This informal CPD article Is cannabidiol (CBD) dried flower legal in the UK? was provided by Sativa Learning, an e-learning platform that host a range of accredited online courses on all things cannabis, available to all.
There is some confusion in the UK regarding the sale and consumption of dried hemp flowers, commonly known as ‘CBD flower’ or ‘CBD bud’. If you’ve shopped for CBD products online, you might have noticed an abundance of CBD flower on offer and the same can be seen within certain CBD stores. CBD flower can look and smell just like high THC cannabis, but is it legal?
Before we get into it, here’s some facts you should know about hemp cultivation in the UK…
You can legally grow hemp in the UK, provided you obtain a hemp cultivation licence from the Home Office, or the Department of Health if you reside in Northern Ireland. There needs to be a defined commercial end use and licences are only issued for the cultivation of hemp plants from approved seed types with a THC content below 0.2%. Licences are only granted for the production of hemp fibre for industrial purposes or for obtaining seeds which are then pressed for their oil. Unfortunately, hemp growers in the UK are unable to utilise the whole plant without an additional licence called a Controlled Drugs Licence, which is very difficult to obtain.
According to the Home Office Industrial Hemp Licensing factsheet, the controlled parts of the plant (leaves and flowers) must be retted at the licensed location or otherwise lawfully disposed of. This means that UK hemp farmers are unable to lawfully process the valuable hemp flowers and leaves under a hemp cultivation licence alone. For this reason, over the counter CBD products sold in the UK will have almost always been sourced from elsewhere, where the farmers are permitted to process the flowers and leaves without an additional licence.
Now, back to the legality of CBD flower…
Sellers of these CBD flowers may claim that they have been sourced from approved cultivars of hemp with a THC limit below 0.2% which makes them legal, but that is not the case. Regardless of their origin, hemp flowers are considered Class B drugs – therefore the sale or possession is illegal in the UK. As noted, the hemp licencing factsheet states that the controlled parts of the hemp plant (leaves and flowers) must be retted at the licensed location or otherwise lawfully disposed of. These controlled parts of the hemp plant fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and offences of supplying a Class B drug attract a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment (or an unlimited fine).
Despite the controversy surrounding the legal status of hemp flowers, it continues to be sold widely under the guise of a legal product. But there are no loopholes or grey areas in this case, and we have already witnessed an individual who has been convicted. Without any available defences, he was left with no choice but to plead guilty at court to possession with intent to supply a class B drug.
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