Is CBD Legal in the UK?

There is a lot of talk about CBD in the British media in recent years. National media is covering the CBD rise and articles about CBD oil are hitting the front pages. On top of that, the number of CBD products sold is increasing. Clearly, the CBD industry is expanding, and products in the UK are in demand.

But the prominent media coverage means there is a flood of CBD information, that can make it hard for consumers and businesses to distinguish fact from fiction. This is why Essentia Pura strives to provide you with factual and up to date information about CBD laws in countries around the world.

In this article, covering the UK laws, you will learn:

If you are interested in any of these things, please, read the article in full. If you want to learn more about other countries in Europe and their regulations of CBD, you can do that on our blog.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 144 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

Wait, what?

If you are not familiar with CBD terminology, this can be hard to comprehend, it’s even hard to read. So let us unpack this for you.


The first thing for you to notice is that CBD is a cannabis-derived product, so it has something to do with the cannabis plant. We are almost certain that you are at least somewhat familiar with the plant. It is incredibly famous and it has a special place in popular culture. 

Nonetheless, its reputation is different among people. Some view it as literally the medicine to cure all the world’s diseases, while some frown upon it and consider it a hard drug.  Luckily the world is not so black and white.

Cannabis leaf 1
Cannabis plant

The crucial thing you need to know about cannabis is this is not just one plant. There is more than one type, the most common are marijuana and industrial hemp. Although they are both regulated in some way, they differ in a couple of crucial aspects that shape the way governments regulate their production and use.

The second we need to explain is cannabinoids. Those are compounds that are found in the cannabis plant, this means that they are “the building blocks of cannabis”. We will quickly touch on the most prominent two: CBD and THC.

But first, let’s take a closer look at different strains of cannabis.


Marijuana is without a doubt the more famous of the duo. It’s known for its intoxicating effects, which are caused by THC. THC is a cannabinoid and it is the one that gets you “high” and consequently, it affects your cognitive and psychomotor performance. Due to this, it is usually strictly regulated by the government and frequently considered a drug.

As things currently stand marijuana is a controlled substance under the misuse of drugs act, to be precise it is listed as a controlled substance Class B drug in the UK.

What does this mean?

In short, it means that the recreational use of marijuana is illegal in UK law. On top of that, selling and producing marijuana is also not legal in the UK.

So how do we square this with some of the scientific research pointing to the beneficial medical effects of CBD and THC? An example of this kind of drug is a product such as Sativex used for treating multiple sclerosis.

To stay in touch with the new development, the UK legalized medicinal cannabis in 2018. You should note that the only way you can use a medical cannabis product with a high THC level in the UK is if you have a valid prescription from a registered doctor.


The hemp strain of cannabis (Cannabis Sativa) is different from marijuana. To start, industrial hemp has a long history in the UK. Apart from being used to extract CBD and make cannabis oil, it is used in the textile industry, as a food supplement as well as in various other sectors.  But how can you tell if you have marijuana or industrial hemp?

The most important distinction between marijuana and hemp is in the THC content. As we explained above marijuana is rich in THC, on the other hand, hemp products contain almost no THC.  The crucial thing is that it does not get you high.

This brings us to the important question of how much THC can hemp contain?

According to the Home Office, the threshold is at 0. 2% THC content. A plant that contains more than 0. 2% THC is considered marijuana and illegal.

Despite this industrial hemp still has high CBD content and is useful to develop products such as CBD oil. In fact, CBD is the most prominent active part found in industrial hemp, so that hemp oil retain medicinal benefits from CBD.

But is industrial hemp legal to grow and use in the UK?

The situation is somewhat confusing. In short, yes, industrial hemp is legal in the UK as long as it contains less than 0,2% THC. On top of that, you need a governmental license that grants you the legal status of hemp producer in the UK.

Additional confusion comes from the guidelines issued by the Home office in regards to hemp cultivation and which parts of the plant can be used in the production of CBD oil. According to the rules, the parts of the Cannabis Sativa which are the richest in CBD cannot be used in CBD products. A consequence of this is that a lot of industrial hemp produced in the UK is not used in the products and must be destroyed, all of this makes industrial hemp production, despite low levels of THC,  economically unsound.

Back to CBD

We hope you now have a better understanding of the cannabis plant. But how do scientists create CBD oil from a component of a plant? In short, scientists extract CBD from cannabis so that they isolate it from other cannabinoids. Most importantly,  they separate it from the psychoactive substances (THC). They can then use the extracted substance to make cannabis oil or other products.  If you want an in-depth, scientific look at CBD, please read our article here.

CBD oil
CBD oil

CBD Oil UK Regulations

UK CBD oil regulation is not as straightforward as we would hope. Generally speaking, CBD is legal in the UK, products can be freely bought and sold as food supplements – however, they can only contain traces of THC. The 0. 2 % rule described above is only used for legally growing hemp and not for CBD products.

There are a couple of important laws that deal with CBD oils and other products. The most important of them are; the European Union novel foods regulation and  The misuse of drugs act (1971).

What Does The Misuse of Drugs Act Say?

We briefly touched on this subject already, but it is now time to explain in a bit more detail what this law does.

The Misuse of Drugs Act regulates which substances are considered illegal drugs, which drugs you can use, and what type of behaviour is illegal in the UK.  Marijuana due to its high THC content is part of controlled substances class C.

According to this CBD products that contain low THC levels, so CBD extracted from hemp, are not considered to be controlled substances, as long as CBD is derived from industrial hemp that is EU approved – if they stay in compliance with the necessary European union laws.

CBD products with high THC are most likely still considered a controlled substance under the misuse of drugs regulations, although the regulatory practice is unclear on this point.

Furthermore, some people are considering using CBD as a medical remedy and the rise of medicinal cannabis means that there is a possibility that CBD oils with high THC could qualify as legal medical products. We have to stress that this is now not possible. Your CBD products should not contain any medical claims, they can only be marketed as food supplements.

What About Novel Foods Regulation?

Novel foods regulation is a piece of EU law dealing with innovative products on the food and agricultural market. A novel food is defined as food that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997. In order to ensure the safety of these products, any novel food, including cannabis oil and other UK CBD products must be subjected to an approval process.

The UK has been in a sort of grace period when it comes to the regulation, or to put it differently, it has not been particularly strict in enforcing the regulation on novel food products. However, you should note that the government has set a deadline for companies to bring their CBD oil in compliance with the novel food standards.

Selling CBD products past 31. march of 2021 will only be possible if you will have undergone the approval process in which you show what your products contain. You can read more about the novel food approval process here.

We advise you to consult with a CBD legal expert.

How Can I Start My Own CBD Company?

Starting any business can be scary, but we are firm believers that the future of CBD oil is bright. Getting ahead of the curve can be a tremendous opportunity. Nonetheless, the success of the business is not a guarantee. This is why we wish to offer you some advice on what to watch out for when you are setting up shop.

There are a couple of things to consider. You should first decide whether you want to fork as an affiliate or agent for some firm, so help distribute their CBD oils or you want to trod your own path from the start. There are benefits to both, in the former a big part of the business is secure, whereas in the latter you are your own boss.

The second thing to consider is if you want to sell your CBD product in person or if you want to take the e-commerce route. Usually, the e-commerce option allows you to market your CBD oil products to a wider audience. You also do not need to rent out a store, some storage space should be enough, and as the year 2020 has taught us, e-commerce is more resilient to shocks to the economy.

Next, you have to choose your supplier. This is a crucial step, you should make sure that the supplier has the knowledge of all the necessary CBD legal questions and that is compliance-oriented, you might even consider bringing in a third party to review the company.  We advise you to be wary of any suppliers that make over the top statements about their products.

You could take a look at Essentia Pura. We are a CBD wholesale company that can offer you professional services needed for your upcoming company. If you need any advice please contact us and our professional staff will get back to you as soon as possible.

Effects of Brexit on the CBD laws

There are more and more CBD oils sold in the UK market and a lot of it is imported from the member states of the European Union. With the Brexit transition period coming to an end in 2021 the question of future regulation is on everyone’s mind.

Even though the novel foods regulation is part of the EU law, it will remain a part of the UK regulation. The regulation is currently frozen in the EU, the UK on the other hand will start with its enforcement, this will give cannabis-based products in the UK some clarity on their status.

The second question is if there will be any import and export issues with CBD products or materials needed to produce CBD products. We hope that the government will take a close look at the legal regulations of hemp production in the UK. Hopefully, a revision will make it easier to access the full potential of hemp business in the UK while also enabling businesses to produce CBD oil that is EU approved, making the UK CBD market competitive on the continent.


Let’s quickly recap the drug regulations in the UK.

CBD oil is legal in the UK if it is derived from hemp and not marijuana. This means that only products containing virtually no THC are legal. A CBD product that contains high levels of THC  is considered a drug under UK regulations, its use is not allowed in the UK unless it is part of the medical cannabis program.

We need to emphasize that CBD oil can only be marketed as a food supplement, if you are going to market your product with claims of medical use they will not be legal.

Growing your own hemp is legal in the UK as long as you get a license for your product. All in all, we at Essentia Pura are convinced that these are good times for CBD business in the UK market.


We would like to invite you to read our articles about the regulation of CBD in other countries, such as:

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