What is CBD, and is it legal?

March 2, 2020

What is CBD?

Cannabis plants are made up of more than 100 different “cannabinoids”, chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the human brain.

These have different impacts on the body and are concentrated to different extents in certain parts of the plant.

But not all cannabinoids are created equal, and only a small number of them have any intoxicating effects at all.

The most common intoxicating cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), (in)famous for its strong mind-altering and psychoactive effects.  CBD, also known as Cannabidiol, on the other hand, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid – in other words: it does not get you high.  

Real Cannabis Club – Organic

Cannabinoids can be naturally derived from the cannabis plant, or manufactured.  At RCC, we pride ourselves on our organic approach, so we derive our CBD naturally. 

Not only that, but we do so from a UK-grown strain of the cannabis plant which is naturally very low in THC – the “industrial hemp” strain.

This is just one part of the process which helps to ensure that our products meet the EU and UK regulations and guidance in respect of THC content (more on this to be discussed further below…).

The phrase ‘CBD oil’ has become synonymous with CBD; but CBD doesn’t have to be an oil at all. There are multiple different ways in which it can be consumed, generally, it is down to the preference of the individual.

Cannabis has been popularised in modern culture as something used by the “counter-culture”.

However, as our understanding of cannabis develops, this misconception is being challenged.

Cannabis is being seen in a much more positive light as a supplement and a complement to a healthy lifestyle.

Is CBD Legal?

The short answer is: yes. 

The full answer is a little less developed at this time.  As our understanding of cannabis and CBD develops, so too must the legal framework around it keep pace. 

Real Cannabis Club – Ethical

In this fast-moving environment, it is not always clear what the answers are, or where to find them, so we at RCC recognise that it is our responsibility to not only keep abreast of the developments, but to keep the members of our club informed as well.

To this end, the industry as a whole has been moving so quickly that it has been viewed as living in “dog years.”  The past 12 months have witnessed a massive step-change in how cannabis has come to be viewed. 

The medical benefits of cannabis have received the “green light” from the international community: during the last quarter of 2019, the first EU-wide marketing authorisation for a cannabis-derived medicinal product was granted by the European Medicines Agency, France continued gearing up for the implementation of its medical cannabis pilot programme, and an increasing number of countries started reimbursing patients for cannabis-based products. National courts (in the UK) have started showing lenience for home-growing cannabis for medical purposes.  While it remains illegal for recreational use in the UK, a recent change in the law allows doctors to prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products in limited circumstances. 

Cannabis & CBD are different

It is important to remember, however, that cannabis and CBD are not one and the same.  CBD, as mentioned above, is a derivative of cannabis, and is legal, provided it confirms to the law and regulation on THC content.  While the progress of the cannabis industry as a whole and the legal framework around it is certainly a positive development for CBD also, the CBD regulatory landscape, taken in isolation, is somewhat more of a grey area.  This is, of course, to be expected from a relatively “novel” product.  Here is what we know so far:

  • EU legislation on CBD dictates that it must be extracted from industrial hemp produced by EU approved seeds. It can then be extracted and placed into legal products for human consumption that fall under the category of ‘novel foods.’
  • A ‘novel food’ is defined as any food that had not been consumed prior to 15 May 1997. It must not pose a risk to public health, not be nutritionally deficient and must not be misleading to the consumer.
  • In the UK, CBD is classified as a ‘novel food’ which is legally allowed to be sold in the UK.
  • CBD has been declared fit for human consumption by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

So far, so good. 

Whilst the above creates a solid foundation to build on, the teething problems have however arisen in ensuring that the products that actually hit the market are of the requisite quality, and meet the proper legal and health standards.  Tests carried out to date have shown that many CBD products on the market have not contained as much CBD as they state on their packaging (in some cases, none at all), whilst others have been shown to have THC content above what the European Food Safety Authority prescribes.

The wheels are, however, in motion to help bring safety and consistency of quality to the CBD market. 

On 20 August 2019, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) announced the release of a new “Cannabinoid Industry Quality Charter” to help foster a legally compliant, socially responsible and innovative CBD industry in the UK. 

In December 2019, the head of the advice and support service of the National Pharmacy Association expressed the need for clear and authoritative guidance that would make it easier for manufacturers, health care professionals, retailers and consumers to make informed choices, keeping everyone on the right side of the law.

The newly created Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) welcomed this statement.  Further, the ‘Cannabis Products Directive’ or CPD is a proposed regulatory framework for cannabis products in the EU. It has been developed by the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) and pitched to the health authorities of the EU as a basis for new CBD regulation.  Despite its name, the CPD is not an official EU Directive or regulation. It is a concept by the CTA to presumably help bring about proportionate CBD regulation. 

Read: Endocannabinoid System – A Human Catalyst

The actual in-force legislation surrounding CBD is, however, scarce at best, and the law is certainly in need of revising. 

Nevertheless, the above initiatives are steps in the right direction.

Real Cannabis Club – Accountable

However, here at RCC, we consider ourselves trailblazers in the CBD market, and are constantly pushing to stay ahead of the curve.  We completely support the above motions, but we also believe that there is no place in the market for anyone that is happy to drag their heels or cut corners (until they are eventually told not to by a committee…that does not yet exist). 

That is why we take it upon ourselves to ensure that our product is safe and of high-quality – today.

Although no strict requirements apply for importing CBD into the UK, we prefer to keep close oversight on our crops and our production process by having all of our hemp grown, processed, and packaged in the UK.  This may be the more expensive option, but we feel it is the only way to ensure our product is of the quality we, and you, require. 

Finally, and most importantly, we test our products in an accredited laboratory to ensure each batch meets the (minimal-to-zero) THC levels imposed by law, and to ensure that when we say our product is e.g. 10% CBD, it really is.

We look forward to hearing and sharing further updates from the CBD world, and in the interim, we will keep on keeping our members well-stocked in terms of both products and knowledge!

Until next time.

Back to Blog