Is CBD Legal in the UK?

When buying CBD in the UK, the first question you should ask is always “is this CBD oil legal?”. There are a number of rules and regulations in place meaning some products may be considered illegal, depending on how they were produced.

We spoke with Robert Jappie – partner at London law firm Ince – who specialises exclusively within cannabis regulation – about whether this cannabinoid was actually against UK law; his response was that CBD is legal, providing the correct regulations have been adhered to.

These include The Medical Device Regulations which contain 3 criteria for exemption. Some product types also require Novel Food authorisation from the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The Legal Criteria – UK

When purchasing CBD, one might get the impression that their legality depends only on it having low levels of THC. In reality, more than just how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is present will determine if they are legally available. To be considered “legal” in the UK, CBD needs to meet specific criteria:

  1. It must not be sold as a medicine or with medicinal claims.
  2. The container must include less than 1mg of the controlled cannabinoids THC, THCV or CBN.
  3. The product must not be packaged in a way that makes it easy to separate the controlled cannabinoids (THC, THCV and CBN).
  4. All edible types of CBD must receive Novel Foods authorisation. This includes oils, gummies, and capsules.


CBD balms and e-liquids do not require Novel Foods authorisation to be sold legally, but they must meet criteria one through three.


What is Novel Foods Regulation?

The European Union has updated its novel food regulations to require all foods without a significant history of consumption before May 1997 be classified as ‘novel’.

In January 2019, the commission declared that they had not received enough evidence and added CBD products into this category following input from UK’s Food Standards Agency who advised against selling them unless officially evaluated/permitted by law.

At this time, January 2022, the evaluation process is still ongoing and we await the outcome of hundreds of applications to see which products can legally remain on sale going forwards.


CBD Products That Are Not Legal

Hemp Flower – Despite the misconceptions around the 0.2% rule, hemp flower is not legal in the UK. There are many claims online that state that if the flower contains less than 0.2% THC it is legal. This is not correct; this rule only applies to hemp that can be cultivated in the UK and bares no relation to any product that is sold.

The rules that govern whether the flowers can be sold are found in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, these state that the hemp plant is treated exactly the same as cannabis.

CBD for pets – The VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) has advised that CBD products cannot be sold as food supplements specifically for animals or pets in the UK. They consider the effect of hemp-based oils and cannabinoid extractions to have a medicinal purpose. So, marketing them is out of the question and they can only be given to animals if a veterinarian has prescribed CBD. 


When you purchase CBD, there are some complex rules that must be adhered to, so look out for a brand that is transparent about what’s in their products and where they have come from. If they are using incorrect information like the “0.2% rule” go elsewhere. If they are wrong on the legality of CBD, you could end up buying a product that is not legal and worse still, contains too much of the controlled substance THC.

With the ever-changing legal landscape of CBD, it’s important you stay up to date on all industry regulations. We suggest checking back regularly for more information about current laws related to hemp-based products like oils and supplements!


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