You’ve seen it on the shelves of Holland & Barrett so it seems self-evident to say CBD is legal and fully available in the UK. Well it’s a little more complex that. Here’s how it stands at the moment.
It’s true to say that new legislation has passed that allows specialist doctors (not General Practitioners) to legally prescribe medicinal cannabis (including both CBD and THC products) to patients who need it.
That legislation comes on the back of a decision by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to relax previous legislation under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
So at first glance it looks like medicinal cannabis has indeed been rescheduled for those with verifiable medical conditions. However then comes the complexity – CBD is available on prescription but just for patients as Javid says, ‘with an exceptional clinical need.’
What that means in reality is that while UK residents can apply for medical CBD, clinicians must deem an “exceptional clinical circumstance” exists wherein “no other lawful medicinal is available that would meet the specific needs of the patient.”
So although you can see CBD oil advertised and retailing in high street stores like Holland & Barrett, there is quite a difference between the CBD supplements you find there and what’s found in the US and the Netherlands, as well as what’s found in a UK dispensary.
The simple reason CBD oils can be sold in high street stores and vaping outlets is that they are advertised as nutrition supplements rather than medicinal products and, as a result, the quality and quantity of genuine CBD varies wildly.
Back in 2016, the MHRA officially acknowledged CBD oil in terms of their therapeutic potential, but they also made it clear that anyone selling CBD oil for medicinal purposes must have the products properly licensed as a medicine.
The “loophole,” so to speak, is that sellers have NOT been advertising them for medicinal purposes, but rather as “nutritional supplements” – making certain not to link any medical conditions or health aspects with their use.
Along with that, sellers have been extracting the active CBD compound from hemp rather than marijuana, since hemp contains less than 0.2%
So given that context, in a nutshell:
Unfortunately the room for manoeuvre means there is some evidence of some UK sellers being accused of simply bottling up hemp seed oil – or even infused olive oil – and selling it on the high street as “CBD oil” when in fact it contains little or none of the active compound.
But if it’s a case of Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware) in a high street-context, reliability is arguably more certain from online vendors.
Companies like CiiTECH’s Provacan label have been fully compliant with the MHRA and organizations like the UK Cannabis Trade Association, and their product lines are online.
Moving on from the high street and online options, what is the actual process if you believe you fall into the category of having a genuine need? How do you go about acquiring a prescription?
First you will have to “apply for a license under a temporary approval panel.”
Applications can be made by submitting the appropriate forms and documents which are accessible via the gov.uk website. The panel will then “consider the merits” of your individual case so as to establish whether appropriate criteria have been met.
Any specialist physician who does wish to write a prescription for the new CBD oil UK laws, will have to prove that “exceptional clinical circumstances” exist, and that no other legally approved medicine has worked to treat the condition.
One of the reasons it remains difficult to find a favourable decision is that many doctors are wary of medically recommending CBD oil as they are simply not familiar enough with its range of therapeutic benefits, and indeed the body of evidence needs to be built further.
It’s not surprising then that the number of prescriptions being approved versus the volume of applications being submitted is extremely small. In time as more is known and proven scientifically, this may well change.