Hemp and marijuana are common household names, especially with the younger generation of individuals who grew up around the internet. However, these two plants have been cultivated by human beings for centuries and have been exploring their benefits in different issues such as ceremonies and recreational use.
Different countries have different restrictions regarding usage, dosage, and the contents of CBD oil and its related products. In the United States, CBD is allowed to have no more than 0.3% of THC whereas, in the UK and the general European zone, the allowed limit is 0.2% and products should not contain more than one milligram of THC. These differences are subtle although they can land one to brush sides with the law should one get caught. This article discusses the laws and regulations of the United Kingdom regarding the legality of CBD oil and its related components.
A Brief History of the Cannabis Law
Collins (2020) gave a brief history of CBD. The cannabis plant was first used as medicine in 2700BC, when the 'Father of Chinese medicine,' Emperor Shen Nung, prescribed marijuana tea for the treatment of gout, rheumatism, malaria, and poor memory. However, Mercuri et al. (2002) suggested that hemp was grown as far back as the end of the last ice age. After being given the plant by explorers from India and China, Henry VIII insisted on all farmers growing hemp and threatened them with heavy fines if they didn't. Many medical formulations contained cannabis by the early 18th century. Science had yet to catch up at this point, but thousands of years of successful use was enough for almost all physicians to feel confident in prescribing it. This was also along with morphine – a highly addictive and potentially lethal drug with which many people had developed a serious problem by the 19th century.
CBD and the English Laws
Tvedt & Young (2007) explored the implementation of the fair and equitable sharing commitment in CBD. British chemist Robert S. Cahn discovered the first partial structure of CBN (cannabinol) in the 1930s, leading to the full identification in 1940. American chemist Roger Adams successfully identified and isolated CBD and, shortly after, THC in 1942. At this point, no one knew which molecules were causing which effects, or why. Then Dr. Raphael Mechoulam dubbed the "Godfather of CBD," began to uncover some of the inner workings of CBD and THC, in part through one significant study in which 8 epileptic patients were given 300mg of CBD daily for four months. After the trial, half of the subjects no longer had seizures, and the other half noticed a significant improvement.
The discovery of the first endocannabinoid, Anandamide, in the 1990s, was quickly followed by the discovery of an unknown molecular signaling system: the endocannabinoid system, which led to a better understanding of how CBD and THC interact with the human body. California re-legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and numerous other states followed suit over the next decade. Several other countries have also liberalized cannabis laws, allowing for critical trials and research to learn more about the plant and the effects CBD and over 120 other cannabinoids have on the human body. However, the laws governing CBD and cannabis use in the United Kingdom remain extremely restrictive.
CBD Law in the UK: A 2022 Perspective
Because the THC-rich cannabis Sativa plant is still classified as a controlled substance or controlled drug in the United Kingdom, CBD oil products are derived from high-CBD, low-THC hemp strains. Industrial hemp used in CBD products sold in the UK must be sourced from outside the UK, according to UK law. This means that the hemp used to make the best CBD oil UK products is sourced from farms in the United States and the European Union, both of which are known for their superior farming practices. UK CBD companies can ensure that hemp-derived cannabis products do not contain harmful chemicals or contaminants by using hemp plants grown in these regions. By utilizing hemp-derived CBD oils, UK-based CBD brands can ensure that they meet the UK's mandates for acceptable levels of THC in CBD products (1mg or less per product) while avoiding any legal issues associated with THC-rich cannabis plants. In addition, the UK government has set up extra measures regarding the use of CBD, these include:
CBD products sold in the United Kingdom are not intended for medical use. They are classified as either a food supplement (when consumed) or a cosmetic (when applied topically).
THC is still illegal. In the United Kingdom, the maximum legal limit is 1mg per container (regardless of how much product is contained), which effectively means a non-detectable amount for most products.
Selling CBD products processed outside of the UK is legal in the UK, as long as they don't contain any controlled substances like THC or CBN and are made from hemp.
CBD flower is not legal in the UK
In the United Kingdom, medicinal cannabis is now available by prescription for specific conditions.
CBN is also classified as a controlled substance and is illegal in the United Kingdom.
The Misuse of Drugs Act (MODa) does not differentiate between hemp, cannabis, and marijuana.
CBD Tincture is not the same as cannabis oil. Cannabis oil is typically used to refer to an extract that contains THC and is thus illegal in the United Kingdom.
By March 2021, brands selling CBD products in the UK must have submitted a Novel Food Application.
Are All Cannabinoids Legal in the UK?
Bijlsma et al. (2017) reviewed the legality of CBD in the UK. While many beneficial cannabinoids, such as CBD, CBDa, and CBG, are legal in the United Kingdom, others like delta-8/9 THC, remain illegal and on the controlled substances list. This is because they frequently have side effects that can result in psychoactive reactions. This is something to keep in mind when purchasing CBD oil products from distributors in countries where these cannabinoids are not illegal (such as the USA).
CBD products offer a great way to calm down due to their therapeutic benefits to the body. Its free use, however, is deterred by laws in the UK. It is illegal to cultivate hemp or be found in possession of CBD flowers. However, one can purchase CBD from online stores although the market is still unregulated. The law limits THC to levels below 0.2% or has no more than 1mg of THC in any CBD product. Check with local authorities concerning its purchase and use to avoid confiscation and being found in possession of an illegal substance as these laws keep on evolving to adjust to new research.
Bijlsma, L., Ibáñez, M., Miserez, B., Ma, S. T. F., Shine, T., Ramsey, J., & Hernández, F. (2017). Mass Spectrometric Identification And Structural Analysis Of The Third-Generation Synthetic Cannabinoids On The UK Market Since The 2013 Legislative Ban. Forensic Toxicology, 35(2), 376-388.
Collins, J. (2020). A Brief History of Cannabis And The Drug Conventions. American Journal Of International Law, 114, 279-284.
Mercuri, A. M., Accorsi, C. A., & Bandini Mazzanti, M. (2002). The Long History Of Cannabis And Its Cultivation By The Romans In Central Italy, Shown By Pollen Records From Lago Albano And Lago Di Nemi. Vegetation History And Archaeobotany, 11(4), 263-276.
Tvedt, M. W., & Young, T. R. (2007). Beyond Access: Exploring Implementation Of The Fair And Equitable Sharing Commitment In The CBD (No. 2). IUCN.
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