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UK Law and Novel Food

Is CBD oil legal in the UK? – The CBD regulatory landscape is changing

The UK CBD regulatory landscape is complex, to say the least. In the following, we break down everything about the current, and future, rules around CBD regulation.

First things first, CBD is legal in the UK as long there is no more than 1mg THC per product. THC is the psychoactive component found in cannabis plants that remains a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This psychoactive component is what induces the feeling of being “high.”

Any CBD product that is compliant and under this 1mg THC threshold will not stimulate any psychoactive effect whatsoever. It is simply too small a number to have any impact. A CBD product that does contain this accepted THC limit is considered a Full Spectrum CBD product. (if you would like to understand the difference between CBD products, please read our guide to ‘Different types of CBD').

The second thing to note is that CBD is legal in the UK as long as it comes from an industrial hemp strain that is approved by the UK. This does not mean, however, that just anyone can grow hemp if they have the right strain seeds. CBD growers, farmers and producers alike must have a license to grow hemp.

It is important to note that CBD products sold in the UK are not for medical use and are considered to be a food supplement.

So how is it changing?

From the 31st March 2021, any CBD product sold on the market must comply with ‘The Novel Food Act’, which requires an approved application to sell.

This follows a decision made in January 2020 by the European Commission that CBD sold as a ‘food supplement’ (i.e. any form of edible CBD-based products) would now be classed as a novel food. 

What is a ‘novel food’?

A ‘novel food’ refers to any food without a widely documented history of consumption before May 1997. Although hemp has been consumed for thousands of years (in the form of hemp seeds, and hemp oils), CBD itself has not. CBD must be extracted from hemp using a sophisticated extraction process, so in many ways, it is a completely different end-product.

CBD certainly does not have a history of consumption and following a number of unregulated products which have flooded the market due to the growing popularity of CBD, the purpose of the Novel Food Act is to safeguard consumer safety. 

As the CBD industry continues to grow in popularity, regulations will continue to evolve to reflect the ever-changing landscape. Whilst the constant changes can be confusing for consumers to understand now, they will benefit everyone in the long-term as CBD continues to become more popular and its potential benefits continue to be discovered.