CBD oil is breaking into the UK market, hitting the shelves in health stores like Holland and Barrett. Apothecaries are also beginning to carry CBD food supplements, selling to a growing consumer base, and reports are even suggesting that Harvey Nichols will begin selling MGC Pharmaceutical’s CBD products in some stores.
Of course, since CBD is such a new market here, it is vastly important to make sure that the products you are buying are safe. Thankfully, EU regulations ensure that any products sold legally in the UK are definitely safe for human consumption.
We will explore the ins and outs of EU regulations surrounding hemp in this article, so that you can be confident that what you’re buying is safe and legal. First, what actually is hemp?
What are CBD and hemp?
One of the most common questions people have about CBD and hemp is whether it is different from marijuana. This isn’t as easy as saying yes or no.
Both hemp and marijuana are variations of the Cannabis sativa plant. The primary difference is that hemp, while it is still high in CBD, hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, meaning that ingesting it does not produce the ‘high’ effects associated with smoking marijuana.
Furthermore, hemp is a lot easier to grow than marijuana, as it can grow in very harsh conditions. Marijuana, on the other hand, needs a carefully controlled environment in order to flourish. And finally, while marijuana is just used for medical or recreational use, hemp has a number of other applications. The fibres are great for construction and clothing materials, meaning that hemp is not just a great supplement.
When CBD is extracted from cannabis, it is usually done so by CO2 extraction. This can be performed on either marijuana or hemp, but the legal status of these sources differs.
The law on hemp in Europe
Industrial hemp is largely accepted in European countries. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction states that “In the European Union, it is legal to cultivate and supply cannabis plants for hemp fibre if they have low levels of THC.” Since hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, this means the plants are legal for growth.
Basically, EU member states are allowed to grow industrial hemp legally as long as the plant contains less than 0.2% THC. However, there is still a legal minefield when it comes to cannabis, meaning that there are obstacles standing in the way.
With the European Union being a fairly young institution, and with the hemp industry being so new as well, it is really up to each individual country when it comes to the legality of different plants. As a result, some people avoid growing hemp just in case, even though EU law states that industrial hemp is legal for growth and distribution.
Farmers in the EU are also allowed to obtain a subsidy for cultivating hemp, which means that they are able to make a decent income off cultivating these plants.
Is it legal to sell and buy hemp products in Europe?
Hempseed products can be derived from the seeds of industrial hemp and contain little to no cannabinoids. These products are perfectly legal and do not really have any obstacles.
However, there are a few different things to bear in mind when purchasing CBD products derived from hemp. The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) is the only European consortium in the industrial hemp sector.
The EIHA is working toward a harmonised legislation in the consumption market for CBD. Currently, the laws are different in each country. In the UK, for example, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued letters to CBD suppliers in October of 2017 demanding that sales of CBD products stopped within 28 days. The letter suggests that a marketing authorisation will need to be obtained from the MHRA in order to continue selling. However, some of the largest CBD sellers have stated that they never received such a letter and will not cease to sell their products. In short, nobody really knows what’s going on!
In Germany, as of October 2016, CBD products became prescription-only medications. The EIHA, however, has said that it is strictly opposed to CBD products becoming a prescription-only drug, as this benefits only a few pharmaceutical companies rather than the hemp industry as a whole.
As it stands, the legislation on CBD products is a bit of a mess. You will have to check the laws in each specific country to find out what is and isn’t allowed.
Where is hemp grown and sold in Europe?
France is the European leader in hemp growth, with an astounding 14,500 hectares of hemp plants. Surprisingly, little Estonia comes second, with 3,500 hectares. That said, a number of countries do have hemp farms that are grown to make use of the plant fibres.
The laws for CBD products can differ throughout the EU. Since the cultivation of hemp is the only thing permitted by EU standards, each country can decide what to do when it comes to the selling of CBD products.
What do EU regulations mean for the quality of CBD hemp oil?
Since the EU holds its member states to strict regulations on hemp, you can pretty much guarantee that CBD products derived from European hemp will be safe.
Since the hemp plants must contain less than 0.2% THC, you can rest assured that any products you buy will not contain this psychoactive cannabinoid. In essence, you can buy CBD products in the EU without worry that they will be contaminated or contain psychoactive compounds.
All CBD products on UK shelves are regulated by this legislation as well: You will only be buying high quality oils derived from high quality hemp if you purchase your supplements here.
Obviously, if you purchase products online, you will also be buying high quality products if the company is based in the EU.
Final thoughts on hemp regulations in the EU
With the CBD market expanding, it is likely that more and more research will take place and regulations will fuel a safe, profitable CBD industry.
Even as more people use CBD and the legislation surrounding cannabis begins to loosen, it is likely that the European Union will alway ensure member states adhere to guidelines, making sure that all products sold are safe for consumption.
We hope this has answered some of your questions about growing hemp legally within the EU, and that now you feel more at ease with the CBD products lining the shelves.