Cannabis Confusion – the legalities of CBD in the UK

18th Jul 2019

In just a few years, cannabidiol (CBD) has become immensely popular around the world – it’s stocked in many High Street shops including national chain Holland & Barrett.

Alcohol and Tobacco

After initially being discovered as an effective self-medication for Dravet syndrome in children, CBD is now sold and used to treat a wide range of medical conditions and lifestyle diseases.

CBD is essentially a concentrated solvent extract made from cannabis flowers or leaves that is dissolved in an edible oil such as sunflower, hemp, or olive oil. Solvents used can vary from relatively innocuous organic solvents (ethanol, isopropyl alcohol) to more harmful ones (petroleum-ether, naphtha), or even supercritical fluids (butane, CO2).

The importation of all drugs into the UK is regulated by the Medical Regulatory Health authority (MRHA). Any medicine purchased outside the regulated supply chain cannot be guaranteed to meet standards of quality, safety and effectiveness. This means they can present a real risk to public health.

A recent study highlighted multiple issues with CBD products obtained from a variety of sources. In many cases the analysed cannabinoid content strongly differed from the claimed content on the label, while in 7 samples no cannabinoids (CBD or THC) were found at all.

It cannot legally claim to have health benefits, but the fact is many people (particularly those with chronic conditions) are routinely turning to CBD oil based products to help relieve their symptoms.

While empirical data on the efficacy of CBD is scarce, the anecdotal claims cannot be ignored, and more and more businesses in the health, and even the food, sectors are choosing to stock products containing the naturally derived ingredient in response to consumer demand.

When you buy from most normal health shops it is not always clear what is being bought because it’s not always stated clearly on the packet.

There is still considerable confusion regarding the legality of CBD’s, so as well as availability on the British High Street many people resort to importing unlicensed goods, of unspecified quality and provenance, over the internet from abroad.

This has led HMRC Border Force to take a stern line with stoppages, detentions and seizures at all ports of entry into the UK. The goods may be perfectly legal and present no risk, but without the necessary paper work and proof they could seize perfectly innocent goods.

Rogers & Norton’s talented and knowledgeable litigation team specialise in handling HMRC Border Force claims relating to the detention and seizure of a wide variety restricted goods. We are challenging seizures made by UK Border Force of such goods and seeking restoration.

The team deals with the worldwide importation of goods to the UK, including the huge market from China. We work with clients who want goods restored at all major ports of entry, such as Felixstowe and London Gateway, together with Stansted, Gatwick & Heathrow.

We have a strong understanding of Border Force systems and can act quickly and decisively to support our clients in getting their goods restored.