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Is CBD Oil Legal?

Amidst the rising tide of health and wellness trends, CBD oil has rapidly carved a niche in the UK market, promising potential therapeutic advantages. Yet, a shroud of uncertainty encircles its legal standing, leading many to question, "Is CBD oil legal in the UK?"

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on the legal status of CBD oil in the UK, exploring its origins, differences between CBD and THC, and the various regulations governing its production, sale, and use.

We will also discuss the importance of compliance with novel food regulations, finding trusted and reliable CBD oil brands, and the role of prescription-only CBD-based medications. Additionally, we will cover the topic of travelling with CBD oil both domestically and internationally, as well as future developments and changes in legislation that may impact the CBD industry in the UK.

By the end of this article, you will clearly understand the current legal landscape surrounding CBD oil and how to navigate it responsibly and safely.

Understanding CBD Oil and its Origins

Many people are curious about the origins of CBD oil. In this section, we will delve into the world of CBD oil to provide a better understanding of this popular natural remedy.

What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants, including both marijuana and hemp varieties. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component in cannabis, CBD does not produce a "high" or mind-altering effect. Instead, it has been studied for its potential therapeutic properties.

Producing CBD oils involves deriving CBD from cannabis plants, which is then mixed with a carrier oil like MCT, olive, coconut, or hemp seed oil for easy absorption. This refined end-product is available for consumption in various formats, encompassing tinctures, capsules, topicals, and even edible treats.

The Difference between CBD and THC

While both CBD and THC are cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, they have distinct differences in their effects on the human body. THC is the main compound responsible for the "high" associated with marijuana use. It binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria, altered perception, and other psychoactive effects.

On the other hand, CBD does not bind to these receptors in the same way and does not produce any intoxicating effects. Instead, it is believed to interact with other receptors in the body, such as serotonin and vanilloid receptors, which may contribute to its potential therapeutic properties.

How is CBD Extracted from Hemp Plants?

There are several methods for extracting CBD from hemp plants, but the most common and widely regarded as the best method is CO2 extraction. This process involves using supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) to separate the CBD and other beneficial compounds from the plant material.

During CO2 extraction, hemp is placed in a chamber, and carbon dioxide is introduced at high pressure and low temperature. This allows the CO2 to act as a solvent, dissolving the cannabinoids and other compounds from the plant material. The resulting mixture is then passed through a separator, separating the CO2 and extracted compounds. The CO2 can be recycled and reused, while the extracted compounds are further refined to create CBD oil.

This method is preferred because it is efficient, environmentally friendly, and produces a high-quality end product (CBD oil tinctures or other CBD products) with minimal impurities or residual solvents.

The legality of CBD oil in the United Kingdom has been a topic of confusion and debate in recent years. However, as of 2023, compliant CBD products are legal in the UK. 

In this section, we will delve into the legal classification of cannabis and CBD, key legislation governing CBD oils in the UK, the role of controlled cannabinoids in CBD legality, and licensing for hemp cultivation.

Cannabis is classified as a Class B drug in the UK, making it illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture without a prescription. On the other hand, CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants that is legal in the UK, provided it meets strict regulations set by government authorities. These regulations include ensuring that CBD oil contains no controlled cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Key Legislation Governing CBD Oil in the UK

Several pieces of legislation and regulations govern whether CBD oil is legal in the UK:

- The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971: This act classifies cannabis as a Class B drug and controls the possession, production, and supply of cannabis and its derivatives.

- The Misuse of Drugs (license fees) Regulations 2010: This regulation outlines the licensing requirements for cultivating low-THC cannabis (hemp) for industrial purposes.

- The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Novel Food authorisation: Since 2020, CBD products require a Novel Food authorisation issued by the FSA.

The Role of Controlled Cannabinoids in CBD Oil Legality

When considering if CBD oil is legal in the UK, it is crucial to understand the role that controlled cannabinoids play in the regulatory framework. Controlled cannabinoids, which include substances such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBN (cannabinol), and THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), among others, are psychoactive compounds present in the cannabis plant.

These substances are regulated due to their potential psychoactive effects and risks associated with misuse. As a result, UK regulations mandate that all CBD products must be free of controlled cannabinoids. The goal is to ensure that the CBD products available to consumers don't cause psychoactive effects or contribute to substance misuse.

To comply with these regulations, manufacturers must process and refine their CBD extracts meticulously to remove any traces of controlled cannabinoids. This is typically done through various extraction and purification processes, including CO2 extraction, winterisation, and short-path distillation. Such techniques aim to isolate CBD from other compounds found in the cannabis plant, ensuring that the final CBD products contain only substances that are legal in the UK.

However, these regulations also place a significant responsibility on manufacturers to accurately and reliably test their products. Laboratories must verify that products are free of controlled cannabinoids, and manufacturers must provide evidence of such testing. This is an essential safeguard in ensuring the quality and legality of CBD products in the UK.

Despite the strict regulation surrounding controlled cannabinoids, the dialogue around their potential therapeutic benefits continues. Some argue that the 'entourage effect' - the theory that all compounds in the cannabis plant work together in synergy to enhance their effects - could be harnessed for medicinal purposes. However, until regulations change, THC, CBN, and THCV remain controlled substances, and their presence in CBD products is deemed illegal.

Licensing for Hemp Cultivation


In the UK, managing the cultivation of any variety of cannabis plant, regardless of its THC content, is strictly regulated. This includes hemp, a low-THC cannabis strain renowned for its industrial uses and non-intoxicating nature. Anyone seeking to grow even a single hemp plant must first secure a licence.

Under this regulatory regime, licences may be granted for the cultivation of hemp, but only for specific uses. This might include the production of hemp fibre, which finds widespread industrial applications ranging from the creation of textiles to the construction of eco-friendly building materials. Additionally, licences may be issued for the cultivation of hemp for the purpose of obtaining seeds. These seeds are often pressed to extract their oil, which can be used in food, cosmetics, and various health products.

However, these licences come with stringent stipulations. They only permit the use of non-controlled parts of the plant, namely, the seeds and the mature stalk (fibre). This means the flowering tops, where higher concentrations of controlled cannabinoids like THC are found, cannot be used.

Adherence to these licensing conditions is crucial to operate within the bounds of the law. The role of these stringent requirements is to prevent the misuse of controlled cannabinoids and to regulate the production of hemp and its derivatives. It also ensures that any products derived from hemp, such as CBD oil and other CBD products, are compliant with UK CBD laws and safe for consumers.

CBD Oil Products and Compliance

To ensure that CBD oils are safe and legal in the UK, businesses must comply with various regulations, including Novel Food Regulations, FSA Novel Food Applications, and Labelling and Marketing Guidelines. This section will delve into each of these aspects in greater detail.

Novel Food Regulations and CBD Products

Since January 2019, CBD extracts have been classified as novel foods in the UK. This means that CBD food products require authorisation from the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) before they can be legally sold. CBD oil and CBD food or drink products must have a Novel Food authorisation issued by the FSA.

The Importance of FSA Novel Food Applications

FSA Novel Food Applications play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and quality of CBD products in the UK. Businesses must submit an application for authorisation of their CBD extracts, CBD isolate, and associated products to be placed on the CBD market. In most cases, the applicant will be the manufacturer, but trade bodies and other suppliers may also apply. Once a CBD ingredient is authorised, that authorisation applies only to that specific ingredient, meaning it must be used with the same production methods, uses, and safety evidence base as described within the authorisation.

Failure to adhere to FSA Novel Food Applications can result in CBD products being removed from the CBD market, as they would be deemed unsuitable for progressing to authorisation. This highlights the importance of businesses submitting accurate and detailed applications to ensure their products meet the necessary safety and quality standards.

Labelling and Marketing Guidelines

Accurate labelling and marketing are essential for CBD products in the UK. The Novel Food Regulations require transparency in labelling, providing precise information about the product's contents and dosage. This ensures that consumers have a clear understanding of what they are purchasing and consuming.

CBD products must not be incorrectly labelled, unsafe, or regarded as controlled substances. Additionally, they must comply with other legislative requirements to ensure that they're legal in the UK market.

Purchasing and Using CBD Oil in the UK


CBD oils are legal in the UK, provided it adheres to specific regulations. These regulations include being free from controlled cannabinoids and compliance with Novel Food authorisation issued by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA). In this section, we will discuss how to find trusted and reliable CBD brands, ensure compliance with the no controlled cannabinoids rule, explore high street retailers and online platforms, and understand restrictions on health claims.

Finding Trusted and Reliable CBD Oil Brands

Embarking on the journey to find a reliable CBD brand can be overwhelming, considering the vast and growing market for CBD products. Nonetheless, knowing what to look for can significantly simplify the process and increase your chances of finding high-quality CBD oil.

A crucial factor to consider is whether a company provides a certificate of analysis (CoA) from independent, third-party laboratories. This document attests to the quality, purity, and potency of the product, verifying that the specific CBD oils are safe for consumption and accurately labelled. The CoA is an invaluable tool in ensuring that the CBD product contains the advertised amount of CBD and is free from contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and controlled cannabinoids like THC.

In addition to the CoA, reputable UK CBD companies should have submitted a Novel Foods application to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) by March 2022. This application is an indicator of the brand's compliance with UK regulations and its commitment to ensuring that its products are safe, well-regulated, and of high quality. If a brand has not submitted this application, it may be a red flag concerning its compliance with UK regulations and its dedication to product safety and quality.

Moreover, it's important to steer clear of brands making medicinal claims about their CBD products. Both UK and EU CBD laws prohibit these claims unless the product has been authorised for medical use by the appropriate regulatory body. If a company is making such claims, it is a clear sign that they are not adhering to the regulatory guidelines and their credibility should be questioned.

Lastly, consider the brand's reputation and customer reviews. A brand with a solid track record and positive customer feedback is likely to provide a trustworthy product. Remember, it's not just about the CBD content; factors like customer service, delivery times, and return policies also play a role in the overall customer experience.

Ensuring Compliance with THC Limits

CBD products in the UK must contain no controlled cannabinoids, including THC. To ensure compliance, check the product's CoA for its cannabinoid content. If you're purchasing CBD products from outside the UK, verify the ingredients to avoid issues with UK customs, as some international products may contain THC or other prohibited cannabinoids.

High Street Retailers and Online Platforms

CBD products can be found in supermarkets, health shops, pharmacies, and online stores. When purchasing from high street retailers, look for reputable brands that comply with UK regulations. Online platforms offer a wider range of products, including CBD oil and other CBD food supplements, but it's essential to research the brand and verify its compliance with UK laws before making a purchase.

Restrictions on Health Claims

Under UK and EU law, CBD brands cannot make medicinal claims about their products or CBD in general. Only specific health claims listed as authorised in the EU Register can be used in ads for foods, and general health claims must be accompanied by a relevant specific authorised health claim. When evaluating CBD food supplements, be cautious of CBD brands making unsupported health claims or promising to cure specific ailments.

CBD Oil in Medicinal Products and Prescriptions


While CBD oil is generally legal in the UK, its use in medicinal products and prescriptions is subject to additional regulations. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) plays a crucial role in overseeing the classification and regulation of CBD-based medications. In this section, we will explore prescription-only CBD-based medications and the role of the MHRA in greater depth.

Prescription-only CBD-based Medications

Medical CBD, which is only available with a prescription, is derived from cannabis rather than hemp. Its use and distribution are limited and heavily regulated due to the higher THC content compared to over-the-counter CBD food supplements. In 2018, the UK introduced Sativex, a cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drug containing a 1:1 CBD and THC potency, for multiple sclerosis patients. Additionally, up to 20,000 patients in the UK were given medical cannabis over a two-year period as part of a study into the potential medicinal use of the drug.

The Role of the MHRA

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)is responsible for classifying finished products, not individual substances and ingredients. A product will not be classified as a medicine solely based on its potential risks to human health. Instead, a product must be intended for or capable of performing a medicinal function before it can be classified as such. The MHRA also oversees the supply, manufacture, importation, and distribution of unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans, known as 'specials.'

Travelling with CBD Oil To, From, and within the UK


As CBD oil gains more recognition for its potential health benefits, it's essential to understand the legalities and restrictions surrounding its use while travelling. In this section, we will delve into the specifics of bringing CBD oils to the UK from the USA, UK customs and CBD product restrictions, tips for travelling with CBD oil internationally, and domestic travel with CBD oil.

Bringing CBD Oil to the UK from the USA

Travellers can bring CBD oil from the USA to the UK, provided that the product adheres to UK law. The CBD product must contain no THC and be designed and processed for human consumption. This means that CBD buds are not allowed, but CBD oil and other CBD food supplements are permitted. It is crucial to ensure that the CBD food supplements you are carrying meets these requirements to avoid any legal issues upon arrival in the UK.

UK Customs and CBD Product Restrictions

CBD is legal in the UK as long as it meets specific requirements. Each container must hold no controlled cannabinoids such as THC or CBN, and it must be labelled as a 'food supplement'. When travelling with CBD oil in your hand luggage, the bottle must be smaller than 100ml to comply with airport restrictions. Additionally, the container should be presented to security in a separate, transparent plastic bag measuring no more than 20cm x 20cm.

Tips for Travelling with CBD Oil Internationally

When travelling internationally with CBD oil, it's essential to research the rules and regulations in your destination country and the local area. Make sure this includes how the local authorities enforce them. If you decide to take CBD with you, ensure it's labelled as a food supplement, take full, unopened bottles of less than 100ml and place them in a clear plastic bag as you would for any other liquids in your hand luggage.

Where possible, print a copy of the certificates of analysis provided by the CBD company and keep it with the oil. Make sure that the THC level displayed on the document shows that it is at a level that is legal in the country you are visiting. Take all relevant packaging with you, including any extra boxes or labels that came with the oil when you bought it.

Domestic Travel with CBD Oil

Yes, you can take CBD oil on a plane within the UK. If you're on a domestic flight, you have nothing to worry about as long as your CBD products adheres to UK CBD law. However, it is always a good idea to check with your airline before travelling to ensure that they allow CBD products on board. Additionally, if taking CBD oil in your carry-on, you will need to follow the rules for liquids, as mentioned earlier.

Future Developments and Changes in Legislation

As the CBD industry continues to grow, there are ongoing efforts to improve regulations and expand the market. This section will delve into the ongoing research, potential impacts, and public attitudes towards CBD oil legalisation in the UK.

Ongoing Research and Potential Impacts

Over the past few years, CBD oil has surged to the forefront of public consciousness, stimulated by its reputed health and wellness properties. As a result, CBD has become a focal point for clinical trials as researchers strive to understand its potential influence on a range of physical and psychological experiences.

These investigations span a multitude of areas, extending beyond the mere alleviation of physical discomfort to encompass the potential modulation of emotional responses. They also explore the possibility of CBD contributing to overall wellness and a balanced lifestyle. The breadth of this research underscores the versatile nature of CBD and its potential for a wide array of applications.

As these scientific endeavours continue to unveil the complexities and capabilities of CBD oil, their findings could shape the legislative landscape surrounding it. Increasingly robust and substantiated evidence may stimulate shifts in regulations, promoting greater acceptance and recognition of CBD oil as a valuable tool for wellness.

Simultaneously, as consumer awareness and understanding of CBD grows, this might further fuel the demand for CBD products, instigating a cycle of research and discovery. In this sense, the ongoing exploration of CBD oil does not just contribute to our understanding of its potential impacts but may also be instrumental in moulding societal and legal perspectives around CBD.

Thus, the unfolding scientific journey into CBD oil, coupled with the anticipation of its evolving legislative and societal status, makes for a fascinating narrative, one that offers much promise for the future of CBD in the UK and beyond

Public Attitudes and Legalisation Efforts

According to a survey conducted by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), almost a fifth of British adults have used CBD or cannabis oil for medical reasons. The growing popularity of CBD products has led to calls for a more proactive government strategy to develop the UK's cannabis industry. A recent industry review by University of Oxford professor Chris Hodges has urged the government to provide clearer guidance on the legal status of CBD products used for vaping (CBD vape oil)and permitted ingredients in vaporisers used for cannabinoids.

The ACI director, Steve Moore, believes that the UK is in a competitive position in terms of legislation and that the government should actively nurture the sector to expand and mature. As public attitudes towards CBD oil continue to shift, there may be increased pressure on the government to further clarify and update regulations surrounding its use.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil Legality in the UK

The answer to the question, 'Is CBD oil legal?' is yes. CBD oil is legal in the UK, but its legal status is a complex and evolving landscape. While CBD itself is not a controlled substance, it is subject to strict regulations, particularly concerning its extraction, THC content, and classification as a novel food. Consumers must be diligent in understanding the origins of their CBD products, ensuring they comply with legal requirements and are sourced from reputable brands.

The role of the FSA and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is crucial in maintaining the safety and quality of CBD products available in the UK market. As research continues to uncover the potential benefits of CBD, it is essential for consumers to stay informed about changes in legislation and public attitudes towards cannabis and its derivatives.

When purchasing and using CBD oil in the UK, it is vital to adhere to labelling and marketing guidelines, as well as restrictions on health claims. Travelling with CBD oil requires careful consideration of international laws and customs regulations, as the legal status of CBD varies across countries.

As the conversation surrounding cannabis legalisation and the potential therapeutic uses of CBD continues to evolve, it is important for both consumers and industry stakeholders to remain informed and engaged in the ongoing developments. By staying up-to-date with the latest research, legislative changes, and public opinion, we can ensure that the UK's approach to CBD oil remains safe, responsible, and beneficial for all.