CBD Laws and Regulations

CBD Laws and Regulations

Given that CBD comes from cannabis – a controlled substance – the compound naturally attracts the attention of lawmakers. While it is perfectly legal to consume CBD in the UK, growers, distributors and vendors have to abide by a vast swathe of legislation.

Here, we run through some of the laws and regulations concerning CBD.

CBD’s Novel Food Status

Perhaps the most contentious of all CBD laws and regulations is cannabidiol’s status as a novel food.

The term “novel food” comes from 2003 European Union (EU) legislation responding to the concern of the general public and scientists about new genetically-modified (GM) foods. The law classified any food not consumed by the bloc’s citizens before 15 May 1997 to “a significant degree” as a “novel food.” Foods in this category included:

  • Foods traditionally consumed outside of the EU, but not within its borders
  • Foods created using novel production processes
  • Foods created with the help of new technologies
  • Newly-developed laboratory-created foods

The purpose of the legislation was originally to:

  • Keep consumers safe
  • Ensure that food and food-like substances were correctly labelled
  • Prevent low-nutritional-quality novel foods from replacing existing alternatives

Anyone selling novel foods in the European Union had to submit a proposal to the relevant authority for authorisation to sell. Whether CBD fell under the EU’s Novel Foods legislation, though, remained contentious for a long time. However, in February 2020, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced that food products containing CBD would be pulled from shelves if they did not secure novel food status by 31 March 2021.

As of the deadline, only three CBD brands successfully achieved novel food approval for their products, leaving the rest of the industry wondering what was going to happen next. Because of the flurry of activity at the last minute, government officials agreed to allow companies who had submitted applications to continue selling CBD products, with authorisation to come later.

CBD Testing At Government-Accredited Labs

CBD products sold in the UK must:

  • Contain no more than 1mg of controlled cannabinoids per finished/packaged product.
  • Comply with existing food and cosmetics trading standards

For that reason, many CBD companies regularly send samples of their products to labs for testing to ensure that they remain compliant with the law. However, they can’t send samples to any old facility. They must send them to labs that are government-accredited.

But what does government-accreditation mean, exactly? It’s a little complicated. There are several levels of accreditation that apply to CBD-testing laboratories. The first is general accreditation. Here, a government agency approves the lab for testing of products in general, checking to make sure that it adheres to various basic standards and best practices.

The second level is THC accreditation. Here, a government agency verifies that the facility meets ISO 17025 standards for checking the THC content of products specifically.

CBD brands require testing at laboratories that offer both general and THC accreditation. Trading Standards and other government authorities may dismiss results from unaccredited or only partially accredited laboratories, putting CBD vendors and retailers at risk of prosecution.

According to the Government Chemist, these additional standards are necessary because “CBD and cannabinoids have been highlighted as difficult compounds to analyse.” The government is keen to test the ability of laboratories around the country to effectively determine the level of THC in CBD products to ensure that it is below the legal thresholds. Companies, therefore, need to seek out facilities that are able to test to a high degree of accuracy, usually greater than 0.01 percent to comply with Trading Standards rules.

Additional UK CBD Laws And Legislation

In addition to the above requirements, CBD brands must also adhere to a raft of additional rules and regulations to protect consumers.

CBD Products Must Not Contain More Than Trace Quantities Of THC

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a banned substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and, therefore, cannot be sold in the UK without a license from the Home Office. Parliament classifies THC-containing cannabis as a Class B drug. All cannabis-derived products must contain no more than 1mg of controlled cannabinoids per packaged product.

CBD is not a controlled substance because it is safe, well-tolerated and non-addictive. Because of this, the Home Office has said that “CBD … in its pure form would not be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 / Misuse of Drugs Act 2001.” Thus, so long as CBD is pure, consumers are free to use it as they see fit.

CBD Brands Must Also Abide By Food And Cosmetics Safety Standards

In addition to the above rules and regulations specifically related to cannabis, CBD-based products must also adhere to food and cosmetics safety standards, depending on the form that they take.

Food-based CBD products (such as tinctures, edibles, and pills), for instance, must have the proper labelling and provenance information. They must also not harm the health of the consumers taking them.

Cosmetics-based products (such as balms) must comply with cosmetics regulations (EC) No 1223/2009. These make it an offence to supply cosmetics products that might damage human health or contain restricted substances. As with food products, cosmetics must have the correct labelling, including information on product durability, function and precautions consumers should take before using it.

Brands May Not Market CBD Products For Medicinal Use Without A License from the MHRA

Finally, the law prohibits UK companies from selling CBD products for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease without a license. Vendors selling CBD as food, vape or cosmetic substances cannot make any medical claims.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: CBD is a legal substance in the UK and anyone over the age of 18 can consume it how they please. The Oral CBD Market is sadly looking like Isolate only products will gain Novel Food approval, which means the only way you can still enjoy the benefits of Full-Spectrum CBD is with inhalables (Vapes/Dabs). Just remember that, to remain legal, full-spectrum CBD Vape products must not,

  • Be sold in quantities greater than 0.5ml-1.0ml (depending on THC content)
  • Contain more than 1mg of controlled cannabinoids per packet.
  • Make medical claims
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