CBD laws UK

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CBD laws in UK – 2023

To understand CBD law in the UK we need to take a closer look at CBD – or cannabidiol – and its origins. The CBD in CBD oils available in the UK market primarily originates from ‘Industrial hemp’, which is also referred to as Cannabis sativa L.

Historically, Industrial hemp has been grown for its fibres, which are used in the production of clothing, paper, and building materials. However, today, advancements in technology and a better understanding of its therapeutic properties have led to growing industrial hemp to produce CBD for use in food, food supplements, cosmetics, and vape products.

Jump to:

Is CBD legal in the UK in 2023?

Is CBD oil legal in UK?

The legal THC limit in UK

THC vape juice legal limit in UK

Legality of CBD flower and bud in the UK

UK Cannabis Laws: A Timeline


Trading Standards and CBD

Is CBD legal in the UK in 2023?

CBD is legal in the UK provided controlled cannabinoids such as THC are limited to no more than 1 mg per container. But the CBD legal status is more complicated than that. Let’s look at the UK CBD laws and regulations surrounding this remarkable substance.

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CBD laws in UK are changing 

The current laws governing cannabidiol in the UK are inadequate because they were created prior to the emergence of CBD oils in the market.

In next few years, we can anticipate a revision of the existing CBD regulations in the UK. Efforts are currently underway to refine the laws governing cannabidiol in the UK and Europe. One unresolved issue pertains to the lawful threshold of THC.

Speed read UK CBD laws in 1 minute 

Short on time? Read our quick guide on UK CBD law and regulation below. Further explanation follows the speed read section.

Updated: January 2023

Importing raw CBD into the UK

No strict requirements apply for importing CBD into the UK provided THC is below 0.0025%* or not detected* by the authorities at the border.

*as verified by UKAS accredited ISO lab or equivalent with LOQ 0.0025%. 

Selling CBD oils, other supplements, food & drink in the UK

As of 13th February 2020, new CBD food, drink and supplements on the market require a Novel Food application.

Key cbd laws and regulations in the UK

Selling CBD cosmetics 

Cosmetic regulation applies to CBD cosmetics along with specific rules relating to the CBD.

Selling CBD vapes 

Non-nicotine vape product regulation applies, therefore, you should refer to General Product Safety Regulations. 

CBD flowers 

The sale of ‘CBD Flowers’ and buds is prohibited even if THC is below 0.2% and from EU approved origin. Read on to learn more.

Hemp Licence 

Whether you wish to apply for novel food status or any other type of license relating to CBD or hemp requires significant capital, time and resources.

Selling CBD in other EU markets

Each Member State has their own laws on CBD, most more strict than the UK and so expert advice is required to navigate local laws.

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Is CBD oil legal in UK?

CBD oil is legal in the UK provided the manufacturer complies with specific rules. As of 2020, CBD oils as food supplements, food and drink must comply with cbd oil laws which means novel food regulation. This involves a pre-market authorisation procedure where the product must be approved by the authorities before marketing. It takes substantial resources to bring a novel food product to market.

The legal THC limit in UK

There is a misconception that the legal THC limit in the UK is 0.2%, however, this is incorrect.  To clarify, the 0.2% figure refers to the threshold for subsidies for the cultivation of cannabis and is not the legal limit THC for the UK.

Legal THC limit in UK is not 0.2%

So the 0.2% does not relate to the CBD oils, capsules, drinks available bought in shops. In fact, we are advising that products should contain no THC (or ‘not detected’) as verified by an accredited lab with a limit of detection of 0.0025%. We explore this matter in more detail below.

Misuse of Drugs Laws in UK

The reason for the confusion on THC limits is probably because the rules for THC limits for CBD are not explicit in UK law. But we can get some clarity from the cannabis and controlled drug laws including Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, 2001 and 2010. These laws lay down the strict conditions for which THC is allowed. 

So what is the legal THC limit in the UK?

Specifically, under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, ‘exempt product’ status allows for the presence of no more than 1 mg of THC per pack provided certain conditions are met. This is the legal THC limit in the UK but the story doesn’t end there.

‘Exempt Product’

THC vape juice legal limit in UK

In the UK, the legal limit for THC vape juice is the same as the limit for all other CBD products. CBD vapes are subject to the “exempt product” rule, just like other CBD products. However, the limit for THC vape juice is not clearly stated, causing some confusion in the market. While some UK vape businesses believe the legal THC vape juice limit is 0.2%, this is inaccurate. The 0.2% relates to subsidies for cannabis cultivation, not CBD products, including CBD vape juice. In fact, as of 2023, the legal limit for THC vape juice in the UK is 1mg per container (bottle/cartridge).

Is cannabis legal in the UK?

Cannabis is a controlled substance in the UK. In fact, some parts of the plant are permitted for sale in the UK such as the seeds and stalks but farmers must destroy most of the plant once harvested.

Is cannabis oil legal in the UK?

Cannabis oil is legal in the UK provided THC limit is no more than 1mg per container/bottle. Novel food regulation applies for ingested cannabis oils.

Is CBD weed legal in the UK?

CBD weed is illegal in the UK irrespective of THC content or variety. This is because weed refers to controlled parts of the cannabis plant – the flower and bud. Resin is also a controlled substance because this falls in same controlled category as weed.

Is THC oil legal in uk?

THC oil is not legal in the UK because THC is a controlled substance under Misuse of Drugs law. It is illegal to import or sell THC oil in the UK without a government licence.

Is hemp oil legal?

Hemp oil is legal in the UK provided THC limit is within legal limit (1mg per container/bottle). Since hemp oil is traditionally made from hemp seeds, which naturally contain very low levels of THC, it is unlikely for hemp oil to have a detectable THC content.

CBD as a Novel Food

Authorities in the UK & EU member states now regard food, drink and food supplements with CBD as a “novel food”. Under novel food regulation, a key requirement is premarket authorization, which mandates that any manufacturer intending to put CBD into food must apply to the FSA in the UK and EFSA in the EU (depending on where they want to market).

Examples of CBD foods in scope of novel food regulations:

  • CBD oils, capsules & oral sprays
  • CBD gummies, mints & other sweets
  • CBD infused tea, coffee, beer and soft drinks
  • CBD snacks including energy bars

Novel food regulations exclude foods derived from cold-pressed hemp seed oil or flour.

Read more about CBD as a novel food here.

Are CBD gummies illegal?

CBD businesses in the UK are allowed to sell CBD gummies if they meet the novel food regulations and ensure that the THC content in each container/bottle is no more than 1mg.

Legality of CBD flower and bud in the UK

‘CBD flowers’ have become the popular term to mean the flower of cannabis. These products are commonly sold as ‘tea’ with claims of ‘legal’ levels of THC at below 0.2%. Despite the increasing availability of CBD flower in UK shops and online, they are in fact a controlled substance.

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Is CBD flower legal in the UK?

Like with many rules for CBD there is some confusion. Retailers often claim that CBD flowers are legal because they are sourced from ‘EU approved varieties’ and contain ‘less than 0.2% THC’.

It is true that ‘EU approved varieties’ must contain less than 0.2% THC (unless medicinal). However, in the UK, these rules apply to the cultivation of hemp, which requires a license, and not to the sale of parts of the hemp plant.

To understand further we need to know more about the conditions of the hemp cultivation license. The hemp cultivation license allows only the fiber and hemp seeds to be processed for commercial purposes, such as hemp seed, hemp seed oil, and hemp fiber for construction purposes, etc.

Farmers must destroy flowers

Farmers must either destroy or leave the rest of the hemp plant, including the bud and flower, to rot in the field. In the UK, only the stalks and seeds are allowed to be processed for making building materials, hemp oil, etc. Retailers are not permitted to sell bud and flower.

Is it legal to sell CBD flowers or bud in UK in 2023?

Selling CBD flowers or buds in the UK, even if they are from an EU-approved variety and have a THC content below 0.2%, is illegal for the reason set out above.

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UK Cannabis Laws: A Timeline

1928: Dangerous Drugs Act

First laws on the possession of cannabis introduced in Britain

1967: Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act

Recommendations made to reduce the penalties for possession of cannabis

1971: The Misuse of Drugs Act

A restriction is placed on the cultivation of all species of cannabis plant

2001: The Misuse of Drugs Regulations

New laws permits cannabis cultivation under a special licence issued by the Home Office and the smoking of cannabis for research purposes.

2015: The Misuse of Drugs (Designation)

The Misuse of Drugs paves the way for the first ‘medical marijuana’. Sativex – the first cannabis-based medicine in the UK –  is allowed on to the UK market under prescription.

2025: Draft new rules for CBD?

New CBD laws coming soon!

CBD Terminology

CBD – Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that is non-psychoactive and has medicinal properties.

Cannabinoid – A group of compounds almost unique to the cannabis plant. Other cannabinoids include THC, CBN, CBG and CBC.

THC – Tetrahydrocannabinol is psychoactive and responsible for mood changing effects (euphoria and sedation). Like cannabidiol, THC also has medicinal properties.

Sativex – is the trade name for UK’s only approved cannabis-based medicine. An oral spray containing 2.7 mg THC and 2.5 mg CBD.

‘Cannabis, Hemp, Industrial hemp’ – what’s the difference in the name?

Plant genus: Cannabis
Plant species: Cannabis sativa L.
Plant variety: Armanca, CannaKomp etc (over 90 varieties)
Crop: ‘Hemp’ or ‘Industrial hemp’


Over the last few years, the MHRA – the UK health authority – has released sporadic statements on their view of the regulatory status of CBD and cannabinoid-containing products. The latest statement from December 2016 reads as follows:

Our primary concern is patient safety and we wish to reiterate that individuals using cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat or manage the symptoms of medical conditions should discuss their treatment with their doctor.

MHRA will now work with individual companies and trade bodies in relation to making sure products containing CBD, used for a medical purpose, which can be classified as medicines, satisfy the legal requirements of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.

They have also written to some companies that market CBD products on their opinion. We can expect more statements from the MHRA in due course.

Trading Standards and CBD

Trading Standards is the authority that oversees the CBD retail market. The Chartered Institute of Trading Standards has said little on the topic of CBD so far. This is probably because they are waiting for a UK regulatory framework and instruction from the MHRA and other authorities. But in due course, we are likely to see a surveying of the UK market including CBD and THC lab testing of product sold from shops.

Trading Standards may also investigate non-compliant labelling such as health and medicinal claims. Along with the police, they have the power to seize non-compliant or unsafe product from retail outlets.

September 2018: Police raided and confiscated product from a shop in Plymouth. Officers supported by Trading Standards seized the products for “testing and police enquiries” as reported by Plymouth Live.