CBD (Cannabidiol) products are all the rage. They can be found in oils, capsules, sprays, gummies and even in beer, tea and hummus!
Currently, only clinicians on the specialist register can prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use. The process follows that for prescribing unlicensed special medicines in the NHS.
CBD is legal in the UK and can be purchased on the high street and online provided it complies with stipulations. It must be labelled correctly and contain less than 1mg of THC per container. It is available in oils for vaping and oral consumption via plastic syringe, gel capsules, tinctures, sublingual sprays and topical creams. It can also be found in health stores, department stores and supermarkets.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system which is a network of receptor pathways in the brain, nervous system, glands and organs. It supports the body’s natural production of cannabinoids that bind to these receptors and maintain balance. This has made it very popular as a supplement for many people, and is increasingly being prescribed by specialist doctors in the NHS and private practice.
In April 2021 new regulations came into effect meaning that all over the counter CBD wellness products sold in the UK must comply with European Novel Foods Regulations. This means that CBD must be derived from approved strains of industrial hemp that are naturally low in THC. This makes it a bit more difficult to get hold of these supplements but is good news for consumers who will now be able to make sure they are buying a safe and compliant product.
A Schedule 1 licence is required to cultivate Cannabis (CBD) plants in the UK, however these can only be used for medicinal purposes and must not be cultivated for recreational use. The Home Office has stated that if cannabis is sold for medicinal purposes it must be supplied under prescription from clinicians on the General Medical Council’s Specialist Register.
CBD is one of 104 chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant and contains less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is psychoactive. As such, it is not classed as a controlled drug and can be sold legally under certain conditions. However, it is still a Schedule 2 medicinal product meaning that it cannot be supplied without prescription or under the direction of a clinician on the General Medical Council’s Specialist Register.
CBD has been found to be beneficial in a number of health conditions including anxiety, pain and epilepsy. Two products containing CBD have been approved for prescription by the NHS in England: Epidiolex (a CBD isolate) as an adjunctive treatment in children with severe epilepsy and Sativex (a mouth spray of extracts of THC and CBD) to treat multiple sclerosis-related spasticity.
It is possible to purchase CBD products online and in some health shops. These products are not regulated and companies may make claims about the effectiveness of the product. The products may not have been fully assessed for safety and many of the ingredients will be unknown. This could lead to people taking a risk with their health.
It is also illegal to recommend or prescribe CBD supplements to pets. Vets will only be able to legally prescribe an authorised human medicine or a veterinary special from an authorised manufacturer. It is also illegal to import any substance derived from the cannabis plant into the UK, unless it is under Home Office licence.
CBD is widely available in the UK from a wide range of shops including pharmacies, health food stores and supermarkets. Oils for vaping and tinctures, pastes, capsules, gummies and edible products are on sale. But the CBD in these products hasn’t been subject to the same level of scrutiny and testing as a medicine so can’t be promoted as having medicinal properties. That means if sellers are making claims such as CBD helping with anxiety, sleep problems or pain they’re breaking the law.
Research has shown that CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects and could help with lowering blood pressure but that’s about it so far. There is no proof that it can help with any of the other conditions which are claimed such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
Campaigner Charlotte Caldwell says she gets “hundreds, maybe thousands” of messages from people asking if CBD can help with pain, anxiety or sleep problems. She believes the evidence is not strong enough yet to claim that CBD has health benefits and wants the products sold to be better researched and more clearly regulated. Currently, products are only legal to sell if they meet 3 criteria set out in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (MDR) and don’t make medical claims. This means that a product must have less than 0.2% THC and not be marketed as a medicinal product or contain any THC or 9-THC precursor acids.
If you’re travelling internationally with CBD it’s important to know the laws in your destination country. Each country has different rules and regulations, from strict restrictions to complete prohibition, and it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
CBD UK products are generally safe to bring with you on a plane, provided that they have been labelled as a food supplement and have a THC content of less than 1mg. In addition, the product should be in a container that holds no more than 100ml and must be presented to security in a clear plastic bag. This will ensure that you can pass through airport security without any problems.
It is also important to note that you should not take CBD flowers/bud with you on a plane as they are considered to be illegal in the UK unless they have received novel food authorisation from the FSA. In order to meet this requirement, the CBD flowers/bud must be derived from approved EU hemp seeds and manufactured using a licenced manufacturing process that adheres to good manufacturing practices.
If you are bringing CBD back into the UK from another country, it is fine to do so as long as each container contains less than 1mg of THC and the product is labelled as a food supplement and complies with all novel food guidelines. Most airlines and airports have a personal allowance of goods that you can bring back into the UK, similar to those for alcohol or tobacco, so it’s worth checking these limits before your trip.