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CBD Oil Laws in the UK: What You Need to Know

If you’ve read the news recently, walked down any major shopping street or simply browsed for information online, you’ve no doubt heard about the significant increase in the number of people using cannabidiol, or CBD. 

Cannabidiol oil, better known as CBD oil, has grown massively in popularity both in the UK and throughout the EU over the last five years. 

According to recent data from the Cannabis Trades Association UK, the number of consumers in the UK that use CBD products has increased to 250,000 as of 2018. Usage is also increasing rapidly, meaning it’s likely even higher than 250,000 at the time you read this article.

British consumers are also increasingly aware of CBD. Data from global intelligence platform Streetbees notes that 45% of surveyed UK consumers — almost half of all potential customers for CBD products — are aware of what CBD is, with two in three willing to give it a try.

In short, CBD is growing at a rapid pace in the UK, not only in terms of usage, but also in terms of public awareness. With this has come an increase in interest in CBD’s legal status, as well as how it could affect people’s employment, training and other important aspects of life. 

Below, we’ve explained the CBD oil laws in the UK, with information on everything from CBD’s legal status to how it could affect your employment or education. We’ve also looked at some of the most common legal misconceptions about CBD oil and other CBD products.

Is CBD Oil Legal in the UK?

In the UK, almost all cannabinoids — the active ingredients in cannabis that are responsible for the high people feel after consumption — are listed as controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This means that they’re illegal to purchase, grow or consume.

For example, THC — the active ingredient in cannabis that causes you to feel high — is illegal in the UK. Producing, distributing or purchasing any product that contains THC puts you at risk of criminal prosecution, with penalties varying depending on the specific crime that’s committed.

CBD, however, is not listed as a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act. As long as it has been derived from an EU-approved, industrial strain of hemp, CBD is completely legal for consumers to purchase and use in the UK. 

The UK and EU governments place certain restrictions on CBD products to make sure they’re in full compliance with the law. In order to be legal, CBD oil (or any other CBD product) much meet the following criteria:

  • It needs to be produced using an EU-approved, industrial hemp strain. Products that are made using unregulated, unapproved strains of hemp or cannabis may not comply with the law and could be illegal.

    Currently, the EU has approved 63 different strains of industrial hemp that can be used to manufacture CBD products.
  • It needs to contain a maximum of 0.2% THC. This quantity of THC is small enough that it cannot cause the user to feel high. The THC content of the product also has to be easy to separate from the rest of the rest of the product’s contents.
  • It needs to be marketed in compliance with regulations. There are strict regulations that dictate how CBD and similar products can be marketed, including health and medicinal claims made about these products.

In certain cases, products that exceed these limits — such as cannabis-based products that are above the 0.2% THC restriction — are allowed in the UK. For example, a cannabis-based drug called Sativex, which is used as a medical treatment, is allowed for use in the UK.

This is a prescription treatment that’s only available from a doctor. It’s used specifically to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) and isn’t widely available like CBD products.

In simple terms, CBD is legal to purchase, possess and use in the UK as long as it has either no THC or a low THC content, is made using an EU-approved type of hemp and is marketed in full compliance with existing regulations.

Are All CBD Products Legal?

As CBD is not listed as a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act, all products that contain CBD are legal in the UK. This means that you can legally buy products such as CBD oil tinctures, CBD e-liquids, CBD edibles, CBD capsules, topical CBD products and more.

As none of these products contain controlled substances, all can be legally purchased and used in the UK. 

Is Cannabis Oil Legal in the UK?

Cannabis oil is an oil that’s produced similarly to CBD oil. However, it’s made using plant that have a higher THC content than the 63 EU-approved strains of hemp that are used to produce CBD oil and other CBD products.

Typically, cannabis oil has a significantly higher THC content than CBD oil. While the amount of THC can vary from one product to another, cannabis oil typically has a significant enough THC content that an end user will experience a noticeable high after using the product. 

Cannabis oil is illegal both in the UK and throughout the UK. Although it often seems similar to CBD oil, it’s a completely different product that’s treated very differently under the law. If you’re found purchasing or in possession of cannabis oil, you could face criminal prosecution. 

CBD Oil, THC and Workplace Drug Testing

Over the last decade, an increasing amount of British employers have started to require that their employees undergo drug testing. 

Not all employers in the UK drug test. Currently, drug testing is most common in industries in which drug use could pose a significant safety risk. If you’re employed in energy, transport or construction, it’s possible that you could be drug tested as part of your employment.

Workplace drug testing is designed to detect the presence of THC, as well as its metabolites, within your bloodstream. This means that if you’ve recently used cannabis, cannabis oil or any other product that contains THC, there’s a risk that you could fail a workplace drug test.

It’s also possible for CBD oil to cause you to fail a workplace drug test, potentially causing risks for your employment.

The reason for this is simple. Although CBD oil doesn’t contain enough THC to make you feel high, the trace amounts of THC that are present in some forms of CBD oil could be enough to trigger a drug test that’s designed to test for the presence of THC.

As we covered in our guide to full spectrum CBD and CBD isolate, CBD products labelled as “full spectrum” tend to contain the highest THC content. Because of this, these products are best avoided if you’re regularly tested for illicit drugs by your employer.

Products labelled as “CBD isolate” typically contain either no THC at all, or a small percentage of THC. While these products may still cause you to fail a drug test, the risk is lower due to the reduced THC content.

As always, the safest way to avoid any drug testing issues is to avoid using any products that are derived from cannabis or hemp at all. Unfortunately, employers aren’t always completely understanding about CBD, making this quite a difficult topic to discuss. 

Summary

CBD is completely legal to purchase and use in the UK. This means that you can buy products such as CBD tinctures, e-liquids, capsules and more without having to worry about breaking the law. As CBD is not a controlled substance, you aren’t committing any crime by using it.

However, any products that contain more than 0.2% THC are banned from sale in the UK under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This means that cannabis oil, which typically contains more THC than CBD oil, is not legal to purchase, use or possess.

By purchasing from a reputable CBD oil shop, you’ll be able to enjoy all of the effects of CBD oil without having to worry about breaking any UK or EU laws.