CBD legality in Europe
In this article we’d like to say a few things about CBD Legality in Europe, especially for businesses. We will explain the legal definition of hemp, the European regulations, what strains are classified as hemp, what is illegal cannabis. Regulations relating to food production, pharmaceutical products, organic farming and laboratory testing.
What is the legal definition of Hemp
CBD is extracted from hemp, a plant that’s part of the Cannabis Sativa family.
In Europe, legal hemp refers to a number of specific strains. Other words used for legal hemp are: industrial hemp or agricultural hemp. In this video I’ll be using the word ‘hemp’ to refer to these legal varieties.
When cannabis was made illegal in the first half of the 20th century, a number of exemptions were made to save certain industries that couldn’t survive without it. These industries relied on the seeds and fibre to make their products. To give you an example from the car industry: a typical Mercedes C-class contains around 20kg of hemp fibre.
Hemp contains less than 0.2% THC
In Europe, the European Commission has qualified certain strains of Cannabis Sativa as hemp.
These cultivars contain no more than 0.2% THC. If the THC levels in the plant are higher, they no longer qualify as hemp, but as non-exempted Cannabis. Despite increasing discussion about legalisation, penalties for illegal, commercial production can include high fines and jail sentences.
Although Switzerland allows for THC to be present until up to 1%, it’s useful to keep in mind this country is not a part of the EU, and any product that doesn’t comply with European law will be illegal inside the European Union.
64 Varieties of legal cannabis sativa in Europe
At the time of making this video, the European Commission recognises a total of 64 varieties of cannabis sativa as hemp. These can be found on the website of the European Commission
A few well know varieties for CBD production are Carmagnola, Finola, Futura 75 and Uso-31.
What is classified as Illegal Cannabis
Remember: it’s the origin of the seeds that makes the plant qualify as hemp. If you are considering using new genetics that have lower than 0,2% THC but are not qualified as hemp by the European Commission, they are still regarded as illegal cannabis.
The strains on this list can be cultivated throughout the European Union, although member states can create additional regulation within their borders.
If you are considering cultivating hemp, it’s important to look if there are additional regulations in your country, such as required permits.
The final use of the crop is legally significant
The intended final use of the crop can also be legally significant, and cultivation for the production of CBD oil is generally more regulated than growing hemp for fibre.
Cannabis Sativa that does not qualify as hemp is illegal to grow throughout the EU unless under a special licence. These are tightly regulated and only a handful of companies have so far managed to acquire them. One of the most well known is holland’s Bedrocan.
Regulations for CBD as a food supplement
If you are marketing CBD products as a food supplement, keep in mind you need to comply with the European Food Safety Authority. They also regulate health claims pertaining to dietary supplements.
For producing food supplements, the safety protocol your company should adhere to is called FSSC22000. This is a version of ISO22000 that is recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points
This protocol includes HACCP: Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points.
This protocol is built on 7 steps: Conduct a hazard analysis, Identify critical control points, and establish: critical limits for each critical control point, critical control point monitoring requirements, corrective actions, procedures for ensuring the HACCP system is working as intended and record keeping procedures.
Good Manufacturing Practice
GMP, meaning Good Manufacturing Practice, is a system for making sure products are consistently produced and controlled. The European Union has harmonized their legislation with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. GMP certification is necessary for trading with pharmaceutical companies.
Organic Certification of Hemp
The European Union has also specified the practices required for organic farming. Products that comply with these practices can be recognised by the ‘EU certified organic’ logo.
Laboratory Testing of CBD Products
Because there is no harmonized legislation with regards to testing CBD products for contamination, we recommend using organic material. Hemp is a bioaccumulator, meaning it pulls heavy metals out of the earth and stores them in the above ground parts. Without proper testing, possible contaminations could be concentrated in the final product.
CBD Legality in Europe: The CBD market is not a Grey Zone
When navigating CBD Legality in Europe the market is often referred to as a grey zone, this is a misconception. There are clear rules, although it’s not always easy to find them as they are governed by a multitude of european agencies.
If you are investing any significant amount of capital into the production or distribution of CBD products, please check carefully what legislation applies to your situation.
If you need help, feel free to contact us.
Legal varieties of Hemp in Europe
GMP – Essential medicines and health products (world health organisation)
Organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91
Legality of CBD in Europe Country by Country
Industrial hemp must not contain more than 0.3% THC after flowering. Hemp products can be purchased legally, except for psychoactive cannabis containing THC. Consumption of cannabis is technically non-punishable, but possession, purchases and passing it on to others are illegal.
CBD (Cannabidiol) has no psychoactive properties and no potential for abuse. Hence, it is not categorized as an addictive substance and is not regulated via the Narcotic Substance Act
Is CBD Legal in Austria?
There is no restriction on CBD in Austria, which means CBD Oil is legal, as long as it doesn’t contain any psychoactive cannabis. Due to Austrian rules and regulations, products with a THC content higher than 0.3% are considered illegal
Read more about: the legality of CBD, Hemp and Medical Cannabis in Austria
There is much confusion about the legality of CBD in Belgium. Many online sellers will say it’s perfectly legal and that CBD oil and other CBD products are legal in Belgium and you can order them online.
It’s actually not so simple.
Products that contain THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis, are not legal in Belgium.
For the time being CBD oil can not be sold in Belgium. The Belgian drug law of 1921 is clear: it is forbidden to offer or purchase extracts from the cannabis plant, even if these extracts contain only CBD.
Read More about: the legality of CBD, Hemp and Medical Cannabis in Belgium
According to our research, CBD products sourced from hemp with very low THC content (likely under 0.2%) are legal in Bulgaria. We haven’t found direct government documents, however, so we recommend checking with local authorities
15 thoughts on “CBD Legality in Europe – what are the rules for Businesses?”
Hello! Вid not find information about Spain. What is the situation with trade in Spain? thanks in advance
we are follwing the situation in spain with regards especially to the implementation of the Novel Food Guidelines for CBD products.
We hope to publish an article before the end of the quarter.
Any information on CBD legality and rules in Greece and Cypros?
Many thanks in advance.
My colleague is working on an article about the legal aspects of CBD in Greece and Cyprus also,
however we have paused our publications with regards to the new Novel Food Guidelines listing.
Our estimate is that a safe way forward might be through cosmetic products.
In the meantime we are working with our partners on products that are in line with the Novel Food Guidelines.
Let us know if you have specific issues down the line.
My question is: When extracting Hemp (0.2% THC or less) as soon as you start extracting you get paste with much higher levels of THC (around 2% in winterized oil) , furthermore if you continue to seperation that you must do before you can crystallize levels of THC are even higher. Of course in crystal CBD is almost zero (non detectable) THC but what does the law say about all LAB processes???
Of course all left overs (with THC) are to be destroyed/utilized but I heard in Poland law enforcement closed few extraction Labs and charged owners with possessing and manufacturing illegal substance!!! – based on tests they did after confiscating dewaxed oil from their Lab. Owners of these Labs never let any product out of their door with THC over 0.2% but what was on the Lab table is a different story!!! Any suggestions?
you ask a very good question, although very broad.
We off course recognize the issue you raise.
Answering this would require a full post for every member state, as rules vary.
If you could be more specific, we’ll try to answer here,
in the mean time we will add this as a suggestion for to-be-written articles.
Thanks a lot for reaching out,
The rules for this differ between member states.
Any information on CBD legalities in Ireland? Thanks
do you have a list of the standards needed per EU country, do each country needs GMP and heavy metals checked for medical cannabis?
the medical cannabis market is restricted to companies that hold a license to handle narcotics, so pharmaceutical companies.
In our opinion, all hemp products should always be tested for heavy metals, because of the bio-accumulation effect.
Do you know the laws to distribute CBD products in Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic?
Do you have any insights on selling CBD products in Switzerland? I didn’t see anything mentioned on the site
Switzerland is not in the EU and they follow their own rules. They have a different system for qualifying what is hemp and not. They have more options to cultivate.
But dont forget: most of the ‘swiss hemp’ is simply non-exempted cannabis inside the EU.
What is legislation for exporting hemp flower from Serbia to EU,and if sent to further procesing in EU because CBD oil is restricted in Serbia what documentation is required about origin of hemp flowers,and when processing is finished what documentation is requires by wholesellers so i can sell to them my final product(cbd oil)?
We don’t have experience importing biomass from Serbia,
we recommend you contact the EIHA, they might be able to advise,