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What to know about importing CBD into the UK?

Imported anything for commercial sales would require some bare minimum documentation. If any product is imported in large amounts, a legal entity must be registered in the country. But that is not all. When it comes to food items, natural products, there are many other restrictions and requirements. 

For example, most nations would have some requirements regarding packaging. In the case of food products, one may need to provide a certificate that it does not pose a biological hazard to the nation and is free from contaminations like invasive insects, weeds, etc. When it comes to CBD, things are a bit more complicated. 

Overview of UK CBD Regulations and Laws

When it comes to CBD regulations, it is complex. It is because there are so many different products, and rules for each would differ. To begin with, one has to show that THC is below 0.2% in the products. This should be proven by the certificate of analysis or certificate of quality control.

If the THC is below the permissible limits, it means that the product would qualify as a novel food in the UK, but not as a food or food supplement. In addition, it means that there is a need for its pre-marketing approval. Such approval is given by FSA (Food Standards Agency) in the UK.

Getting FSA approval and certifying that the product is novel food is a long and tedious task. It requires the preparation of a dossier about the product quality and safety. It generally means hiring a regulatory agency, consultants, collecting a certain amount of health-related data.

However, there is some good news. Unlike EFSA in the EU, FSA in the UK is giving novel food approvals or marketing authorizations for CBD products. So, the procedure might be tedious, but it is working. Moreover, it is likely that one may get a temporary import permit by submitting the application. However, it is always good to use the services of some consulting agencies for such complex tasks.1

It is worth knowing that CBD flowers cannot get FSA approval. They are still under the Misuse of Drugs Act, irrespective of their THC content. So, the answer to the question, can I import CBD flowers is, No.

Cannabinoids and the UK

However, there is a way out from FSA novel food approval. Legally, CBD and Hemp are two different things. Since the UK and EU have a history of consuming Cannabis sativa seeds, seed oil, defatted hemp seed, and hemp seed flour, they are not regarded as a novel food. However, it is worth understanding that hemp seed oil is CBD free naturally.

Getting import approval for high THC would be pretty complex, as that would require opening an NDS account and getting a license to import the products. High THC products are covered by Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

But that is not all. If the intention is to promote CBD products as a medicine, then the procedure is altogether different. Then one would need to get regulatory approval or license from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory agency.

Finally, before importing any product, it is essential to understand if it has to be certified by local labs or not. In most cases, a manufacturers certificate of analysis may not suffice. It is not complex, but it would add to the costs and prolong getting customs clearance. Further, even if the goods are cleared from customs, various retailers often demand a third-party certificate of analysis.

Requirements for Importing CBD into the UK

As one can see, things are not that simple. Requirements would depend on what kind of product a person is planning to import. Here we look at the two most common products that one would perhaps like to import: CBD oil or Hemp oil. Other things like CBD flower, high THC products, cannabis-based medicines are altogether a different story. 

In the case of Hemp oil, things are pretty simple. FSA statement clearly says that hemp and related products like cold-pressed oils are not novel food. It is because there is a long history of their consumption in the UK. 

However, it does not mean that there won’t be any requirement for documentation. To begin with, one would need to prove that the product is a hemp oil or related product. Thus, it would still need a certificate of analysis. One may also require documentation or certificates regarding additives in hemp oil. Further, customs may ask for local chemical analysis and microbiological examination.

You can learn more about importing various items, including CBD products, by visiting the UK Gov website or consulting customs agents.2,3

Additionally, there would be specific requirements for labelling. For example, it should not contain any misleading information or health claims.  

Although, the procedure is pretty simple for hemp oil. But importing legal entities may still need import licenses for food products. It is because hemp oil is not a novel food or medication, but it remains a food product.

CBD oil import

would be more complex and require a greater number of documentations. Be clear that customs would never clear a shipment of CBD oil without authorization from FSA regarding novel food. However, FSA authorization does not provide relief from other certifications. Every batch of the product would still need to have a certificate of analysis. Further, one would need to arrange for a local chemical and microbiological analysis report. 

The two bare documents needed for novel food are FSA authorization and certificates of analysis (both by the manufacturer and local third-party lab in the UK). When getting a certificate from third-party labs, make sure that they have all the necessary credentials. 

As already written earlier, CBD medicines and high THC products have a very different and complex procedure. Those require licenses from various regulatory agencies and high investments.

Importing CBD into the UK from EU countries

If you plan to import CBD oil or hemp oil from the EU zone, it is pretty simple, and documentations are minimal. Of course, one would still need some documentation mentioned above like a certificate of analysis and approval regarding novel food. However, things are simpler in the way that the UK recognizes most of the certificates given by the agencies in the EU.

It means that novel food approval from European agencies would be valid in the UK. So would the certificate of analysis by a third-party lab located in the EU zone and having proper credentials.

In many cases, it might mean minimal documentation. For example, one may attach all the local EU documents, approvals, certificates. However, one would also need to declare the value of the products. Thus, one should not forget to send an invoice with any shipment. 

Imports from EU member states are free from customs duty in the UK. However, they are not free from VAT. Thus, one would need to pay the VAT before freely selling the products in the UK.

Importing CBD into the UK from other Countries

Importing from outside of the EU is a bit more complicated as a lot more documents are needed. The importer should have an Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI number).

Since all goods coming from outside the EU have to pay customs duty, the invoice should mention the commodity codes. But, of course, one must mention the correct commodity code, else it would create trouble.

It is essential to note that one should have all the necessary licenses and approvals like that from FSA for novel foods like CBD oil. Although no such approvals are needed for hemp oil, a certificate proving its purity and safety would still be required.

The next step would be paying the local customs duty and VAT. For those planning to import CBD goods regularly into the UK, it is good to open a duty deferment account.

To pay the duties, one would need to fill import declaration. One needs to submit this import declaration along with all the supporting documents to customs. Some of the essential supporting documents are packing list, invoice, certificate of analysis (both local and manufacturer’s), other licenses like FSA license if needed.

Freight partners are convenient

As one can understand, it could be quite a daunting task to import goods from outside the EU. Therefore, it is common practice to use brokerage firms or customs agents for fulfilling these processes. These agencies have lots of experience, and they can always ensure that things get cleared from customs on time. It is a good idea to consult customs agents much before importing such products to the UK.

Another thing worth knowing is that the UK has a free trade agreement with many nations outside the EU, like Japan and Australia. It means that importing products from such countries would be relatively simpler. Free trade agreement generally means that one does not need to pay local customs duties and just a VAT. So, the process of importing from such nations would be pretty similar to importing from the EU.

Importing CBD into the UK to Sell

It is worth understanding that everything written above is for those intending to import CBD products for commercial purposes. However, importing things for personal use is much simpler. 

Importing things for personal use should be in smaller amounts only. Logically, customs would not believe that someone has imported tons of CBD for personal use. Few packs of CBD oil can be readily imported for personal use without much hassle. One would still need to understand that one may need to pay duties on some expensive items. Exemption rates for goods imported for personal use differ.

To conclude, importing CBD into the UK has its own intricacies. UK legal THC limit is at 0.2, and after that, it could be regarded as a controlled substance. CBD UK customs would ask for many documents when products are of non-EU origin. Therefore, one would need CBD import lenience in the UK. However, one can import CBD oil with proper documents. Importing hemp oil is relatively straightforward, whereas importing CBD flowers is not possible. 

Since Brexit, the cards have been reshuffled and the UK CBD industry offers great opportunities. If you are ready to jump on board, complete the web form and we will get you started!

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