CBD regulations in the UK is undoubtedly somewhat of a minefield when, as a consumer you are looking to purchase your CBD products. Finding a reliable, legal source is a challenge given the number of products on the market, many of which are not compliant with UK regulation.
We wanted to write this article to dispel some of the myths surrounding CBD regulation and provide a definitive answer to your questions on this topic.
Firstly, we must look at the genetic make-up of a cannabis plant. Cannabis contains a range of terpenes which give plants their scents, and flavonoids, which give plants their flavours. Both provide plants with functions and benefits. Cannabinoids however are slightly different. Although also found in many plants, they are particularly prevalent in the cannabis plant and they are a range of organic compounds which readily bind to the ‘endocannabinoid system’ within our bodies.
There are more than 110 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, all with a range of functions. Undoubtedly the two most well-known are CBD and THC. CBD being the apparent panacea that many are consuming to help with a range of ailments and THC being the psychoactive substance known for the ‘high’ sensation. As we are focusing on the regulations here, we are going to put CBD to one side as this is not controlled and perfectly legal provided it has obtained authorisations which we will delve in to shortly.
Given the ‘high’ a user will experience when consuming THC, the UK authorities have determined that this a controlled substance meaning it is illegal to possess or supply in any great quantity. In addition to THC, CBN, another cannabinoid commonly found in the plant and CBDV are also currently controlled under UK regulations.
So, what are limits on controlled substances in cannabis or hemp?
As we all know, plants are natural organisms, and cannabis is no different. It is therefore impossible to determine exactly what level of cannabinoids will be present in a plant as it grows. It is possible however, through selective breeding, to ensure certain cannabinoids remain below set limits. Many of you would have heard the figure of ‘0.2% THC’ being used when researching the CBD industry.
This 0.2% limit is what defines a plant as cannabis, or industrial hemp. If a plants THC content is below 0.2%, the grower can get it certified as an EU approved variety, and therefore allowed to grow and sell it as industrial hemp. The cultivation of hemp in the UK requires a licence and the grower must adhere to strict guidelines regarding the security and supply of their crop. Take note, this 0.2% limit applies to a plant in the soil only, and not a finished product on the shelf.
Once this plant has grown, it is dried and extracted on using a range of methods, most commonly CO2 or Ethanol extraction. This extraction process allows you to separate the plant material from the compounds and cannabinoids contained within, resulting in an extremely potent solution. This solution will often contain large quantities of controlled substances for which the extractor must have additional licencing to handle. For this reason, many extraction companies are based in the US as obtaining this licence in the UK is extremely difficult. Any reputable extractor will now put the raw extract through additional processing to remove these controlled substances and supply the market with a perfectly legal extract ready to be added to a finished product.
So, we’ve discussed the plant, but how about the finished product that’s consumer ready?
It is a common misconception that the 0.2% limit we discussed earlier is the limit of controlled substance for a finished product that you may find in your local health food shop. This, however, is not the case. Many CBD companies may sell products that are labelled to show that they fall within regulations but they fool customers by displaying the 0.2% limit and this allows them to make products cheaper with non-compliant extracts. The actual CBD regulation in the UK for THC, CBN and CBDV content is as follows:
It is the Home Office view that the applicable unit of measure for the 1mg ‘threshold’ referred to in (c) is that of the ‘container’ (i.e. bottle or packet) and not the ‘typical dose’ (of any product).
This above text from the Home Office Drug Licencing Fact Sheet states that the limit of controlled substance acceptable in a finished product is 1mg. So the question is how do you work this out when browsing CBD products? It’s much easier than you may think, provided the company has up to date lab tests for each batch sold. Here’s how to work it out:
A standard 10ml bottle of CBD Oil is approximately 10,000 milligrams in total. The maximum limit is 1 milligram of THC, CBN or CBDV. Therefore 1, as a percentage of 10,000, is 0.01%. Most companies will have lab tests which show the cannabinoid content as a percentage and therefore, if these controlled substances are within the limit of 0.01% for a 10ml oil, you’re good to go! These calculations can be adjusted for different products to ensure the product you’re consuming is safe and legal.
We’ve talked about limits of controlled substances, but surely CBD is regulated somewhat?
It most certainly is. Since the legalisation of CBD in the UK in 2016, the industry has largely been the wild west with many companies setting up to make a quick buck by selling inferior and illegal products. This, however, is all about to change. In February 2019, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) set the CBD industry a deadline of 31 March 2021 to submit valid novel food authorisation applications. After 31 March next year, only products which have submitted a valid application will be allowed to remain on the market. The authorisation process ensures that CBD products sold as food supplements meet legal standards on safety and content, much like we discussed above.
The Main Points To Remember
The legal THC limit for industrial hemp is 0.2%
The legal controlled substance (THC, CBN, CBDV) limit in a finished product is 1mg regardless of the size of container/packaging the product is in.
We utilise extracts which have had a novel foods application submitted for them.
We lab test each batch to display exactly what our products contain.
BioSante products are manufactured to be natural, safe, effective and above all, legal.