There are many terms thrown around when people talk about the legality of CBD oil. Words like cannabis, hemp, and THC can often easily determine whether a CBD oil or other product is legally available for consumption and purchase or not. But why does this matter? Cannabidiol products all look and taste the same, right? Well- not quite. In this article, we will talk about the different types of cannabis, what makes cannabis products legal and where is CBD legal.
Let’s Talk About Cannabis
The use of cannabis with a high concentration of THC for recreational purposes is prohibited in most countries around the world. Nonetheless, many countries have adopted a policy of decriminalization to make simple possession a non-criminal offence. Others have much more severe penalties. For example, in some Asian countries, possession of cannabis it not just not legal, but can result in imprisonment for several years. In most middle eastern countries, possession of very small amounts can result in more severe punishments.
In the United States, for example, the legal status varies according to state. Cultivation of hemp was officially made legal on a federal level thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. This 2018 Farm bill allowed many farmers to grow a specific type of cannabis plant which is used for manufacturing of cannabidiol products. Known as hemp-derived, the compound is widely used in the United States in the making of CBD oil, mainly used as a partial treatment of a variety of medical conditions. There are also many organisation supporting and advocating the safe use of cannabis across the country.
Is CBD legal all throughout the United States? Read our guide here.
Before we get into all that, let’s back up a little bit and talk about cannabis and where CBD comes in. The term cannabis1 refers to a genus of flowering plants from the Cannabaceae family. The family consists of three primary species: Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. While people often refer to hemp and cannabis as “species”, they are actually not.2. According to the Journal of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research3, the terms “hemp” and “cannabis” are wide classifications of Cannabis that were adopted into everyday language by different cultures; however, they technically cannot be called plants on their own.
Nowadays, this is the understanding we have adopted:
- “Hemp” refers to cannabis varieties4 such as Cannabis Sativa L. containing 0.2% or less THC content. Its cultivation is supervised by state authorities.
- “grass”, “weed”, “pot” and “ganja” are synonym words, referring to Cannabis varieties which contain more than 0.2% THC5 and can induce psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user.
Cannabidiol is one of more than 60 compounds6 found in the cannabis plant, which means that both “hemp” and “medical cannabis” contain it within their chemical structure. This also means that CBD tinctures can be prepared from all cannabis plants, however, the CBD to THC concentration will differ with each plant.
What makes CBD legal?
The legality of cannabis oil for medical use or as a dietary supplement in Europe, in general, varies by country. Cannabis laws around the world may vary in terms of possession, distribution, how it can be consumed, and what medical conditions it can be used for. Nonetheless, according to EU law, CBD oil must not exceed 0.2% THC7. This applies to all countries in the European Union. This means that oils and other products have to be created using CBD rich Cannabis varieties – namely Cannabis Sativa L (CSL) varieties. The cultivation of CSL varieties is officially legal in the EU, upon the conditions that they are registered in the EU’s ‘Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species’ and the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in the plant does not exceed a concentration of 0.2 %.
There are, however, some countries that are following their own cannabis-specific laws, making cannabidiol partially legal or not legal at all. We suggest that you always check with your local authorities before purchasing any CBD oil.
Which Countries is CBD legal in?
CBD oil in Austria ✅
CBD oil is legal to purchase in Austria, as long as it is not advertised as a food supplement or medication and the maximal content of THC allowed is 0.3%8. This content of THC is higher than the general 0,2% suggested by the EU.
Bulgaria made history by becoming the first EU country to allow free sale of hemp-derived cannabidiol9. This makes CBD oil legal and easy to purchase in Bulgaria, as long as it contains not more than 0,2% of THC.
Cyprus follows the EU regulations and allows the cultivation of hemp10. Any tinctures manufactured from these plans must not exceed 0,2% of THC, making regular cannabidiol oil legal to purchase.
Czech Republic ✅
The laws11 the Czech Republic states the following:
NO authorization is required for the acquisition, storage and processing of hemp plants, which may contain not more than 0,3% of the tetrahydrocannabinols, and only hemp for industrial, technical and horticultural purposes, as well as trade in hemp for those purpose.
Therefore, cannabidiol oil is legal to purchase, as long as it contains equal or less amount of the officially allowed THC percentage.
CBD in Denmark ⚠️
In Denmark, similarly to other EU countries, it can be argued that CBD oil is legal to purchase if it contains less than 0,2% of THC. Nonetheless, an ongoing debate12 form the Danish authorities keeps cannabis users in limbo. They suggest that due to the healing properties of cannabidiol, it can be classed as a medicine, therefore you should require a prescription to obtain it. There is one exception for topical CBD products such as creams and lip balm – these are completely legal to purchase and do not require a medical prescription. Nonetheless, people are still purchasing cannabidiol online.
The Danish authorities state that it is generally not punishable to buy or possess CBD products, as long as these contain less than 0,2% THC.
Buying CBD in Finland ⚠️
CBD oil is currently not legally available for sale in Finland, but it is possible to order it online. However, consumers do so at their own risk. At the end of 2020, the European Court of Justice ruled that CBD cannot be classified as a drug.
France follows the general EU law for industrial hemp, therefore, cannabis oil is legal to purchase with the content of 0,2% THC or less.
Is CBD legal in Germany ⚠️
Laws in Germany are very particular when it comes to CBD and cannabis. According to the Narcotics Traffic Act (“Gesetz über den Verkehr mit Betäubungsmitteln” in German), cannabis can also be seen as non-narcotic, provided that its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content does not exceed 0,2 % and that it is used solely for commercial or scientific purposes (other than cultivation) which prevent its abuse for intoxication13. This law should be enough to make CBD products legal to market, nonetheless, the law goes into more detail, putting further requirements on cannabidiol production.
Higher Regional Court of Hamm in 2016 ruled that Hemp flower (CBD buds) are illegal for mere consumption, as they are considered as part of the plant, therefore raw. The judge ruled the following:
Only harmless (processed, editor’s note) cannabis products may then be sold to an end user14.
Police also seems to back up the statement with a tweet on the 15th of January 2019
Der Verkauf von CBD-Cannabisblüten aus angeblich zertifiziertem THC-freien Anbau an Konsumenten ist strafbar.
Dennoch vertrieb eine Berliner Firma diese Ware an Geschäfte und übers Netz.
Gestern standen unsere Ermittler vor ihrer Tür …https://t.co/Rd98c0ZX9N
— Polizei Berlin (@polizeiberlin) 15. Januar 2019
The tweet reads as follows: “The sale of CBD cannabis blossoms from allegedly certified THC-free cultivation to consumers is punishable by law“
The statement made by the Higher Regional Court set up the standards of which CBD products are legal and which not, but also brought in a lot of uncertainty. As of now, we know the following:
- Hemp blossom tea✅
The tea must be made from hemp. The THC content must not be more than 0.2 percent.
- CBD tea & CBD coffee ⚠️
The legal status is uncertain and unclear laws
- CBD flowers ❌
- CBD oil (full spectrum extract) ✅
Purchase and use are legal if the THC content is less than 0.2 percent.
- CBD oil (isolated CBD) ⚠️
Due to its pharmacological effect, isolated CBD can be considered as medicine.
According to Greek law15, hemp-derived tinctures are not considered as drugs, as they do not contain high amounts of THC. Therefore, CBD oil is legal for purchase in Greece.
CBD Oil can be legal in Ireland only if it’s extracted by cold pressing16. Extraction methods such as using CO2 or solvents make CBD oils unfit to sell and illegal.
Buying CBD in Italy ✅
The situation with CBD in Italy is a bit complicated. While there is no official law, which states that cannabidiol products are legal, there is also no law, prohibiting the manufacturing, selling and consuming CBD oil17. Manufacturers and consumers alike are taking advantage of this “loophole” and enjoying the benefits of CBD undisturbed.
Latvia follows the general EU law on industrial hemp and therefore allows for CBD oil with up to 0,2% of THC to be legally sold on the market.
Lithuania is another EU country that complies with the general hemp law, making cannabidiol legal, as long as it contains no more than 0,2% of THC.
It is legal to buy CBD oil in Luxembourg, as long as it contains 0,3% of THC or less18.
According to the Opium Law in the Netherlands19, CBD oil is tolerated as a herbal product and can be legally sold and consumed if it is extracted from EU hemp, containing 0,05% of THC or less.
As Norway is not part of the EU, the general hemp law does not apply there. The Norwegian Medicines Agency, the one setting the rules for all medicine-related products, considers CBD to be a drug. At this time, CBD can therefore only be purchased if you have a doctors prescription.
It is possible to legally purchase CBD isolate without a prescription, however, you must make sure that it is 100% free from any THC. If the Norwegian customs detect any level of THC, they will seize it and potentially get you into legal issues.
In Poland, there is no restriction in legislation specifically preventing the use of CBD. Hemp strains containing less than 0.2% THC have been cultivated in Poland for a very long time20
Romanian law does not contain any specifics regarding cannabidiol, therefore according to the general EU law, CBD oil is legal to buy there.
According to Slovenian law, the cultivation, possession, processing, sale, and distribution of cannabis having a THC content greater than 0.2% is prohibited under existing legislation21. Therefore, cannabidiol oil with less than 0,2% of THC content is completely legal.
Spanish laws are in favor of the general EU hemp law and officially allow the production and purchase of CBD oil, containing no more than 0,2% of THC22.
Sweden has some of Europe’s most restrictive drug laws. Since June 2019, the Supreme Court decided that CBD tinctures with THC content, regardless of quantity, should be classified as narcotics.23
Previously, CBD was in a grey zone but was considered by the Medical Products Agency to be medicine, especially when many companies marketed the CBD oil with medical claims, which means that they automatically fall under the Medicines Act and have to follow certain regulations. Cannabidiol products for oral intake are today considered as medicines and in order to sell them, a license from the Medical Products Agency is required. If the product contains THC regardless of quantity, it is classified as a narcotic drug.
Swiss cannabis and hemp laws are fairly relaxed. Hemp-derived CBD tinctures are completely legal to bring into and purchase in Switzerland, as long as they do not exceed the legal limit of 1% THC.24
United Kingdom ✅
It is legal to buy cannabidiol oil in the United Kingdom, if the product contains no more than 0,2% of THC25 as per EU law.
What Countries is CBD Oil Illegal?
CBD is illegal in Belgium ❌
Belgium laws contain a list of plants which are not allowed for use in or as a foodstuff26 . This list, unfortunately, contains the Sativa L Cannabis, therefore CBD oil is not legal to purchase.
Don’t buy CBD oil in Russia ❌
The Government Resolution No. 681 “On Approval of the List of Narcotics, Psychotropic Substances and Their Precursors being a Subject to Control in the Russian Federation” specifies the narcotic cannabinoid THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), all its isomers and derivatives. Although CBD is not on the list, it is still a THC isomer, like many other cannabinoids with identical atomic composition and molar mass. In this respect, there are no official declarations of CBD status on the territory of the Russian Federation. Our advice is to stay clear of CBD oil in Russia.
CBD oil is not legal in Slovakia ❌
Slovakia’s law is very clear: CBD belongs to their “Group 2” of narcotics, therefore all types of CBD oil are considered illegal for production and consumption alike27
What Types of CBD Products are Legal to Purchase?
There are a variety of CBD products available on the market. These include CBD Oils, CBD creams, CBD capsules, CBD E-Liquids, CBD edibles, as well as CBD infused cosmetics. As long as the finished product contains no more than 0.2% to THC, it is considered legal. These products are all made by extracting the CBD compound from Cannabis and mixing it with terpenes and a carrier product, for example, hemp seed oil. Nonetheless, not all products created from cannabis contain CBD. Since certain cannabis varieties are grown for their fiber or edible seeds (hemp and hemp seeds), often there is a confusion between hemp seed oil and CBD oil.
The Difference Between Hemp seed oil and CBD oil
Hemp seed oil is produced by pressing the seeds. It contains several plant materials but no THC. Hemp seed oil, unlike CBD oil, doesn’t contain any cannabinoids, regardless of the fact that they are both extracted from the same plant. Hemp seed oil is mainly used for cooking, but also like food, as it is a good source of protein, fiber and minerals29.
CBD oil, on the other hand, can contain many (full-spectrum) or just one (isolate) cannabinoid. It is known for its medicinal properties, mainly due to its anti-inflammatory qualities.
CBD and cosmetics
The EU Cosmetics Regulation30 states that all cosmetic products made available for purchase on the market must be safe for human health when used under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions.
Further down in the document, in annex II, there is a list of substances that are prohibited from use in cosmetics. It includes any substance referred to in Tables I and II of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 (the Single Convention)31, which includes cannabis.
Nonetheless, the Single Convention uses a particular definition of Cannabis limited to “the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant” and excludes the seeds and leaves of the plant when not accompanied by the tops. This means that CBD can legally be used in cosmetics and sold in the EU, when not obtained from the cannabis flower.
- Pollio, A. (2016). The Name of Cannabis: A Short Guide for Nonbotanists. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), pp.234-238
- Plants.usda.gov. (2019). Classification | USDA PLANTS
- Pollio, A. (2016). The Name of Cannabis: A Short Guide for Nonbotanists. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), pp.234-238.
- van Bakel, H., Stout, J., Cote, A., Tallon, C., Sharpe, A., Hughes, T. and Page, J. (2011). The draft genome and transcriptome of Cannabis sativa. Genome Biology, 12(10), p.R102.
- Hudak, J. (2019). The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. [online]
- Atakan, Z. (2012). Cannabis, a complex plant: Different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 2(6), pp.241-254.
- Cannabis legislation in Europe (2019) European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
- Bundesministerium Arbeit, Soziales, Gesundheit und Konsumentenschutz. (2018)Information – Hanf- und CBD-Produkte. [online]
- Hasse. J (2019) This EU Country Has Become The First To Allow Free Sale Of CBD. FORBES. [online]
- Department of Agriculture (2008) Plant Health and Quality Control Service Selection. Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment
- Act No. 167/1998 Coll. (2017). Laws for Humans. Act on Addictive Substances in
- Danish Medicines Agency (2019) Questions and answers on medical cannabis [online]
- Gesetz über den Verkehr mit Betäubungsmitteln (Betäubungsmittelgesetz – BtMG) Anlage I (zu § 1 Abs. 1) (nicht verkehrsfähige Betäubungsmittel), Bundesamt für Justiz, https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/btmg_1981/anlage_i.html
- OLG Hamm klärt illegalen Verkauf von Cannabisprodukten, Christian Nubbemeyer, Pressederzernent, Oberlandesgericht Hamm – Pressestelle,
- Ministry of Justice (2006) Drug Designation. [online]
- CBD Oils and Hemp Oils -Legal Status (2018) Food Safety Authority of Ireland
- Gazzetta Ufficiale (2017) Disposizioni per la promozione della coltivazione e della filiera agroindustriale della canapa[online]
- Le Quotidien. (2017) Le cannabis légal fait son entrée au Luxembourg [online]
- Cannabinoiden Adviesbureau Nederland. (2019) Industry Standard. [online]
- Polskie Radio (2017) Prezydent podpisał ustawę dot. preparatów z konopi. [online]
- National Health Institute. (2014). The use of cannabis in medicine. [online]
- Agencia Española de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición (2019) Uso del cáñamo y cannabinoides en alimentación [online]
- Förordning (1992:1554) om kontroll av narkotika (2019) Sveriges Riksdag [online]
- The Swiss Authorities Online (2019) Cannabis: What are the rules in Switzerland?. [online]
- Home Office (2019). Drug Licensing Factsheet- Cannabis, CBD and other cannabinoids. [online]
- Federal Public Service (2019) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment [online]
- Act no. 139/1998 Coll. (2019) Act on Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Preparations [online]