CBD Legality in the UK: Are edibles legal in the UK?
Updated December 4, 2023.
Cannabis and hemp as a whole have had an interesting history in the UK. In fact, hemp was so prominent in 1500s England that farmers were not only encouraged to grow hemp but could actually pay a portion of their taxes with it. Nowadays, things could hardly be more different. Illicit street cannabis aside, farmers have to go through strict procedures and jump through hurdle after hurdle just to grow THC-free hemp, and even then it's not definite.
That being said, what is the legal status of all CBD products under UK law in 2021?
Is Cannabidiol Legal in the UK?
When talking about the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), the regulations are a little difficult to understand. In a nutshell, purchasing, possessing, and consuming CBD products in the UK is perfectly legal, so long as they contain less than a certain mass of any and all controlled substances. According to the drug licensing factsheet published by the Home Office, CBD is not a controlled substance, and so all CBD products are legal, so long as they comply with other regulations.
Is CBD Oil Legal in the UK?
Like other CBD products, the UK legislation on CBD oils and tinctures allows for their purchase and consumption so long as they have less than a certain percentage of controlled substances. Technically, this means that CBD oil with THC is legal, so long as it's below a certain amount.
How Much THC Is Legal in the UK?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a controlled substance, and so the acceptable amount in the cultivation of all cannabis plants may not exceed a concentration of 0.2% THC.
As for refined CBD products, that number is slightly different. Irrelevant of the size of the container, CBD products may not be sold unless they contain less than 1mg of THC. This means different concentrations of allowed THC per container, but still not enough to give you any psychoactive effects.
Are Edibles Legal in the UK?
Cannabis edibles are legal in the UK and permitted for sale without a prescription as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC, which is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis.
However, any edibles that contain more than 0.2% THC are still illegal unless they are prescribed through the medical cannabis program that was established in 2018. The market for cannabis-derived products has grown significantly in recent years, with a wide range of items available for purchase, including teas, lotions, oils, capsules, and edibles. Edibles are particularly popular and come in various forms, such as biscuits, gummies, chocolates, and drinks, and are often used as health supplements due to their CBD and terpene content.
While CBD is a cannabinoid, it does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC and is believed to have potential health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and pain and boosting the immune system.
What Are the Age Restrictions for Buying and Consuming CBD?
You may have heard of CBD sweets and gummies that seem marketed for kids, but does this mean that they are strictly legal?
Since CBD is not a controlled substance, it can be purchased by any individual of legal age. In the UK, that's 18.
That being said, there is no law against giving CBD products to children if you so choose. Even though the safety of CBD use in children isn't definitive, it's still up to the parents' discretion. Children aren't allowed to purchase most over-the-counter medications without the presence of an adult, but that doesn't mean that children aren't allowed to consume them.
The Legality of Other Cannabis and Hemp Products
So, CBD oils and tinctures are legal in the UK, but what about other cannabis-derived products?
When prospective farmers seek to obtain a license to cultivate cannabis, it's not for the manufacture of CBD products. The license allows for the cultivation of industrial hemp, which can be used for many other things such as clothing, ropes, paper, and much more.
Hemp seed oil, more commonly known as hemp oil, is legal in Britain, though it's important to know that hemp oil contains very little CBD and is primarily used for its fatty acid and antioxidant content.
Hemp flowers, on the other hand, are not allowed to be sold or purchased in the UK.
CBD Supplements and Edibles
CBD supplements are essentially a way of delivering CBD oil in an easy-to-consume way, like your daily supplements. As such, CBD pills are legal so long as they abide by the allowed THC content.
The same goes for CBD edibles, which means they are legal to purchase and consume.
CBD Cosmetics, Creams, and Lotions
Like supplements, CBD cosmetics are a way of utilising the benefits of legal cannabis oil in a topical delivery method.
CBD Flowers and Buds
Though it might seem confusing at first, CBD buds are simply flowers from low-THC cannabis, or "hemp". And, just like hemp flowers, they are not allowed to be purchased or sold in the UK.
Additionally, since the cultivation of hemp is illegal without a license obtained from the Home Office, the purchase of CBD hemp seeds is illegal.
Illicit street cannabis, otherwise known as "weed", is not commonly purchased for any CBD content. Individuals intending to purchase weed are looking to get the "high" associated with the psychoactive THC. What this means is that weed is not allowed to be sold or purchased in the UK under any circumstances.
Cannabis and Other THC Products
Although it might seem the same as weed, there are distinct differences between street cannabis and medical cannabis. In the UK, high-THC cannabis buds, oils, teas, and other products are legal so long as you are in possession of a private prescription accompanied by legal medical records that prove you have a qualifying condition. Additionally, they must be purchased or imported from reputable companies that have the required documentation and licensing.
CBD Vape Juice
Though e-juices are not the same as tinctures or oils, they are still allowed to be purchased and used in CBD vape pens. Smoking CBD is legal, so long as it is a refined CBD product and not a hemp flower. Vaping THC, on the other hand, is still illegal.
What Happens if You Get Caught With Illegal Weed in the UK?
If you are caught with illegal weed in the UK, the penalties are harsh. The UK's marijuana laws classify THC as a class B drug, which means that you could be facing the following penalties:
Purchasing, possessing, or using illegal cannabis carries a potential prison sentence of up to 5 years, an unlimited fine, or both, depending on the amount.
Cultivating cannabis illegally - or if the court finds you guilty of selling it without a license - carries a potential prison sentence of up to 14 years, an unlimited fine, or both.
Will Weed Ever Be Legal in the UK?
Although there is no conclusive evidence to support either a yes or no answer, there are strong debates on both sides of the argument.
For starters, there are those who strongly believe that cannabis is a harmful substance that should remain in the same class as many illicit drugs.
On the other hand, discourse is growing around the potential benefits that could come from legalising cannabis. Aside from protecting innocents from having to deal with the black market to obtain sub-quality cannabis, legalising and taxing cannabis sales could take billions of pounds out of the black market and boost the economy.
Unfortunately, it's unclear to know whether cannabis will be legalised soon or not, but the debate seems promising.