CBD Oil: What is it’s legal status in the UK?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in cannabis and CBD oil is derived from the plant’s secretions.

Across the world, the laws relating to anything connected with marijuana seem to be in a continual state of flux. Therefore, it has to be clearly stated that any information regarding the current state of the laws regarding marijuana or its derived products is very much subject to change. That said, here is a brief snapshot of the current laws relating to CBD oil in the UK.

CBD products made from hemp are legal but require licensing to be advertised as medicine

Hemp or industrial hemp in the EU contains less than 0.2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and is therefore outside the remit of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. It is therefore perfectly legal to sell hemp-based CBD products. It is, however, illegal to advertise such products as medicine unless they are licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

As a result, many hemp-based CBD products are advertised as cosmetics or nutritional supplements, rather than medicines. There are, however, some niche retailers who legally produce medical-grade CBD oil with the appropriate licencing.

In principle, CBD oil with more than 0.2% THC is available by prescription

Since November 1st, 2018, specialist doctors in the mainland UK (excluding Northern Ireland) have been legally permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicines with THC content more than 0.2%. This change, however, has not satisfied campaigners who have highlighted the fact that, in reality, there are so many barriers to obtaining a legal prescription that the law actually has a very little meaningful benefit.

Based on media coverage and activity at sites such as ‘change.org’ it seems reasonable to assume that the government will be placed under pressure to take further steps to make cannabis-based medicines more widely accessible. Given the international trend towards legalising cannabis-based medicines (or at least decriminalising them) it is entirely possible that this law may be updated if not in 2019 then at least in the near future.

It is still illegal to import CBD oil with more than 0.2% THC without a valid prescription?

While EU rules mandate that goods must be allowed to move freely within member states, there is an exception to this for goods which are completely illegal in any given state. The logic behind this is that the member state in question is not unfairly protecting their own producers from competition, but simply banning a product (or service), for whatever reason they see fit.

Standard advertising/trades-description laws apply to legal CBD oil

As CBD oil has grown in popularity, there has been increasing concern that some vendors are misleading consumers regarding the quality of their products, for example by over emphasising the CBD content of hemp oil and thus implying that it is, essentially, the same as CBD oil. There have even been allegations of vendors infusing standard vegetable oils with some quantity of CBD and marking this as being equivalent to CBD oil. These kinds of tactics are entirely illegal and would be subject to the same penalties as would be applied to any other form of misleading advertising.

Ed Roberts
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