Selling CBD in the UK: the cans, can’ts and everything in between

We keep saying it.

The CBD market is on the up. In 2020, it was already worth more than £300 million in the UK. So, there’s huge potential for new and more established CBD brands to sell high-quality products. 

However, it can seem rather confusing and difficult to know what you can and can’t do – and all those grey areas. And the fact that each country (or state in the US) has its own rules further muddies the waters. 

In this article, we’re going to look at selling CBD in the UK – to keep things shorter and simpler, and because we’re based on the UK and so are many of the brands we work with.

We don’t promise all the answers but we’ll try to set you in the right direction.*

*CBD legislation, regulations and guidelines are constantly changing. We’ve tried to be as precise as possible but always double check the information. 

Is CBD legal in the UK? 

If you cut through the noise and confusion, there are four main criteria for CBD to be legal in the UK. 

  • CBD can’t be sold as a medicine or as having medicinal benefits 
  • The container must include less than 1mg of THC, THCV or CBN (controlled cannabionoids). According to part C of regulation 2:

“[N]o one component part of the product or preparation contains more than one milligram of the controlled drug”

  • The product mustn’t be packaged in a way that makes it easy to separate the THC, THCV or CBN

Do you need a license to sell CBD in the UK?

The short answer is no. But the 4 aforementioned criteria have an important impact for brands looking to sell CBD.

You do need to submit a ‘valid novel food authorisation application’ to sell edible CBD products or supplements. 

You also need a special license to sell CBD as medicine. 

Remember that if you’re looking to grow your own hemp, you’ll also need a license – this time from the Home Office.

Can you sell CBD in the EU?

 Since 2019, you need Novel Foods authorisation to sell CBD edibles in the EU (like in the UK).

In November 2020, the European Court of Justice ruled that CBD is not a narcotic, meaning that it can be freely sold in the European Union.

It may seem clear cut, but the reality is not quite so simple. The legal status and regulations vary from country to country, although more and more are aligning the EU’s position. You’ll need to do your research for the countries you’re hoping to enter. 

For example,

  1. France allows only CBD isolate products (0% THC )
  2. In Switzerland, CBD is legal with a THC content of less than 1%
  3. CBD is illegal in Slovakia and Lithuania

More info about CBD in Europe – head this way.

Who regulates CBD in the UK? 

It all depends on the type of product. 

Consumable “novel food” CBD products are regulated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). 

Medicinal CBD is overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Other CBD products are subject to Trading Standards and Product Safety laws – remember to always check exactly regulations apply to your products – before you set out.

The CBD market is still maturing, and as it grows so too is the demand for regulated products. So, watch this space. Changes may well come thick and fast.

Can you advertise CBD products? 

Yes, in theory. But the reality is a (lot) complicated.

The first thing to be careful about is avoiding any unsubstantiated health or medical claims – unless you are selling a CBD-based medication. You can’t say it “cures”, “heals”, “prevents”, “avoids” or “fights against” any illness or health conditions. If your product is classified as food supplement, avoid broad or vague health claims unless they are supported by specific, authorised health claims and evidence.

And the obstacles don’t stop there.

Facebook (and Instagram) continues to reject the vast majority of CBD ads – today, the only CBD ads Facebook will approve are for CBD topicals

Google is also strict on CBD-related advertising and most CBD related ads are off bounds – although Google does allow ads for hemp-derived CBD products that rely exclusively on hemp keywords.

So, for the time being, you’ll need to be inventive and work on building a large organic online following, rather than paid campaigns.

Marketplaces like mellow store are an ideal way to showcase high-quality CBD products and reach a wider audience. 

As this article shows, CBD regulations in the UK are rather complex and rather loosely defined – and fast changing. Make sure you do your research and take the time fully understand the implications for your products and markets, while also ensuring your marketing and advertising strategy is on the right side of the rules. 

Keen to launch your brand in the UK with a little expert support and some B2B dedicated services? Don’t hesitate to get in touch

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