: Regulations surrounding CBD are still being formed and are subject to change. But beyond this, CBD is still associated with its brother cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which remains resolutely illegal in the UK.
To fully understand the rather rocky ground of CBD regulations we first need to understand what CBD is and where it comes from. Then, with a bit of clarification, we can come to understand the finer points of CBD regulation in the UK.
CBD Oil Explained
Most of us already have a rudimentary idea of what CBD actually is, but it’s important to go over this as it does indeed lend some weight to the confusing regulations surrounding it. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. Of the cannabis plant strain, two familiar plants emerge: marijuana and hemp. Although they come from the same strain, there are some key differences between the two:
- Hemp is a term used to classify varieties of the cannabis plant that contain 0.3% or less THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol. Hemp has become synonymous when describing non-intoxicating cannabis that is harvested for many things, including CBD.
- Marijuana, then, can be described as those varieties of the cannabis plant that contain 0.3% or more THC. Marijuana plants are usually grown and harvested precisely for their THC content and are associated with the ‘high’ associated with THC.
Instead of creating the euphoric feeling common to ingesting THC, CBD does not produce the same mind-altering effects. However, as we know, CBD has been cultivated for the many other promising effects it has shown.
But how does CBD work, and how does this differ from THC? As cannabinoids, CBD and THC produce effects within our bodies by interacting with our endocannabinoid systems or ECS for short. The body produces its own cannabinoids, but they can also be introduced into the system by using compounds like CBD and THC.
By attaching to certain receptors within our ECS, cannabinoids have been shown to affect many different things both in the body and mind, such as coordination and movement, pain, inflammation, emotions, and mood, thinking, appetite, and memories.
Will CBD Get You High?
THC attaches directly to ECS receptors, called CB1 and CB2 receptors, and this direct attachment causes that tell-tale feeling of being high. CBD, however, is believed to not attach directly to either of these receptors. Instead, it seems to direct the body to use more of its own cannabinoids so to improve the overall function of the ECS.
As such, CBD does not produce a ‘high’ feeling and is for all intents and purposes non-intoxicating. While THC can impair people’s cognitive performance and psychomotor abilities, CBD does not appear to do this, even when administered in high doses.
Read also: What’s the Best Way to Use CBD?
CBD Legalisation in the UK
The fact that CBD is non-intoxicating is important for all kinds of reasons. People can take CBD and experience the benefits of an improved ECS, such as reduced inflammation and pain, less anxiety, and even better sleeping patterns (to name a very small sample of potential therapeutic benefits) without feeling high.
And, because CBD is classified as non-intoxicating, it has indeed come to be legal in many countries, including the UK. But, there are some strict guidelines connected to this legal status:
- CBD is legal in the UK as long as it does not contain more than trace amounts (more than 0.2%) of THC, which is a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
- CBD is legal in the UK provided it has been derived from an industrial hemp strain that is EU-approved or comes from outside the EU.
So far, this seems quite cut-and-dry. However, there are many stipulations to CBD’s legal status to consider as well. Let’s take a closer look.
CBD oil and Cannabis: UK Regulations
Cannabis is listed as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act in the UK, but CBD is not listed as a controlled substance under this act. This has resulted in quite a lot of confusion about what the general public can and can’t do with the plant itself.
This had led to some people believing that they can grow their own cannabis or hemp. This is not true. It is illegal to grow your own cannabis or hemp in the UK. The regulations surrounding hemp cultivation in the UK are, indeed, strict:
- CBD producers in the UK must receive a license and permission from the UK Home Office to do so.
- To sell CBD oil you either need to be a licensed medical distributor or sell the product as a nutritional supplement.
- CBD products must be properly labeled in accordance with The Food Supplements (England) Regulations 2003.
- CBD Cosmetics require Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR).
- CBD Vape products should comply with non-nicotine e-liquid regulation.
- The sale of ‘CBD Flowers’ and buds is prohibited even if THC is below 0.2% and from EU approved origin.
Suggested Read: Does CBD Show Up on a Drug Test in UK?
CBD as a Novel Food
As of 13th February 2020, new CBD food products on the market require a Novel Food application. Products on the UK market before 13th February 2020 require a validated submission or approved novel food application by 31st March 2020.
Any food, drink, or supplements containing CBD are now considered ‘novel foods’. The important regulation of novel foods is that they require ‘premarket authorization’ – any manufacturer intending to put CBD in food is required to apply to do so.
Examples of CBD foods in scope of novel food regulations include:
- CBD oils, capsules & oral sprays
- CBD gummies, mints & other sweets
- CBD infused tea, coffee, beer and soft CBD drinks
- CBD snacks including energy bars
So what can be concluded from this rather large and detailed amount of information? Well, CBD is indeed legal, but the restrictions surrounding this legal status are many. And, indeed, these regulations are currently evolving and changing as CBD’s popularity and potential benefits are explored in even more detail. This changing landscape requires vigilant consumers – this landscape will no doubt see many more changes before CBD’s legal status finally settles.