Current CBD Laws in the UK and Europe

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Author: Jason Beverly

As CBD is a fairly new phenomenon, it is growing in popularity fairly quickly without people fully understanding the rules and regulations surrounding it.

Overall, CBD is considered safe to use, partly because the World Health Organisation has classed them as ‘generally well tolerated with a good safety profile’. This is because it does not ‘get you high’ like other parts of the hemp plant.

However, there is still some uncertainty surrounding CBD from official bodies and there are particular laws to bear in mind if you’re buying or selling CBD in Europe. I’ve offered a brief outline of these below.

Note: The laws around CBD are changing constantly so this information might have changed since the date the article was produced (24th February 2020).

lawyer scale made from hemp leaves

Current CBD Laws in Europe

The specific laws for selling and consuming CBD vary from country to country, but hemp-derived CBD is legal in most EU member states and European countries. However, EU regulations state that CBD products cannot contain more than 0.2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the psychoactive compound in the hemp plant.

It’s important to know that CBD has been banned in one European country – Slovakia. It is also a grey legal area in Italy so the situation is a little confusing there. It’s always best to err on the side of caution if you are travelling to these countries. If you are travelling outside of Europe, there are specific laws for different countries around the world.

The ‘Novel Foods’ classification

Products containing CBD are currently considered to be ‘novel foods’ by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission. A novel food is a consumable product which has not been shown to have had long-term and safe use before 1997.

CBD has been labelled as a novel food because the EU wants to ensure that CBD products on the market are safe for consumption, are being properly labelled and are not misleading consumers.

Despite being classified as ‘novel’ by the EFSA and the European Commission, CBD products are still currently being sold in most European countries. No final decision has been made by many member states in terms of whether they will uphold the classification.

However, it is suggested that should specific governments begin to enforce the novel foods classification in their country, CBD companies should seek market authorisation and novel food approval for their products before beginning to sell.

Current CBD Laws in the UK

CBD products made from hemp are currently legal in the UK, provided they have a THC content that is less than 0.2% and is from a strain of hemp that has been approved by EU standards. Now that the UK has left the EU, it could be that the laws around CBD change, although this is unlikely to happen immediately and the changes probably won’t be too drastic.

In fact, The UK Food Standards Authority (FSA) has now announced a deadline for CBD companies to apply for novel foods approval in accordance with EU guidelines – they must submit a ‘valid novel food authorisation application’ by the 31st March 2021. If approved, they can continue to be sold in the UK marketplace.

In terms of the laws around selling CBD in the UK, it can currently be sold as a nutritional supplement or a cosmetic product, but not a medicine. It is illegal to label a CBD product as medicinal without a license which must be obtained from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

There are some exceptions to this regarding medicines which have been licensed in the UK. Doctors can legally prescribe some specific cannabis-based medicines, including Epidyolex, which is a medicine for children with two different types of severe epilepsy. However, this is only prescribed for specific conditions and under certain circumstances.

This also means that CBD companies must be careful in the language they use to advertise CBD. Strict regulations around health claims by products that are not classified as medicines mean that people cannot claim that a CBD product ‘heals’, ‘cures’, ‘prevents’ or use any other medicinal language.

There are also strict regulations from the Advertising Standards Authority on what language can be used to advertise food supplements, and this includes CBD. For example, brands cannot make broad claims such as CBD is ‘healthy’, ‘good for sleep’ or ‘full of goodness’ and any more specific claims, such as ‘CBD has anti-inflammatory properties’ must be able to be backed up by specific research.

This means that brands are slightly limited in the ways they can advertise their products, although endorsements from consumers based on personal experience are helping to spread the popularity of CBD.

I would recommend doing your own research as laws are always changing and it’s important to find a good-quality CBD product regardless. Having said that, at the moment, most CBD products are legal in the UK and the majority of Europe, and this is unlikely to change, although some products may get taken off the shelves if they don’t receive novel foods approval.

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About Jason Beverly

Jason Beverly is the Digital Marketing Director of The CBD Benefits, an informational website helping people learn about CBD. He's been researching, developing and writing about CBD & other cannabinoids for over 5 years. Jason uses CBD daily to treat for pain, anxiety and depression.

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