Understanding the Legality of CBD in the UK: A Comprehensive Explanation of CBD Oil Laws 2023

user-image Rachelle Haley 06 Jul, 2023

Are you curious about CBD's legality in the UK? Discover the latest EU and UK CBD oil laws updates in this regularly updated article, providing you with all the essential information you need.


The Legality of CBD in the UK: Exploring the Current Status


CBD is legal in the UK but must meet specific criteria to comply with the law. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has established a rigorous approval process for CBD products sold in the country. Only items listed on the FSA Novel Foods approved list, which is regularly updated, are considered legal. Among the trusted suppliers, Canndid stands out with 44 approved products, offering CBD gummies and tinctures.


It's important to understand that the UK's regulatory framework for CBD and cannabis is complex. One common misconception is that any product with less than 0.2% THC is automatically legal. However, this threshold only applies to the cultivation of hemp. To adhere to CBD UK law, edibles must undergo Novel Foods certification and contain less than 1mg of THC per product. Vaping CBD or using CBD in cosmetics is not subject to Novel Foods regulations.


A maximum of 1mg of THC and CBN is allowed in any product sold in the UK. This includes products made from cannabis resin, leaves, buds/flowers, in paste or herbal form. For edibles, the application process for Novel Foods must have commenced, indicating the responsible company's official name and brand after March 30th, 2021. The FSA published a list of approved brands in May 2022, and sellers must provide evidence of being on that list—either approved or awaiting confirmation—to continue selling CBD products in the UK. This requires submission of a Novel Foods application, either independently or through a supplier's application.


CBD oil is legal in the UK if it contains less than 1mg of THC per product. It must be extracted from EU-approved industrial-grade hemp strains. The THC content in the cannabis used for extraction should not exceed 0.2%. This distinction is crucial, as THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis, known to cause hallucinations, paranoia, and potential addiction. The UK government ensures that the minimal levels of THC present in CBD oils cannot be easily separated from the product. Further research is recommended for more information on CBD's legal status worldwide.


White Labeling Approved Novel Foods Edibles in the UK


Your brand was not on sale in the UK in Feb 2020, so you cannot white-label an approved product. Brands listed on the list have a distinct advantage over newcomers, which may be considered anti-competitive and challenged in the courts.


Is Hemp Oil Legal in the UK?


When questioning the legality of CBD hemp oil in the UK, you are essentially asking whether CBD oil is legal in the UK. The answer is yes, but it must meet the criteria mentioned earlier in this article.


Is it Legal to Cultivate CBD Plants in the UK?


Cultivating CBD plants in the UK for personal use is not legal. Special permission from the Home Office is required, which can be challenging. However, licenses for industrial hemp production can be acquired if you intend to enter the CBD production industry.


CBD Oil Regulations in the UK for 2022


While cannabis is categorized as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act, CBD is not listed as a controlled substance. This has led some individuals to believe that they can grow their cannabis or hemp, but this is not true. Growing cannabis or hemp for personal use is illegal in the UK. CBD producers must obtain a license and permission from the UK Home Office to cultivate these plants.


CBD Regulation Factsheet 


To sell CBD oil in the UK, you must either be a licensed medical distributor or sell the product as a nutritional supplement. If sold as a supplement, the CBD product must comply with proper labeling requirements outlined in The Food Supplements (England) Regulations 2003.


Is it legal in the UK to take CBD capsules?


Some people prefer capsules because they feel they can't measure the correct dosage from a tincture or cream. Taking capsules discreetly is possible because they are pre-dosed. Also, they're a good alternative to CBD oil if you don't like the taste. Nevertheless, this method takes more time for CBD to enter the bloodstream.


Learn more about White-Labeling CBD Products.


Can CBD Vaping be Done Legally in the UK?


Choosing to vape CBD may be wise if you are already vaping. CBD e-liquids are readily available and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. Consuming a precise dosage can be more challenging compared to other methods. The cost of vaping equipment can also be high. UK law allows vaping.


Is the Sale of CBD Tinctures Legal in the UK?


CBD tinctures, which involve highly concentrated CBD extracted from the plant and mixed with carrier oil, are packaged in small glass bottles with a dropper. When administered, CBD is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream by placing drops of the oil under the tongue. CBD tinctures are considered a food supplement and are legal in the UK as long as they comply with the legal guidelines for cannabis-based products.


Are CBD Edibles Legal in the UK?


CBD edibles are regular snacks and treats infused with cannabinoids, such as CBD. They are available as pre-packaged CBD gummies, lollipops, cookies, and brownies. Additionally, CBD edibles can be added to salad dressings, smoothies, or sauces. CBD edibles are legal in the UK if they do not make medical claims and adhere to the legal guidelines.


Check out this blog post: "Is Cannabis Legal in the UK?"


Is THC Oil Legal in the UK? What is the Legal Limit for THC?


The number one cannabinoid to consider in determining whether CBD is legal in the UK is THC. Depending on what product is being made, there are two different laws regarding THC content. To be considered hemp products, hemp seeds, and oil must not contain more than 0.3% THC.


When CBD is extracted by CO2 or solvent, this changes. The CBD product made through this process should not contain any THC. To ensure full compliance with the law, this is necessary. Various CBD products are available, including oils, e-liquids, edibles, and capsules. THE TWO LICENSES THE HOME OFFICE OFFERS ARE a THC level above 0.2% and below 0.2%.


Current methods of testing CBD legality in the UK can only detect up to a certain amount of CBD. Some labs offer tests with a limit detection rate of 0.1%. Unfortunately, this margin of error is too high. Instead, more precise labs should be used with a detection rate of 0.01% or less.


A product sold on the shelves cannot contain more than 1mg of THC to remain within the UK's illegal controlled substances act limits.


Take a CBD Drug Test to learn more.


An Explanation of CBD Oil


Cannabis and hemp contain cannabinoids such as CBD. The product comes from cannabis but is not psychotropic and will not cause a high. There is another part of the cannabis plant that contributes to this, THC. CBD interacts with your body's endocannabinoid system and can alleviate pain and illness.


How to Use CBD Oil: Exploring Different Methods


CBD oil has gained popularity due to its versatility, as it can be consumed in various ways, such as oils, edibles, capsules, and creams. This allows individuals to choose a method that suits their needs and lifestyle. When considering the legality of CBD oil in the UK, it's essential to consider the consumption method.


  • Smoking


While it is possible to smoke CBD flowers with high CBD levels, this is not recommended. Smoking has the same drawbacks as vaping and poses additional risks as a known carcinogen. CBD flower, although available for sale online in the UK, is believed to be illegal. It is advisable to seek independent legal advice for more information. Learn more about the legality of CBD flowers in the UK.


  • Topicals 


For individuals experiencing muscular pain or arthritis, topical solutions can be beneficial. Before using any CBD rubs, many question the legality of CBD in the UK. These CBD balms and oils can be directly applied to the affected area, allowing CBD's pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties to take effect quickly. Topicals are legal in the UK when CBD additives comply with regulations.


With CBD now legal and increasingly popular in the UK, some may wonder how we reached this point and where to purchase CBD.


Will CBD Cause a High?


It's important to note that CBD will not cause a high. The misconception that CBD products can induce a high stems from the fact that CBD is derived from cannabis and hemp plants. However, it is THC, another compound found in cannabis, that is responsible for the psychoactive effects. THC activates the CB1 receptor in the brain, resulting in euphoria and intoxication. When considering the legality of CBD in the UK, remember that CBD itself does not produce a high.


In contrast to THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and does not produce the same effects. Instead of activating the CB1 receptor, CBD inhibits it. CBD is utilized for its potential health benefits, including addressing insomnia, pain, anxiety, and more.


Is CBD Oil Safe?


If you are using a CBD oil that has undergone third-party testing, clearly lists all its ingredients, and has been obtained from a reputable source, it is generally considered safe. CBD is not associated with known deaths; only minor side effects have been reported. Furthermore, CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive.


The legal limits surrounding THC create further confusion. We will delve into these limits in the following section.


Timeline of Cannabis and CBD Laws in the UK


Cannabis laws were introduced in the UK in 1928 through the Dangerous Drugs Act. In 1967, the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act recommended reducing the penalties for cannabis possession. The cultivation of cannabis, regardless of species, was regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1971. All of these aspects must be considered when determining the legality of CBD in the UK.


When was CBD Legalized in the UK?


In 2001, the Misuse of Drugs Regulations allowed individuals to grow cannabis for research if they obtained a license from the Home Office. Nonetheless, people still inquire about the general legality of CBD for the average person in the UK.


The first cannabis-based medicine became available in the UK by prescription in 2015, thanks to the Misuse of Drugs (Designation). This brings us to the present day, where CBD products are legal as long as their THC content does not exceed 1mg and they are derived from hemp with less than 0.3% THC.




There is no grey area regarding controlled substances in UK criminal law, which THC falls under. A business that does not take the necessary steps to ensure that its products do not contain illegal levels of controlled substances puts itself (and its directors) at serious risk of criminal charges. CBD is still legal in the UK, provided you follow the guidelines and stay within the THC limits.


The possession and sale of cannabidiol (CBD) in the UK are legal. Products can be imported into the UK, but they must be clearly labeled, and 3rd party laboratory reports must prove they don't contain any illegal amounts of controlled substances.


Hemp must be grown with less than 0.2% THC, but this only applies to hemp farming, not finished products, in which case a maximum of 1mg is essential.


We have met with legal teams well-versed in laws governing the UK and Ireland CBD industry. It doesn't matter if you are just starting to develop your CBD brand or are a renowned CBD brand seeking legal advice following the CBD clampdown. It is crucial that you receive the correct legal advice.


CBD Law Changes in the UK in 2021: FSA Implements Stricter CBD Regulations


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set a deadline of March 31st, 2021, for the CBD industry to submit Novel Foods applications, which is crucial for businesses looking to sell CBD products in the UK. Immediate approval is not required, but evidence of the ongoing application process is necessary to continue operations.


Novel Foods applications were temporarily suspended in 2020, but following government meetings in December, it is now an essential requirement for all businesses in 2021. By March 30th, all CBD companies must have submitted a novel food authorization application, and only products with a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market.




Emily Miles, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, stated: "CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorized. The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products to the regulator before 31 March 2021, or the products will be taken off the shelves. In these circumstances, we find it unusual that people still ask if CBD oil is legal in the UK or if they can buy CBD oil in the UK when it is openly available on the high street."


Building Consumer Trust


In 2020, the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) tested thirty CBD oils from UK companies and found that eleven contained less than half of their advertised CBD content. Additionally, a product sold for £90 on the high street contained no CBD.


Some products were also discovered to have high levels of THC, which could render them illegal.


The FSA's deadline aims to enhance consumer trust and promote integrity in CBD products in the broader community.


The Crucial Question Regarding CBD in UK Law


In recent years, the use of CBD oil has surged in popularity. While the public may be aware of some therapeutic uses for CBD, fewer individuals are knowledgeable about the associated laws. In this article, we will address the critical question: Is CBD oil legal in the UK, and how can businesses ensure compliance with the cannabis laws in the United Kingdom?


Can You Purchase CBD Oil in the UK?


Yes, you can buy CBD oil in the UK from various sources. The CBD industry is rapidly growing and offers exciting opportunities for individuals considering establishing their brand and product range. It is essential to source CBD products from reputable suppliers who can assist with maintaining compliant labels and active ingredient levels within the legal limits. Seeking expert advice is necessary to determine trending products, optimal use of isolates and distillates, and CBD concentrations that meet customer requirements while remaining within the UK's legal guidelines for CBD retail shops. CBD wholesale in the UK or white-labeling CBD products are also viable options.


You May be Interested in our Blog: Can You Legally Drive While Using CBD?


Novel Foods UK


FSA enforcement began in the UK on April 1st, 2021, but the EU Food Standards Agency will follow its processes, so we may not see enforcement in the same timeframe. To comply in the UK, you must be selling or selling CBD before the announcement back in February 2020, and you need to submit your application for the novel food by March 30th, 2020. Following the approval of your application and meeting the set standards, you can sell CBD to your customers. If the novel food application is rejected, you must remove the products from sale in the UK regardless of the THC or CBD content unless the FSA has granted you clearance to sell until the appeal is heard.


Cosmetics are a less risky area to sell CBD-enhanced products legally. CBD extracted from the buds and flowers of the plant can be used to assure compliance with legal requirements.


A Novel Food Containing CBD?


According to the European Commission, a novel food has not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997.


A novel food item must meet the following requirements:


  1. Public health should not be at risk.
  2. Replace food in a way that is not nutritionally disadvantageous
  3. The customer should not be misled.


A Novel Food Regulation was passed by the EU to create laws like this one that can be applied by all member states.


Is Novel Food Something You Can Eat?


FSA guidelines list the following foods as novel foods. A cholesterol-reducing spread contains phytosterols. Chia seeds, balboa seeds, Quinoa, etc., are traditional foods in other countries.


The processing of food using new methods. CBD is not a typical novel food, so its formulation and presentation are being carefully examined. It must receive preapproval from the FSA to sell food on the novel food list.


In January last year, CBD was added to the list of novel foods. The term includes edible CBD products and anything that can be swallowed. Sweets like gummy bears and chocolates.


Throughout history, civilizations have used hemp for thousands of years, and recipes date back to 1475. The oldest cookbook in the world includes hemp recipes.


The plant itself isn't what makes it Novel, but the extraction method. Various elements that may be used in CBD extraction are now considered novel.


In the extraction process, CO2 is used, making CBD a novel food.


Cold pressing, a more traditional extraction method, is not necessarily considered a novel food. Most foods must have certification before going on consumer shelves, including CBD, which is on the Novel food list.


Essentially, certification is intended to protect consumers.


How Does This Impact the CBD Market?


If you are selling CBD products in the UK, you must be certified by the FSA and know which products are legal in the UK. The company must submit a Novel Foods Application form to obtain the certification.

As novel food applications are both costly and lengthy, this will significantly impact many small businesses.


A dossier must be submitted to the FDA before March 31st, 2020, to sell, manufacture, and supply CBD.


If they don't have a history of safe consumption, they must have a pre-market approval safety assessment to proceed with the dossier.


It must adhere to the FSA's risk assessment to ensure it's suitable for shelves. As CBD has been in vogue for some time, and the FDA only added it to the Novel Food list relatively recently, CBD is now being assessed retrospectively in many cases.


Products not already on the shelf must be retrospectively approved, and new products cannot be allowed onto the shelves without approval.


Check out our blog: Can We Legally Ship CBD in the UK?


Who is Required to Submit an Application?


The application process is mandatory for all entities involved in the CBD industry, including manufacturers, suppliers, farmers, retailers, and anyone else engaged in bringing CBD products to the market.


This application procedure applies to all food products and is a standard practice for ensuring health and safety. The FSA requires the submission of a comprehensive dossier, which will be assessed for validation.


What Does a Valid Application Entail? The European Commission carefully reviews each retailer's dossier to ensure it meets the necessary application requirements and is complete.


The application will be validated or rejected following a thorough risk assessment. The entire process, including clearance for each application, may take approximately 18 months.


If an application is rejected or requires additional information, retailers are prohibited from selling their products until it is resolved and approved.


What Studies Should be Conducted?


Several studies and evidence must be conducted to support the Novel Food application for CBD products. These include:


  1. CBD Extraction: The process of extracting CBD from the plant material must be thoroughly examined and validated.
  2. Growth Practices: The cultivation methods of the hemp plant used for CBD extraction must be documented, ensuring it adheres to legal requirements and good agricultural practices.
  3. Product Degradation: The stability and degradation of CBD products need to be assessed, including how they react to light, temperature, and humidity.
  4. Safety of Ingredients: All ingredients used in CBD products must be safe for consumption, and scientific data supporting their safety should be provided.
  5. History of Use: The historical use of CBD as a food or dietary supplement should be explored and documented.
  6. Source and Country of Origin: The source of CBD and its origin should be identified to ensure compliance with regulations.


Toxicology studies play a crucial role in the application process. These studies investigate how CBD interacts with the body, its potential effects, and dosage considerations. Components, manufacturing processes, contaminants, storage conditions, packaging, and composition are all examined in detail.


Understanding how CBD is absorbed, metabolized, and eliminated by the body is also essential. Accumulation and potential long-term effects are thoroughly evaluated.


The application process, including the necessary studies and assessments, can take around 18 months. For small businesses, this can be a significant challenge. Non-compliance with the Novel Food application may result in removing products from the market and revoking selling permissions.


You might find our blog on the use of CBD for Cyclists Attractive.


Potential Impact on Businesses


Because the application process is expensive, small business owners have several options.


Consortiums: Businesses like the European Industrial Hemp Association can join a consortium to reduce individual costs by collectively submitting applications.


Establishing partnerships with established suppliers can be an alternative strategy to partnering with smaller suppliers who aren't compliant. However, this may require signing contracts and relying on them as the leading supplier for a considerable amount of time, which is not ideal for everyone.


Due to the lengthy application process and associated costs, larger companies may gain monopolies over the market. To make an informed decision, small business owners considering consortium or piggyback options should begin exploring potential partners as soon as possible.


All products must be linked to an application by March 31st, 2020.


Brands and retailers must exercise due diligence to ensure compliance with standards. Partnering with compliant suppliers and manufacturers is an integral part of this responsibility.

The following evidence is required for CBD extraction of products:


  1. The process of growing it
  2. Degradation
  3. The safe use of it
  4. History of use
  5. A country's origin and source.


In Conclusion


CBD is legal in the UK as long as it complies with the specific requirements set by The Home Office. It is important to note that CBD regulations can change periodically. A wide variety of legal CBD products are currently available in the UK. Because CBD does not produce psychoactive effects. Nevertheless, CBD products should not have more than 1 mg of THC.


Check out our related blog on Medical Cannabis in the UK.

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