Are CBD Hemp Flowers Actually Legal In The UK?

CBD hemp buds look and smell just like regular weed. They can also be smoked just like the ‘real thing’. And while smoking hemp buds won’t get you high, it does offer a profoundly relaxing and anxiety-relieving effect.

This has made CBD hemp flowers very popular with people who want to smoke weed without experiencing the heady high that traditionally accompanies it. It’s also being bought by many people who get anxious and paranoid when they smoke high-THC weed, as well as people who are trying to cut down their THC intake.

Despite its growing popularity, however, high-CBD hemp flowers are causing some confusion among cannabis industry professionals and consumers alike. So, in order to try and clear the matter up once and for all, this article will attempt to answer the question: Are CBD hemp flowers legal in the UK?

Hemp is legal to grow but are flowers legal to sell? 

The bottom line, as far as we can tell, is that no one knows for sure. The law does not explicitly cover the CBD industry and any mention of hemp-derived buds is a cursory mention and open to interpretation.

Within the industry, there are two camps. One that believes that any cannabis in its raw form, including hemp flowers, are illegal in the UK under the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971 (MODA). The other, however,  believe that as the buds are derived from legally-grown hemp, they are legally classed as hemp, not cannabis, and, therefore, exempt from the MODA.  

What are CBD hemp flowers?

Hemp is simply cannabis with very low levels of THC that has been grown under licence. As THC is the chemical compound in cannabis that gets you ‘high’, hemp does not offer any psychotropic effects.

It is legal to grow hemp in the UK (and most of the world) providing you have a government-issued licence and you only plant seeds from a list of EU-approved strains. This list features cannabis strains that reliably produce less than 0.2% THC (the UK limit).

Although these hemp varieties are traditionally grown from industrial purposes like in the manufacture of textiles and rope, many European hemp farmers are now growing crops purely for their CBD content. Some extract the CBD to make other products, while some harvest the flowers of the hemp plants, cure and trim them, before selling the raw product on to the consumer.

The resulting product – trichome-rich, high-CBD, low-THC cannabis buds – has become very popular in the UK over the last six months. It follows in the footsteps of similar industries in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France and Germany, where the product is often sold as a tobacco substitute.

What the law says…

First of all, let’s confirm that products containing CBD are legal providing they contain less than 1mg of THC per unit. The 0.2% limit is a limit imposed on hemp that is being grown under licence by hemp farmers. It is not applicable to CBD products.

Now here’s the fun part; trying to dissect the UK’s confusing drug laws. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, cannabis is a Class B controlled drug. In order to allow the hemp industry to continue, however, some exemptions were brought in. These exemptions include the stalk (used for fibre) and seed (used for food) – not the leaves or flowers (buds).

Judging by this statement, it would seem that hemp flowers are illegal to be possessed or sold in the UK. But not so fast. Some business owners believe that when a part of the legally-grown hemp part is processed (i.e. changed from its raw form) then it’s allowed. This is why some companies (even some certified by the CTA, a self-appointed regulatory body for the CBD industry) sell hemp buds that have been ground up – the act of grinding the bud counts as a process.

In this vein, it can then be assumed that if a hemp flower product has undergone processing such as curing and trimming, it is, therefore, also exempt from the misuse of Drug Act 1971. So, it may be advisable for companies selling hemp flowers to make it clear the buds they are selling have been ‘processed’, whether that be by trimming, grinding, or some other such process.

What the police say…

Police forces of the UK are also apparently very confused on the matter. We have received word of a recent incident in which someone who was in possession of CBD-rich hemp flowers had their house searched. The officers were apparently satisfied that the cannabis was low-THC and therefore did not confiscate it.

There have been other incidents where hemp buds have been confiscated, only to be returned five months later after an analysis revealed it to have minimal levels of THC. We have not heard about any case where someone has been prosecuted for possessing CBD-rich hemp flowers.

We are aware of some companies having their shipments held up at customs, however.

What Clear says…

Clear, who are cannabis law reform group affiliated with the Cannabis Trade Association, have a slightly different view. They recently published an article warning against purchasing CBD hemp buds, claiming that every seller is operating illegally.

As mentioned earlier, however, at least one of the certified CTA members (Zenon Hemp Farm) is currently selling crushed up hemp buds. We can, therefore, assume that the CTA and Clear classify the act of grinding up hemp buds to be a ‘process’ and that trimming and curing do not count in their eyes. It would seem that the real issue here is the definition of a ‘process’, something which the law doesn’t cover.

Clear has also brought attention to the fact that the 0.2% THC limit applies to hemp plants being grown and not exempt products, such as CBD oil and other CBD containing products. Rather, these products must not contain more than 1mg of THC and/or CBN per gram.

However, a simple way around this is to simply sell hemp flowers in small amounts, say by the gram, so that no one pack has more than 1mg of THC. Although the previously mentioned Zenon Hemp Farm, a CTA member, does not seem to follow this rule. They sell chopped hemp buds by the kilogram on their website.

Where can you buy high-quality CBD hemp flowers?

You can currently buy CBD hemp flowers from a number of different online shops as well as from a few bricks-and-mortar shops around the UK. In London, you can visit Hemp Botanics in Portobello Road, Kanaco on Fulham Road, or Otherside London, also on Portobello Road.  There’s also Little Head Shop in Crewe and no doubt many others that we aren’t aware of.

If you are shopping online, you have many options. Check out our regularly updated directory ‘Where To Buy CBD Hemp Buds In The UK’.

Conclusion

The UK’s drug laws are outdated and misinformed. Not least, our cannabis laws, which have directly led to the undue suffering of many. Now, as the UK wakes up to the therapeutic potential of cannabis, CBD has been forced into the spotlight. And one of the most exciting and intriguing CBD products on the market today is CBD-rich hemp flowers.

But there is some confusion surrounding their legality.

Some people are saying they are illegal, some say otherwise. Either way, companies are selling them and the police are doing very little to stop them.

At the very least, the rise of CBD hemp flowers shows us that not everyone wants to use cannabis to get ‘high’. It also highlights the ineptitude of the drug laws we live under. Due to this, we may very well be seeing the formation of new regulations for the CBD and hemp industries very soon.

Therefore, you can expect to hear more about CBD-rich hemp flowers in the coming months. The non-psychoactive buds are already sweeping through Europe and taking the U.S by storm. And while they don’t get you high like THC weed, their popularity is great ammunition for the push for full legalisation of cannabis.

4 Comments on “Are CBD Hemp Flowers Actually Legal In The UK?”

  1. Stay away from Clear and CTA.
    I used to run two Cannabis Clubs through facebook, then I deleted facebook all together
    Jack.

  2. Yes, the self proclaimed CTA Cannabis Trade Association was a scam set up by Peter Reynolds to monopolise the UK’s current and future Cannabis industry. It is not for as they say. They systematically make unauthorised claims. Stay clear of CTA. No one who is currently selling or producing CBD oils legaly should associate themselves with the CTA.

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