Profile information Account settings
Logout
Sign up Sign in

Licensing requirements

CBD products made from hemp (a variety of the cannabis plant that contains less of the plant’s psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than other varieties) are legal but require licences to be advertised as medicine.

Hemp or industrial hemp in the EU and UK contains less than 0.2% THC and is, therefore, outside the remit of the UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. 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 (MHRA).

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

For more information, see the UK government’s hemp licensing fact sheet.

Prescriptions

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

Since 1 November 2018, specialist doctors in mainland UK (excluding Northern Ireland) have been legally permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicines with a THC content of more than 0.2%. This change moved cannabis-based medicines from Schedule 1 drugs (ie drugs without medical use) to Schedule 2 drugs (ie drugs with medical use). Schedule 2 already includes opioid drugs and other strictly regulated prescription drugs with narcotic potential (eg morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone). Schedules 1 and 2 refer to the relevant schedules of The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

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 this change in the law actually has minimal meaningful benefit. 

Based on media coverage and activity on 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 now, then at least in the near future.

For more information on who may be prescribed CBD oil and when, see the NHS’ website.

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

In the UK, it is illegal to consume, possess, produce or sell recreational marijuana. Cannabis products are only allowed on the British market if THC levels don’t exceed the 0.2% level, unless they are for medical purposes and prescribed by a licensed professional. As a result, it is important to keep in mind that importing CBD oils with more than 0.2% THC without a valid licence or prescription is illegal.

Such imports are at risk of occurring accidentally. For example, Poland allows CBD oil with a THC level of 0.3% to be grown and sold. However, if such CBD oil is imported into the UK (without a valid licence or prescription), this would be illegal.

Advertising and trade description laws

Standard advertising and trade 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 are subject to the same penalties applied to any other form of misleading advertising.

However, more stringent advertising rules may also apply to cannabis products, depending on the product’s nature. Many products (eg food, food supplements, medicines and e-cigarettes) are subject to sector-specific advertising regulations in addition to general advertising rules. These rules tend to be strict. For example, foods containing CBD oil (eg CBD gummies) must be authorised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as ‘novel foods’.

For more information on advertising CBD products, see the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA’s) guidance. For more information on advertising regulations in general, read Advertising regulations.


Ed Roberts
Ed Roberts
Managing Director at Kingdom of Green

Kingdom of Green is a UK supplier of alternative health products specialising in a wide range of CBD-based consumables.

Ask a lawyer

Get quick answers from lawyers, easily.
Characters remaining: 600
Rocket Lawyer On Call Solicitors

Try Rocket Lawyer FREE for 7 days

Start your Premium Membership now and get legal services you can trust at prices you can afford. You’ll get:

All the legal documents you need—customise, share, print & more

Unlimited electronic signatures with RocketSign®

Ask a lawyer questions* and get a response within one business day

Access to legal guides on 100s of topics

A 30-minute consultation with a lawyer about any new issue

33% off hourly rates or a fixed price if you need further legal help

*Subject to terms and conditions