The CBD market in the UK is one of the largest in Europe, with predictions that it’ll rise to £1 billion ($1,3 billion) by 2025.
However, there’s one serious obstacle in the development of the CBD market — chaotic laws.
The UK regulates CBD products under several different rulings. However, the most important thing is that pure, THC-free CBD is not classified as a controlled substance.
CBD products that contain THC and edibles are regulated slightly differently or live in a legal grey area. Some laws aren’t fully defined, and many products remain unregulated and only partially legitimate (more on this later).
All this mess causes doubts in consumers’ minds and despite a large number of local CBD stores, buyers prefer to purchase CBD online.
In this guide, we’ll break down the laws and make it easier for you to understand how and where to buy legal CBD in the United Kingdom.
|Number||Product||Total CBD||Potency||Cost per mg CBD||Link|
Nordic Oil Full-Spectrum CBD Oil With Curcumin & Piperine
Endoca CBD Oils
300 – 1500 mg
30 – 150 mg/mL
€0.08 – €0.09
CBD Life UK Hemp Oil Drops
500 – 2000 mg
50 – 200 mg/mL
£0.04 – £0.06
Holistic Hemp Scotland Alpine Oil
Blessed CBD Premium CBD Oil
500 – 1800 mg
50 – 180 mg/mL
£0.07 – £0.09
Amma Life CBD Oil
400 – 2500 mg
40 – 250 mg/mL
£0.05 – £0.07
Formula Swiss CBD Oil
300 – 2500 mg
30 – 250 mg/mL
€0.06 – €0.08
Sensi Seeds CBD Oil
275 – 1500 mg
27.5 – 50 mg/mL
€0.04 – €0.08
English places such as Hemphill, Hempisfield, and Hempriggis indicate that hemp held a significant role in the establishment of the United Kingdom.
Cannabis in England was first grown between 800 – 1000 AD for rope, sails, seed oil for lamps, and clothes. After some time, the interest in hemp cultivation became less popular in exchange for new crops such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, and peas, and beans.
In the 16th century, England re-introduced hemp. The British Empire was establishing colonies overseas, and its navy needed large quantities of hemp for rope, sails, sacks, uniforms, and clothes.
King Henry VIII ordered farmers to cultivate hemp extensively for the British Naval fleet, and the crop gradually achieved its peak production in the 18th and early 19th centuries following the success of the British Empire.
At one point the British Empire even made it mandatory for the American colonies to grow hemp for the British navy. The established hemp plantations later served the American colonies in the war against the British Empire.
During the 19th century, the British Empire began importing hemp from Russia because of Russia’s advanced processing techniques and the cheap transport of goods via the sea.
Another thing that caused a weaning interest in hemp cultivation was the emergence of cotton — a new source for textile materials. Finally, when the international political tension over cannabis use increased, the UK signed the International Opium Convention and banned cannabis — including hemp — in 1928.
After a period of campaigns for hemp legalization due to its versatile use and flexibility, the UK finally overturned the hemp ban in 1993.
When discussing CBD laws in the context of the UK, it’s important you understand the distinction between hemp and marijuana.
Both plants are the exact same species (Cannabis sativa). The difference from a regulatory standpoint comes down to the amount of THC produced by individual strains of the plant.
Some cannabis plants have been bred to produce high concentrations of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC — these are considered marijuana and have much stricter regulations.
Other strains have been selectively bred to produce significantly lower THC concentrations. If a plant produces less than 0.2% THC by dried weight, it’s considered hemp. Hemp plants have much more relaxed laws and regulations due to the complete absence of psychoactivity. This is what most CBD products are made from in the United Kingdom.
CBD products with 1 mg THC or less per container is legal in the UK.
UK’s regulations are different from the laws of most European countries. The rules around CBD are complex and under-regulated, and often confuse retailers and consumers about what’s legal and what’s not.
The Home Office is the government department that regulates cannabis and its derivatives. Cannabis is a subject of three different laws:
MDR 2001 controls hemp cultivation with a THC limit of 0.2% in hemp plants, allowing the production of hemp seeds and hemp oil through the process of cold pressing hemp seeds. This limit refers only to the hemp grown for fiber and seeds.
As an isolated substance, CBD is not controlled under the MDR 2001, which makes CBD isolate products entirely legal for sale and purchase.
MDR 2001 includes a definition of exempt products, i.e., products that contain any controlled cannabinoid (THC, CBN, and CBDV). Under this definition, CBD products that contain controlled cannabinoids can be sold legally if they don’t contain more than 1 mg of the controlled substance per container.
Besides its own national laws on CBD, the UK recently accepted a regulation introduced by the European Union (EU). CBD is a subject of the Novel Food Regulation — guided by the European Union that controls the placement of novel foods on the European market.
Novel foods are foods that don’t have a long history of consumption in Europe before May 15, 1997, and they require special authorization from the European Commission (EC).
The UK’s Food Safety Agency (FSA) announced that businesses should obtain a permit before they place CBD edibles on the market. The authorization process is complicated and could take several years.
Although CBD edibles could be prohibited soon in the UK, their legal status currently remains undefined, and the authorization requirement remains unenforced by the government.
As a result, there are a lot of companies selling CBD edibles within the United Kingdom at the moment that are technically operating outside the legal confines.
Brexit could change things for CBD in the UK. Once the country leaves the EU, it’ll no longer have to abide by its regulations. Cannabis and CBD laws might become friendlier, but the results are yet to be seen.
If a cannabis-based product is intended for medicinal use (CBPM), it requires a doctor’s prescription. To be classified as a CBPM, the CBD product must meet the following requirements:
NOTE: With the exception of pharmacies, retailers aren’t permitted to sell CBD products with medical claims. Avoid buying CBD products that contain health-promoting labeling.
The CBD market in the UK is growing at a fast pace, and with all the new regulations, finding a credible company with high-quality CBD can be a challenge.
Before you head to a CBD shop, we’ll share a few tips on how to buy CBD, what to expect from physical and online stores, and how to avoid dodgy CBD products.
Buying CBD online in the UK is widely considered the best option because the authorities don’t impose any restrictions on CBD products that fall within the legal THC limit.
The only products that are hard to find online or in-store in the UK are CBD edibles.
English authorities might ban CBD edibles once they arrange the novel food compliance system. Currently, many retailers continue to sell CBD foods and supplements, because the authorities don’t appear to be enforcing laws restricting the sale of CBD edibles in shops and eCommerce stores.
Customs haven’t clarified anything in terms of importing CBD food products, which is a double-edged sword — you could import the product without any issue, or customs could seize it.
If you choose to import CBD edibles, it’ll be at your own risk.
Let’s have a look at how to shop for the best CBD products at your local store or online retailers.
Many people prefer to buy from online retailers because it tends to be cheaper and there are hundreds of options available at your fingertips. Buyers beware — not all CBD brands are created equal.
Reputable brands always put effort into their website’s look — they have curated product lists and descriptions, making your CBD search easy and practical. If you need help or a recommendation, you can message the retailer on the live chat or via email and get quick, detailed information.
Another tool that online brands use is their review section, which can give you a general idea about the product you’re checking out. However, don’t rely on this because some brands are known to fake positive reviews to boost their business.
As long as you conduct thorough research on the brand, your online shopping should go smoothly. While you may have to wait a few days for your product to arrive, it will get sent directly to your door. In many cases, shipping is free when you spend a certain amount.
Although most companies operating out of both North America and Europe will ship to the UK, some have chosen not to ship directly.
You can still order CBD from these companies by using a mail forwarding service. We’ll explain how this works in more detail later.
When shopping for CBD, always prioritize your safety.
CBD can be helpful for many things, but it’s not a cure-all. Sadly, greedy retailers would do their best to convince you that it’s a magical remedy for all ailments.
Read our tips to learn how to recognize top-notch CBD, and what kind of products are worth your money.
Every CBD package should come with a document that proves the product has been lab-tested by a third party to prove it’s free from toxins and contains the right amount of CBD and THC as listed on the label.
The amber glass containers protect CBD from sunlight and oxidation that can make the oil go bad. Avoid buying CBD in plastic bottles because the plastic can affect the CBD oil’s shelf-life.
If a product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is why you should never buy CBD with unrealistic health claims.
Make sure your retailer can confirm that you’re buying CBD that doesn’t exceed the 1 mg THC limit. Otherwise, you could find yourself in legal trouble with the authorities.
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CBD is already a mainstream product in the UK, and the market is booming, but like most of Europe, the country still hasn’t perfected its laws.
You can buy CBD products with 1 mg THC over the counter or online. In case you need medical CBD, you can acquire a doctor’s prescription and find CBD in a local pharmacy. For now, one thing remains uncertain — the legality of CBD edibles. Currently, these products live in a legal grey area, with many stores still selling them due to a lack of follow-through on behalf of the UK government. This could change in the near future, however.
Our advice is to be cautious if you decide to purchase CBD foods. There are no reports of police enforcement, but it’s still good to look at things from a different angle and be aware of the risks.
Cannabis laws in the United Kingdom are rapidly evolving. In order to stay up to date, be sure to sign up for our newsletter below to receive updates on UK cannabis laws as they happen.