The enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill and the legalization of hemp and hemp derivatives, including cannabidiol (“CBD”), has led to a massive CBD craze in the United States. The highly coveted cannabinoid is infused with everything: bath bombs, dog treats and even workout clothes (yes, workout clothes!). According to a recent study by Cowen, the sales of these products are expected to reach $16 billion by 2025.

Thanks to globalization, this sudden boom is not contained within the U.S. borders. Europe has also experienced a huge uptick in the sales of these products, which are expected to reach nearly $1.7 billion by 2023.

In light of this global expansion and the desire of many of our clients to export their hemp and hemp-derived CBD (“Hemp CBD”) products to Europe, we are presenting a mini-series that briefly analyses how certain European countries treat hemp and the sale and marketing of hemp-derived CBD. We begin by analyzing the laws of the United Kingdom (“UK”).


Because industrial hemp falls under the definition of genus Cannabis, UK law treats it as a controlled drug in Class B of The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (“MDA”) and Schedule 1 of The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (“Regulations”). Under these Regulations, a license must be issued in order to lawfully cultivate the crop.

As a former European Union member, the UK limits the lawful cultivation of hemp strains to those found in the European Commission’s catalogue, all of which produce no more than 0.2% THC. Generally, UK law also requires that hemp from “third countries”’ be imported under a license.

Although hemp cultivation is lawful, UK farmers are prohibited from processing hemp flowers and leaves, where the highest CBD content can be found. Consequently, the processing of hemp into CBD oil is not permissible, forcing the country to heavily rely on the importation of CBD to sustain the market. In addition, the sale of CBD flowers and buds is strictly prohibited in the country even if the THC concentration is below 0.2% and from EU-approved origin.

Hemp CBD Products

In the UK, Hemp CBD products may be commercially sold so long as they:

  1. contain no more than 1 mg (0.01%) of THC and/or of any other controlled cannabinoid, such as THC-V; and
  2. make no health claims about their therapeutic values.

Other requirements may apply based on the category of products at issue.

Hemp CBD Foods

As we recently discussed, the Food Standard Agency (“FSA”), the agency responsible for protecting public health in relation to food in the UK, recently cleared a path for the sale of Hemp CBD food. Specifically, the FSA is giving the CBD industry until March 31, 2021 to submit valid novel food authorization applications to ensure these products meet specific safety standards. Following the March 31, 2021 deadline, only products for which a valid application has been submitted will be allowed to remain on the market. Therefore, for now, the sale of CBD-infused foods is lawful in the UK so long as these products are:

  1. Properly labeled, including free of health claims;
  2. Safe to consume; and
  3. Only contain low/negligible amounts of THC or other controlled substances (i.e., no more than 1 mg).

Hemp CBD Cosmetics

There are no regulations that pertain to the sale and marketing of Hemp CBD cosmetics in the UK. However, even following its exit from the EU, the country strictly regulates the sale of all cosmetics pursuant to the EU Cosmetics Regulation. For more information on these regulations, you can visit the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (“CTPA“), the trade group that aims to regulate the cosmetic industry and educates consumers about the safety of these products.

Hemp CBD Vape Products

Similarly to US regulations, vape products may be subject to regulation by various governmental agencies depending on their purpose, how they are being used, and whether they contain nicotine and/or tobacco. As of now, no agency has issued Hemp CBD regulations for the sale and marketing of vaping products. All we know, thanks to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”), is that Hemp CBD vaping products are “less tightly regulated” and that these products should not contain any health claims.

Hemp CBD Pet Foods and Products

Hemp CBD Pet food and pet products are treated as veterinary medicines and thus would require a license before they can be lawfully sold in the UK. There are currently no Hemp CBD products licensed for veterinary use, which means the sale and marketing of these products is unregulated at best, and unlawfully at worse.

So, unlike in the US, the sale and marketing of Hemp CBD foods is the safest category of products a CBD company may sell right now given the fairly clear regulations implemented by the FSA – assuming their products meet all requirements imposed on these products, including no more than 1 mg THC per product.

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