Is CBD flower legal in the UK?
CBD laws are continuing to evolve in the UK and globally, which is creating confusion amongst consumers looking to try different forms of CBD. It is not a straightforward answer which is why there is a lot of anxiety being caused by many users that depend on CBD for pain relief, anxiety and sleep, to name a few reasons people may use CBD products. So we explore what CBD flower, aka CBD bud or CBD weed, is. Also, could it get you into a spot of bother to be in procession of it in 2024?
OUR 2024 PREDICTION: IS CBD FLOWER LEGAL IN THE UK 2024?
As we start 2024 and reflect on the previous year, CBD flower definitely made a lot of traction and in some way progressed the CBD industry and even the Cannabis industry as a whole in the UK. With the June 2023 ruling by the Crown Court which was then upheld by the Appeal Court deciding that CBD flower did not fit the requirements to be considered a narcotic. Which means in the eyes of the judiciary system CBD flower does not fit the classification needed to be governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Even with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) pushing for an appeal on the original decision, it was upheld.
Additionally due to a little bit of post Brexit transitioning of laws, the Courts also ruled that they would not be looking to prosecute anyone prior to the ruling date either. Giving exemptions for all CBD flower sellers, that were selling CBD bud while it was very much in a dark grey area within the law.
As for many years there had been many grey area vendors of online CBD flower shops selling CBD weed but it was made clear by the Courts those CBD flower shop vendors will be facing no current or prior legal repercussions. It overall was a large signal from the courts of the changing social opinion regarding cannabinoids. It has now forced the hand of the legislature, aka Parliament, to seriously review the current definition of CBD and cannabis within the current legal framework given the considerable advancements in understanding cannabinoids since the 1971 Act.
Will 2024 end with us being able to answer once and for all, ‘is CBD flower legal in the UK?’. Well time will tell!
JUNE 2023 UPDATE – WAIT, IS CBD FLOWER LEGAL IN THE UK NOW?
A 2019 border stop by customs of Italian imported CBD flower, which contained less than the legal 0.2% THC limit, was followed by accusations of importing prohibited goods and the supply of cannabis, leaving the two business owners facing terrifying prospects of criminal charges. Very much aligned with the worst-case possibilities when found in the procession of CBD flower detailed further in this blog.
In a staggering David and Goliath style battle, fit for any Netflix special short series, one of the business owners decided to represent themselves in the court hearing and opted not to hire a qualified and trained legal representative to defend against the criminal charges on their behalf.
It was surprisingly ruled by the Crown Court and then upheld by the Court of Appeal as they refused the appeal request made by the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) that CBD flower (and we can probably assume derivatives of CBD flower such as; hemp flower, CBD bud, CBD hash, CBD flower Kiefer etc. also are afforded the same decision) that has less that 1mg of THC per pack, does not fit the criteria to be labelled as a narcotic. We are assuming that a CBD flower joint is a pack for example currently.
It is a misconception regarding the 0.2% THC limit being applied to CBD products in the UK; this is actually in reference to the cultivation of cannabis. The legal THC limit in the UK for THC edibles and CBD edibles alike is actually still governed by the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. CBD products are an exempt category, but it still only allows for no more than 1mg of THC per ‘pack’.
Wait, what does that mean?
As such, in the eyes of the UK courts, CBD flower and additionally, it is probably now safe to assume all CBD-containing products, which may have until this ruling still have been sat in a grey legal area, filling many with confusion, uncertainty and placing individuals in a position of possible criminal charges before June, have now very clearly been stated as not to be seen as an illegal or controlled substance in the eyes of the courts which make up the UK’s judiciary.
Additionally, as the ruling was back-dated to 2019 it has removed the possibility of the authorities seeking to prosecute CBD flower site owners that were in operation before the now-falsely alleged crime. This was a huge step forward for CBD and cannabis legalisation as a whole in the UK.
But, are CBD flowers legal in the UK now?
Well not exactly. It is the age-old battle of decriminalising and legalising, which are not interchangeable. There now needs to be a review of the current laws and definitions and a possible proposal made to amend or change the law to make it clear where CBD flower resides. But as it stands the judiciary have made it clear their interpretation is that CBD flower is not an illegal drug. Which is de facto declaring it decriminalised. Parliament, the legislature, may now decide to stick with this, or twist and change the law to make it illegal explicitly (highly unlikely) or to redefine the current definition of a narcotic to make the law clear.
Or they don’t have to do anything and leave it that the judiciary have made the decision already and that is the way it stands. This has been done many a time when a politician doesn’t want to come off the fence.
From an official legal position: is CBD flower legal in the UK because of the June 2023 ruling?
Well, no, not officially; the ruling has not suddenly made CBD flower legal in the UK. This would be legalising, which is different from decriminalising.
However, it has sent the message to authorities and the crown prosecution service to not even bother placing any resources on arresting anyone in connection to the sale or when someone is to buy CBD flower in the UK. As if they were to try to prosecute them, the courts have already given their verdict and clarified their interpretation of the law.
The UK courts have the power only to interpret the law and enforce the law against their interpretation. Against the current legislation, the courts have ruled that CBD flower is not a narcotic when it has under 0.2% THC. This has decriminalised CBD flower, meaning you cannot become a criminal for being in possession of or buying CBD flowers. They have not ruled that CBD flower is legal in the UK; that would be legalising, which the judiciary does not have the power to do. The judiciary, however, has been clear that CBD flower does not fit the criteria to be a narcotic, so it does not fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
There is now a review of new or updated legislation underway, which will be proposed to Parliament in 2025 apparently. This would, if correct, make it clear in law how CBD flower is regarded and would then take precedence over the court’s verdict and interpretation.
CBD flower is now in a transitional phase within the law. The below is still accurate given the law; however, de facto is that the probability of law enforcement actively targeting CBD flower now is very low. Coupled with the courts already placing their interpretation on the matter, it would be a waste of everyone’s time involved. With how stretched and terrible the current image is of police forces, in particular, the metropolitan giving this area and subject a wide birth is probably highly likely.
This article will be updated as events unfold in what could be a huge turning point in the laws surrounding cannabis as a whole in the UK.
What is CBD Flower?
CBD flower is the ‘bud’ part of the cannabis or hemp plant, which holds the highest volume of cannabinoids. There are many cannabinoids, and we don’t currently know what the effect of all of them are, but we know the most about two, CBD and THC. You can find out more about these two cannabinoids in their dedicated blogs.
Like most plants, the cannabis and hemp plants go through a life cycle which culminates in flowering towards the end of the season once sunlight starts to be less than 12 hours a day. Yes, that’s right, as soon as the days get shorter than 12 hours of sunlight, this plant knows to start producing its high cannabinoid-content buds. This period can last anywhere from 8 to 13 weeks, depending on the strain. Typically, indica strains take longer and have a higher THC content. THC is a psychedelic and hallucinogenic, in some instances, compound in the plant.
You will not find more than 1mg of THC content per pack or product in legal CBD products in the UK. Sativa strains take less time and are typically higher in CBD content. Both cannabinoids have their therapeutic advantages.
Once the cannabis or hemp plant is at its peak of flowering when it is coated in resin crystals which is the point of the highest concentration of CBD and THC on the plant, it is harvested, dried by hanging and cured for anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years in humidity-controlled containers or rooms. Largely to allow coralliform to leave the plant (this is what gives it its grass smell and nickname ‘grass’).
How is CBD flower administered?
Once cured and dried, it is typically smoked in various ways, but the suggested way by private medical clinics is in dry herb vapes, which heats the ground-up CBD herb until it releases a vapour but not enough for it to burn. Current literature on the subject states that dry herb vaping is a much healthier way than combustion smoking.
CBD flower or CBD bud refers to the flower generally found more on the hemp side of the family, which is grown for its almost zero THC content and high CBD content. It, therefore, when vaped, is a quick and high-strength way of administering CBD.
But is CBD flower legal in the UK?
Unfortunately for brands that want to be able to support local farmers, under current confusing laws, CBD flower is not legal in the UK. Even if it comes from cannabis or hemp plants with less than 0.2% (EU guidelines) THC content, it comes from part of the plant (the buds) which is still illegal. This means it cannot get you high.
With an annual license from the home office, you can grow hemp in the UK, but you must destroy the flowers and buds of the plant. They cannot be sold. But they can be imported; CBD oil derived from the CBD flowers can be imported in whichever quantity you would like. But UK farmers must destroy their own CBD plants. We did say it was rather confusing!
It is increasingly frustrating for hemp farmers and CBD companies, like The London Dispensary, who want to be able to support UK farmers and use the highest concentrated part of the plant to create wonderfully high-strength CBD products. This would also put CBD companies much closer to their local suppliers to be able to monitor every element of the supply chain.
CBD flowers illegal status falls under the Miss Use of Drugs Act 1971.
What are the legal ramifications of being found with CBD flowers in the UK?
CBD flower, just like all forms of cannabis or hemp buds, is illegal to possess in the UK. It does not matter if it has no THC content; the law dictates it is the flower that is illegal as a whole. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, CBD flower is seen in exactly the same way as cannabis with huge THC content. Now its easy to see why there is so much confusion!
Both hemp and cannabis flowers or buds can land you in legal trouble, either with a fine or even as harshly as a prison sentence. The best thing to do is avoid it at the moment and hope for the possibility of future laws changing with public opinion. Our advice is to stick to legal CBD products like the ones from The London Dispensary.
CBD’s legal status in the UK
We have covered the legal status of CBD flower, either hemp or cannabis types. But, as CBD can be found in so many other types of products such as CBD drinks, CBD topicals, CBD vapes, CBD oils, the list goes on. As long as the product contains under 0.2% THC content, reputable CBD companies will allow you to view lab reports to show this, and it’s not in flower form. On the whole, it’s much more legal to use than CBD flower.
If you are looking to try CBD for the first time, The London Dispensary’s 5% CBD Oral Drops are a great and effective way to supplement your lifestyle with CBD wellness. All The London Dispensary’s products are legal CBD products.
When will CBD flower be legal in the UK?
Currently, there is a huge social movement happening among CBD users who swear by their hemp supplements. Many institutions are reviewing policy and making recommendations to the government regarding the future of cannabis as a whole. But there is no clear date or road map as to when CBD flower might be legal in the UK.
What about buying CBD flower online in the UK?
There is a bubbling black market for buying CBD flower online, these merchants are trying to use a law stating that it is legal given it has under 1mg of THC content, but this is reserved for specialist pharmacies to sell the product under, normally with a prescription from a consultant.
But this does highlight that there is a huge market for CBD of all forms due to so many people feeling and seeing the benefits it brings to their overall well-being. Many use it for their anxiety, stress, sleep, muscle pain etc.
What is the best CBD that’s legal in the UK?
That would depend on what you are looking to achieve and how you would like to administer it. It is generally best to shop around with reputable premium CBD brands, as you then know their products are trial and tested and legal. Try a few options and see what works best for you.
CBD balms – are a great entryway into the world of CBD, and you can locally administer the balm at the location giving you the most trouble.
CBD oils – quick and very effective, taken by placing under the tongue, CBD oil gets into your system faster than most other forms.
CBD Flower FAQ
Can I smoke CBD flower UK?
Well of course you can smoke CBD flower in the UK. But the question of how legal it is to smoke CBD flower is another story. Its a very new area of law and at the moment best to be cautious and try other forms of CBD first. CBD flower under UK laws comes from part of the plant which is still illegal. Which might be hard to logically understand seeing as CBD as a compound is not illegal.
Is it illegal to possess CBD flower?
It is illegal to possess CBD flower in the UK, unless you have a private prescription to do so from a registered and qualified medical professional. Buying CBD flower and being found to be in the possession of CBD flower in the UK can still see you arrested. However it is unlikely that the police will see this as sensible use of their time and 'in the public interest' to do so.
Is CBD herb legal UK?
To answer if CBD herb is legal in the UK, is the same as asking if CBD flower is legal in the UK. Unfortunately no matter how we name it, it remains the same substance. Currently all parts of the hemp or cannabis flower are illegal in the UK.
Can you smoke CBD flower and drive UK?
It is advised not to smoke CBD flower and drive in the UK. Mainly for two reasons. 1. It is still an illegal substance to smoke CBD flower. 2. Due to the potency of CBD flower being very high when smoked or vaped, the relaxing and calming sensation may delay your reactions. Operating any machinery and driving should be avoided while under the influence of CBD flower.
Can you smoke CBD flower tea?
To answer the question can you smoke CBD flower tea? It would require a better understanding of how the tea is made, if it is pure CBD flower with nothing else then it should be ok to smoke with normal flower. However if it contains additional compounds then no it would not be safe to smoke CBD flower tea in that instance.
Summing up – The Legality of CBD Flower in the UK
There are thousands of CBD products out there, but CBD flower is currently one that should be avoided due to having some serious legal challenges if found with it. There are still tonnes of effective ways to use and administer CBD. Look out for reputable CBD brands, and if you haven’t already, give it a try!