The Latest On The Legality Of CBD Flower In The UK

Is CBD flower legal in the UK or isn’t it? It’s a question that gets debated in Facebook Groups more than any other.

Well, there have been some recent developments that might give a clue as to what’s in store for the UK’s CBD flower market in the coming months.

First, let’s quickly cover the current laws and how CBD flower has become so widely available online and on high streets across the country.

What’s the law on CBD flower in the UK?

Cannabis is a Class B drug in the UK and, therefore, is very much illegal. Hemp – low-THC cannabis traditionally grown for industrial purposes – however, is legal to grow and possess with a licence. Farmers can only grow seeds that are on a list of EU-approved varieties

For a hemp product to be legal, it must adhere to a few rules; It must be a product with less than 1mg of THC (or CBN) per unit and the controlled substance must be ‘unretrievable’.

CBD flower sellers are claiming that their products are legal because they are supposedly from EU-approved varieties and being sold in 1g containers means they also do not contain more than 1mg THC per unit (not all companies do this, however).

It’s also why hemp flower tea is sold in well-known high street shops Holland & Barrett and Grape Tree.

Recent developments

Recently, however, shops have been raided by the police for selling CBD flower. While hemp flower sold as tea appears to not be a concern for the authorities, sold by the gram as whole-flower with a name like Girls Scout Cookies and it could cause a problem.

There was a raid in Plymouth a few months ago, a couple of online sellers have had their buds confiscated, and then in the last few months we’ve had the highly publicised Canna Kitchen in Brighton raided along with two other addresses in the area.    

While this might sound like the start of the end of the CBD flower market in the UK, there could be more to it. The fact that no one has been prosecuted is the first clue that the police and relevant authorities are not entirely clear on their stance on CBD hemp flower.

In fact, it seems a few police forces have been contacting private organisations like CLEAR to establish where CBD flower falls with regard to the law.

End of CBD flower in Italy

In Italy, where much of Europe’s CBD flower is grown, the government has announced plans to close every shop selling flower one by one. This was followed by rumours that the new industry has upset the Mafia by eating into its black cannabis market profits.

Additionally, a recent study found that the availability of CBD flower in Italy has had a notable impact on pharmaceutical usage, adding more fuel to rumours of a conspiracy against CBD and natural medicines by ‘big pharma’.

End of CBD in Europe?

To be honest, it’s not looking good for CBD anywhere in Europe apart from Switzerland. The EU is trying to list CBD in the Novel Foods Catalogue, which would take it off the European market for a good few years while it underwent strict safety testing.

A ‘novel food’ is defined as a food or food ingredient that was not in widespread consumption in the EU area before 1997. Yet CBD-containing cannabis has been consumed among humans and our livestock for thousands of years. You do the math.

Future of CBD flower in the EU and UK?

So, what does this mean for the future of CBD flower in the UK? Right now, it’s hard to say.

It’s still widely available online in vape shops around the country. In fact, it continues to be very more popular, with people consuming the buds for a variety of reasons, including quitting tobacco, treating anxiety, insomnia, depression, migraine, addiction, just to name a handful.

Could a crackdown be on the way? It’s possible.

There could also be a change in the law. In fact, there are some pretty loud calls for changes to the UK’s hemp laws to open the way for the domestic production of CBD.

You see, at the moment, while licence-holders can grow hemp legally, they are not permitted to process the flower of the plant, which is where cannabinoids like CBD are produced. This is why UK companies have to import CBD from abroad.

The proposed changes in hemp laws would see farmers permitted to process the flower to make CBD products. And there is a chance that the law could also make the trade in hemp flower completely legal.

Who knows, with Brexit in the UK’s rearview mirror and demand for cannabis law reform increasing, a domestic hemp and CBD industry could be a lucrative and progressive middle ground – a stepping stone perhaps – before the inevitable wider liberalisation of cannabis in the UK.

20 Comments on “The Latest On The Legality Of CBD Flower In The UK”

  1. Where do you get this ‘processing’ idea, Jack?

    It’s another myth with no basis in anything at all. Scour the MoDA 1971 and MoDR 2001 and you won’t find any mention of ‘processing’ or anything that alludes to it.

    I don’t know where it came from in the first place and until I checked a year or so ago I was repeating it as well but there is no truth in it at all.

  2. Great article: The debate on CBD flowers is very interesting! One that could shape the future of the industry.

    I understand where Peter is coming from. “Cannabis” flower…CBD or THC dominant is exactly that; “cannabis” flower! Thus, technically classified as a class B controlled drug and illegal. I have to say I do agree with you here Peter.

    However, chop the bud and put it into a tea bag and it could potentially be exempt?!

    Then we have the 1mg THC/CBN rule.

    Current chopped ‘hemp tea’ on the market does contain more than 1mg of THC and it can be recovered by readily applicable means. So, I guess normal chopped hemp tea should be illegal as well…but it’s not. Fascinating!

    To add a bit more excitement into the debate, let’s not forget that some flower sellers are spraying isolate and fake terpenes on to their buds. Not to mention the fake claims of ‘EU’ approved strains.
    Anyone selling Swiss flower should have an import license. The market is crazy at the moment….and I haven’t even touched on “Cannabinol derivatives” yet 😉 (I’ll save that for another day).

    Controlled drugs: “Cannabinol” “Cannabinol derivatives” “Cannabis” “Cannabis resin” “Cannabis oil” “Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-THC)”.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/controlled-drugs-list–2/list-of-most-commonly-encountered-drugs-currently-controlled-under-the-misuse-of-drugs-legislation

    There is one last issue all bud sellers are overlooking…it’s something that made us stop selling buds. If you want to know what it was come and see me at the Europe CBD Expo, booth G4!

  3. Copied and pasted from Bud & Tender facebook page.

    Did you know that in order for a UK CBD oil to be legally exempt it must contain no more than 1mg of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and no more than 1mg CBN (cannabinol).

    The 0.2% THC limit only applies to the EU, not the UK!

    If you consume a CBD oil with THC and CBN, you may test positive for controlled substances.

    Bud & Tender Filter Pure CBD Cannabis Oil has 0mg THC and 0mg CBN, making it clean, safe and legal to consume.

    #BudandTender

    But the propaganda machine BBC said The Home Office says that it can contain a maximum THC content of 0.2% and that the THC must not be easily separated from it.
    Confusion time :/

    1. Hi Loggs,

      Good old BBC, trusty and reliable. 😉

      Yes, the whole thing is extremely confusing :-)… for businesses and consumers!

      I think both Jack and Peter will agree with me that the 0.2% THC rule for products is not applicable in the UK.

      Controlled drugs are listed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/controlled-drugs-list–2/list-of-most-commonly-encountered-drugs-currently-controlled-under-the-misuse-of-drugs-legislation

      Misuse of Drugs Regulation 2001: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/3998/regulation/2/made

      “exempt product” means a preparation or other product consisting of one or more component parts, any of which contains a controlled drug, where—

      (a) the preparation or other product is not designed for administration of the controlled drug to a human being or animal;
      (b) the controlled drug in any component part is packaged in such a form, or in combination with other active or inert substances in such a manner, that it cannot be recovered by readily applicable means or in a yield which constitutes a risk to health; and
      (c) no one component part of the product or preparation contains more than one milligram of the controlled drug

      Thus, any CBD oil/product in the UK should not contain more than 1mg of THC and/or 1mg of CBN (and 1mg of cannabinol derivatives ;-)). At Bud & Tender we have removed these cannabinoids from our oil to ensure we comply with the regulation.

      (Yes, I am aware that THC and CBN alongside CBD can bring additional perks-mainly direct interaction with receptors as opposed to indirect, but sadly the legal aspect must come first for a business…if they want to remain in business)

      What happens if/when someone is drug tested by the police/their work and shows positive for THC after taking a CBD oil with illegal levels of THC in it?
      This is going to be a huge can of worms that gets opened.

      Not quite the same, but look what just happened in the Lyman Good supplement lawsuit.

      1. Hmm CBD is class B gutted.
        I can see many shops getting raided and shutting down this year.
        I’ve also noticed there are few suppliers in UK that have already shut their business down in the past few months 🙁

        1. CBD is not controlled at all, if shops don’t sell flower, they won’t get raided, if they comply and do things properly then its all good.

          We have a crowded market, those that are selling unscrupulously are being weeded (!) out of the market and those who will not comply with the regulations that are there for all to see will ultimately be shut down.

          1. Hi Mike thanks for the info 🙂
            I’ve been looking of CBD alternatives like Kratom to try out because I cant afford to loose my car license with the THC content of CBD.

  4. It’s a good article, the CTA have been giving the correct information and circulating a response from the home office for many many months. Bud has never been legal and the only reason teas are permitted is because of a law in Europe permitting the sale of herbal teas.

    Hemp tea can demonstrably be proven to have been consumed even during the effective EU ban lifted in 1995 in which countries again widely grew hemp. France and the Netherlands never stopped growing although both introduced country laws forbidding the possession sale or use of flower due the the ‘61 convention.

    In 2001 the German authorities and then the Swiss permitted the use of flower in end products which effectively opened the way for CBD products using the flowering tops under free movement of goods in the EU, Romania and Italy followed this legislative change.

    Of course the Swiss went one further in 2009 (I think) when they went onto allow up to 1 % of THC and decided that anything meeting that definition was hemp. Legally you can produce CBD in Switzerland but you cannot actually legally sell it. Which is why for example Cibdol ship from the Netherlands where although you can’t grow or perform primary processing, you can ship from.

    The police have indeed held several meeting with CTA representatives and others, we are back at another one early next month. There is a national crackdown where they are targeting higher profile (and scale) sellers of buds. While the CTA may not necessarily agree with the way things are being done, they are perfectly legal. Buds or flowers or whatever you want to call them are illegal, they always have been.

    The CTA has always been of the opinion that while there are the crazy marketing name (“lemon haze” and “sour khush”) and the spraying of terpenes onto what are often Kompolti or Fedora buds to make them look and smell like the real thing, there was always going to be a crackdown and any hope of a half legal leg to stand on collapses as soon as you start to use the far “sexier” marketing names.

    Unfortunately a good many unscrupulous sellers jumped onto the bandwagon and have done an amazing job of marketing and convincing.

    As for CBD in the novel foods, the CTA attended in March as we always said we would, we were indeed the first consulted, since then we’ve been around the Novel teams in the U.K. Denmark, Holland, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Ireland and Spain representing members there, we’ve also had conversations with many more authorities, indeed we are the only organisation making a point of visiting these departments to introduce ourselves and try to establish a working relationship which by and large has been successful. We’ve listened and we’re currently taking legal advice on which route to go down next.

    We’re back in Brussels in July.

    There are several options, one of which has the backing of several authorities and we will tell you more when we can, the lawyers will make their decisions shortly.

    1. Great, so the clueless police are seeking legal advice from the self appointed hemp flower prevention officers?

      Mr clueless police man: “is it illegal”?

      Mr Mike Harlington: “Yes, shut all hemp flower suppliers down immediately so that our oil industry benefits financially, they are unscrupulous! It doesn’t matter how many homes or tax paying businesses we destroy, it doesn’t matter how many people in severe pain or people who suffer with life threatening conditions go without, it doesn’t matter that hemp is non-psychoactive, it doesn’t matter that we already break the law as our cbd oil contains more than 1mg THC per finished packaged product, shut hemp flower down immediately, it is dangerous and a threat to society/our pocket”!

      1. Much though we’ve always told the sellers that what they sell is illegal, most of the damage has already been done!

        The ONLY way that things can continue is to get rid of all the silly names and call a spade a spade, we HAD half a legal leg to stand on. Now there is none, so show you are serious and can comply.

        Many oils are technically unlawful (indeed all are due to the Novel status) but the 1mg rule is almost impossible to prosecute against for many reasons.

        Popular that opinion might not be, but legally it’s the only way forward.

        1. Hi Mike,

          It’s great that the CTA has protected the industry and we’ll agree that the CTA has achieved some impressive feats. I do support the work you do, and I trust that you have your members best interests at heart.

          However please kindly advise the limit of THC/CBN you or the CTA would deem to be acceptable in a CBD product?

          If the law states 1mg; are the CTA happy to have members at 20mg?…or would you draw the line at 15mg, 10mg or 5mg? Where does the cut-off point for THC/CBN acceptability in mg, stand in the eyes of the CTA?

          Thank you in advance.

          1. Hi Mark

            I wouldn’t say we have a cutoff in terms of milligrams, we say to members they SHOULD have a THC free product but many members and their customers prefer a full spectrum, so we tend to say that 0.2% by volume or under is acceptable.

            Is it perfectly legal? Nope, but the fact is that there are so many different rules and regulations to work to, no one knows and almost no one can reliably detect THC down to that level in a 10ml bottle, most labs are around +\- 10% accurate at that level, some are as much as +\- 30% depending on any number of factors not least of which is the known sample.

            For CBN the law again applies at 1mg, but in industrial hemp and indeed many cannabis varieties CBN isn’t a major factor and in all honesty if it was tested in a government facility unless they were asked to test they would probably ignore CBN anyway.

  5. It’s amazing the cbd product has helped and cured many people around the world. Including depression, anxiety, arthritis, chronic pain, cancer and many more. The only side effect is it reduces the big Pharma profits. It only makes sence to change the law to allow everybody who needs cbd be able to purchase it.

  6. @Mike Harlington this is total rubbish you talk.

    Liquid chromatography is extremely accurate at providing an individual cannabinoid breakdown.

    Gas chromatography can at the very worst have up to a 3% innacuracy buffer for de-carbed cannabinoids so this 10% – 30% buffer you speak of is to be honest, a lie.

    It seems that it’s one rule for you guys and different for everyone else.

    How can you call hemp bud illegal then blatantly ignore/disregard the UK law yourself and advise your protection scam victims that a 10ml or 30ml bottle of 0.2% THC is totally fine, based on the fact that the CTA claim lab tests are so innacurate when this is utter rubbish, then have the audacity to use the excuse that there are so many rules and regulations to work out which makes it ok?!

    Essentially Mike, you’ve just admitted that the CBD oil that the CTA endorses does not fit the critea of an exempted product by definition of regulation 2 of the MDR 2001 and is in fact illegal!

    Sir, you are a hypocrit.

    1. Harlington the Charlatan is a lot worse than a hypocrite!

      Wait until you hear the story about the cannabis farm that never existed based on a Home Office licence he never had. He attracted investors to put up tens of thousands of pounds and then he put the company into liquidation and ran away to Spain! Coming soon and widely available on the internet.

      Also, for someone who claims to spend at least £100,000 pa of members money on ‘advice’ from his pet legal eagle, his response to the question on ‘CBD hash’ is shockingly ignorant and over complicated.

      It’s actually very simple. Cannabis resin is specifically prohibited under MoDA 1971. As simple as that.

      Remember, cannabis is cannabis is a ‘controlled drug’ in its own right, irrespective of composition and how much or how little THC it contains.

  7. @PG Tips

    You are perfectly correct that HPLC and indeed GC are relatively accurate, the problem isn’t the process, the problem is the almost always the calibration reference. Many labs are not licensed to have controlled substances, so on many labs you simply see <0.2% for example on THC because they do not have reference samples, so they take a guess. This is a problem not just in Europe, but around the world.

    The other problem is that very few labs will give certificated testing which is the only way to do accurate testing. I can guarantee you that I can send samples to 12 labs and get 12 results back, mostly within that 10-30% framework.

    Lastly the other part of this is that on raw paste for example the cannabinoid content for most cannabinoids is relatively high. But once this is mixed down into bottles the concentration is often very low. So some labs cannot get accuracy down this far. Indeed if you actually check most labs they will tell you that the accuracy is around 10% OF THE QUOTED FIGURES, but where they do not have adequate capability to test for controlled cannabinoids this rises to 30% OF THE QUOTED FIGURES.

    So we’re not saying 10-30% out, we’re saying as an example that if a products CBD content is shown as 500mg there is a plus or minus of (with CBD as a non controlled cannabinoid) 10% of THAT GIVEN FIGURE. So it would be within a range of 450 -550mg in the bottle. With THC that could be 30% of the quoted figure out because a lab cannot always get decent calibration samples (if they don’t have a licence for example) so they take a synthetic sample and calibrate against that.

    I’m more than happy to put you in touch with a chemist who can easily verify what I’ve just said, because that’s what was explained to me when I started questioning results. Also as part of that, in all honesty unless you have certificated results labs are almost pointless. If you take a look at Canna for example, their testing always says that the results are for guidance only and they do not provide certificated results.

    As for a protection racket, well, if that’s what you wish to call it, then I suggest you do some research.

    @Peter Reynolds

    Noted.

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