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Is CBD legal? The status of CBD Oils and Hemp Oils in the EU

We’re seeing CBD (cannabidiol) everywhere nowadays: online, health stores, and in cafes. But for some there is still a stigma around what CBD is, what it does, and whether it is legal. Obviously if you are buying or selling a product or ingredient, you want to know about its legal status – which we will go into now.

CBD is a naturally occurring compound extracted from industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is a strain of cannabis, which is where confusion is caused. CBD is one of over 120 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, the other well known cannabinoid is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. However, industrial hemp has an incredibly low amount of THC (maximum 1% compared to 30% in marijuana). 

Although it differs from country to country, generally the law states that if CBD is legally available, the THC content must be below a certain amount. For example, in the UK CBD products must have a THC content of less than 0.2%. This means that during the extraction process manufacturers must be careful to keep all the other components as they are naturally presented, but lower the THC level if it is above the regulated amount. THC levels should be displayed in both the product info and on third party laboratory results displayed on the CBD supplier’s website.

There are specifications in EU guidelines as to what classifies as a food product and what counts as a novel food product. To qualify as a food product, the ingredient in question must have been widely available to the EU market prior to May 15 1997. If the ingredient was not available to a significant degree before this time, it receives the title of ‘novel food’. Subsequently, different legal requirements must be met for each category.

Hemp seed oil was widely available on the EU market prior to 1997, consequently meaning that it can be classified as a food product. Additionally, hemp seed oil is made from pressing hemp seeds and does not contain any cannabinoids. This makes its legal stance much easier to define.

All EU countries must abide by the regulations of selling a novel food product if CBD is available on the market. Additionally, no medicinal claims can be made due to its status as a novel food product. CBD is currently legal across the majority of EU countries, although due to constant changes in regulation it is important to check the latest information for your country.

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