25 Jun 2021



Several bulk CBD imports have been refused clearance into the UK following concerns that they could contain illegal levels of THC.

The Home Office has acted in response to a request made in January by Kit Malthouse, the Police and Justice Minister seeking further clarification on the levels of THC present in legal UK CBD products. 

When news of this development was made public, the CBD industry did not anticipate it to have such an immediate impact. However, reports soon emerged that the UK Border Force had already detained and destroyed some CBD imports. 

These are imports that held a certificate of authorisation demonstrating THC levels. Previously this would have satisfied all regulation and allowed the CBD isolate clear passage to its destination.

In response to THC levels in CBD products being under review, the Home Office has now dictated that all businesses importing bulk CBD distillates or isolates must secure a "schedule one Controlled-drug licence".

This licence authorises the holder to supply and possess controlled drugs in line with strict conditions on import, export, production, supply, possession, prescribing and record keeping. Under schedule 1, CBD imports are now in the same category as LSD, some amphetamines and raw opiums.

Applying for a schedule 1 licence comes with its issues. Securing one can take up to 8 weeks, possibly longer given the COVID pandemic.

The Home Office states that they are merely looking to encourage developing a "safe and legitimate CBD consumer industry".  However, many established CBD businesses have reacted with frustration and concern. This decision appears to be telling all legal CBD businesses that their operations have become unlawful, pretty much overnight.

Until now, the Home Office has allowed THC to be present to a total trace amount of 1mg per pack of CBD product. However, this legislation has never been foolproof. The same rule applied whether the product in question was 1litre or 10ml in size.

Following the clarification request made in January, this regulation is now under consideration by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The new proposed range of trace levels is anything between 0.01% THC and 0.0001%.

A decision from the ACMD is not expected for several months yet. However, when it is confirmed, it will, without doubt, impact the CBD market positively or negatively.

If the ACMD decide that the THC limit for CBD products should change to 0.01%, then THC levels in CBD products overall would increase. For example, 0.01% in a 10 ml bottle of CBD product would equate to the 1mg allowed currently. However, in a 30ml bottle, 0.01% would equate to 3mg, so levels here would rise.

At the other end of the scale, a limit set at 0.0001% THC would sound the death knell for many businesses and possibly the industry as a whole. To remove all traces of THC to the level of one-hundredth of a milligram would be practically impossible!

On the whole, although the CBD industry supports the idea of a percentage marker for THC as a positive development; the general consensus is that the ACMD must decide with some common sense.

THC trace levels at their current legal rate of 1mg per pack offer no psychoactive effects as it is. Reducing them further, therefore seems pointless, and will not be a viable option for most businesses.

With 6 million regular users, the UK CBD industry is worth an estimated £300m. Imports of CBD alone are valued at several hundred thousand pounds a month. The loss of this lucrative market through ill-thought-out regulations and red tape would be detrimental to the UK industry and jobs. No-one wants to see this given the current battering that the economy is taking, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.

CBD Industry representatives are said to have secured emergency talks with the Home Office. Hopes are high that together an informed, sensible and straightforward decision can be made to allow the CBD sector to continue to flourish.