Worldwide cannabis legalisation has entered an unprecedented phase. Decades of prohibition are being questioned as research shows that the plant is packed with beneficial medical compounds known as cannabinoids. One of these, CBD, has quickly become a must-have health supplement. From professional athletes to people who just want a good night’s sleep, CBD has fans everywhere. The overnight success of CBD was unprecedented, it has grown so quickly that in many places, the law hasn’t been able to keep up. CBD legislation worldwide, and the legality of CBD in any given country can vary. Even within one nation, it can sit in a grey area.
The Growth of CBD
CBD’s past is defined by the long history of cannabis prohibition. For decades across the world, the benefits of CBD remained unknown. Anecdotal evidence was common, but it was virtually ignored by the scientific community. However, this all began to change in 1963, when Dr Raphael Mecholulam made the first breakthroughs in cannabinoid research. He successfully identified the stereochemistry of CBD, laying the groundwork for all subsequent research and discoveries.
Despite these breakthroughs, further progress was slow. It wasn’t until 1978 that the US state of New Mexico legalised the cannabis plant for medicinal use. This legalisation spurred on research and in the 1980s Mecholulam and his team discovered that CBD could have applications as a treatment for epilepsy.
A few decades later, we now have many preliminary studies that suggest CBD can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, from inflammation to insomnia. With the advent of full legalisation in the US, the popularity of CBD exploded, and this popularity travelled across the Atlantic to Europe where it is now available on practically every high street.
More and more people are adopting CBD as part of their day to day life. However, the legacy of prohibition still remains, and CBD sits in a legal grey area. This is made more complicated by the patchwork of legislation that exists under the EU.
CBD In Europe
Thanks to its purported benefits, word of mouth, and the contribution of famous users, CBD is becoming massively popular in the EU. However, it sits in a confusing and often contradictory legal area. Some countries allow it, others prohibit it, and a few even veer between both.
The European Food Safety Authority considers CBD a ‘novel food’ supplement. This means that CBD food products must undergo a pre-market evaluation to ensure that it is:
- Safe for consumers
- Properly labelled
- Identical to any food it is intended to replace so as to not be nutritionally advantageous for the consumer.
This classification is open to interpretation in each member state. When it comes to CBD in the EU, each state has to be looked at individually.
In Germany, cannabis-derived medicines that contain both THC and CBD may be prescribed to ‘seriously ill’ patients. There is no legal definition for ‘seriously ill’, but for the most part, it is prescribed to patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and other debilitating conditions or those undergoing chemotherapy.
Hemp products, including hemp oils and seeds, may be purchased without a prescription. This means that CBD products are legal on the condition that they contain no more than 0.2% THC. CBD products may be sold by any retailer with no special licences needed. Having CBD products in your possession is fully legal.
Like Germany, it is legal to own CBD products in Denmark, providing that the THC content is below 0.2%. However, hemp oil products are classified as medical drugs.
This means that in order to purchase these products, a Danish citizen will need a prescription from their doctor. CBD balms, creams, and other topical ointments are the exception to this. These may be bought without a prescription.
As with many other countries, CBD products are legal in Ireland providing that they have a THC level that falls below 0.2%.
The United Kingdom
Again, CBD is legal in the UK providing that it has less than 0.2% THC. Aside from this, there are no restrictions on the sale of CBD providing that sellers don’t market their wares as healthcare products or claim that they have medical benefits.
CBD exists in a legal grey area in Sweden. The Nordic country is known for having some of Europe’s strictest drug laws. However, there are no laws that specifically address CBD.
There are currently no specific laws about CBD in Sweden yet, so CBD is in a grey zone here.
CBD is not classified as a medicine, and the process to do so will take a long time. The Swedish Medical Products Agency defines CBD as an active ingredient and is seeking to ensure that it follows rules set down by their pharmaceutical regulator.
The overwhelming moral of the story is that CBD legislation worldwide is very much still a sticky subject. With no universal categorization likely, it’s best practice to research any area that you are planning to travel to regarding their individual CBD laws.