Is CBD Legal In Europe?
WRITTEN BY CAROLINE CASSOL AND DR. SWATHI
CBD is now legal in many European countries. The legislation varies between each individual country, but overall there is an increase in access to CBD products in Europe. One reason for the increase may be that people are learning more about CBD's versatility in health and overall well-being. The biggest challenge in legalizing CBD products is debunking the myths that overshadow its medicinal benefits. To the consumer who cannot differentiate between scientific cannabinoid terms, therapeutic CBD products can be seen as equivalent to recreational marijuana. This makes it more important than ever to clarify these terms and distinguish between the different cannabinoids to better understand the role of CBD in integrative health (4). The cannabis stigma put a hold on legalization for a while as people were still hesitant to try CBD and incorporate it into their healthcare regimen. With this reluctance and lack of awareness it is necessary to educate the general public on what CBD can do for the general well-being as well as easing symptoms in various disease states.
Through educating consumers around the world about cannabis, there are a growing number of products available to the public that are used more frequently in everyday life. But, what does this mean for legislation in specific countries? Which countries have banned CBD and which have legalized its use? Let's start with those countries that have legalized CBD. Each nation that has legalized CBD has unique laws that differ by the exact percentage of THC permitted within a product and if a prescription is required. The general rule for European countries is to permit products that are THC free or have under 0.2% THC content to be sold to customers without a prescription, however this isn’t the case for all countries (3). Many CBD products still contain trace amounts of THC which is not enough to intoxicate users. Even these trace amounts contribute to the percent THC content which is a way that legislation regulates CBD products on the market. This allows for a clear-cut and measurable way to regulate CBD products which can differ slightly between European countries.
Where is CBD legal in Europe?
For simplicity, countries are listed alphabetically.
- Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine have legalized CBD products that contain a THC content of less than 0.2%.
- Of note, if a CBD product is manufactured in Spain it must only be used externally which would be mainly skincare and cosmetics.
- There is no explicit limit listed in Ukraine for percent THC so it can be assumed products are within that standard limit of 0.2% (3).
- Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland specified slightly different limits on the THC content above and below the standard 0.2%. Products in Luxembourg are permitted with a THC content of below 0.3%, Switzerland below 1% and The Netherlands below 0.05% (2).
- Other countries such as France, Sweden and the United Kingdom only allow CBD isolate products. The UK requires a prescription for a doctor in order to acquire a product that contains THC.
- Italy, Malta, North Macedonia, Norway and Portugal have legalized CBD for medical use only with a prescription from a doctor (3).
Where is CBD illegal in Europe?
For simplicity, countries are listed alphabetically.
- Albania, Andorra and Armenia have all banned cannabis so if caught with any CBD products the consequence would be either a large fine or jail time.
- Belarus, although there is some discussion on legalizing cannabis, remains to hold its ban (3).
- Bosnia and Herzegovina have a medicinal and recreational ban on CBD (2).
- The Republic of Georgia only permits personal use of cannabis, however if cultivated or sold it is illegal.
- Lithuania only permits hemp plants with less than 0.2% THC to be cultivated but only to be used for seed oils, flours and protein.
- Moldova and Monaco ban CBD for both recreational and medical use.
- Montenegro only allows hemp to be grown similarly to Lithuania, only for seed cultivation (3).
- Cannabis is illegal in Russia and has had the most people incarcerated for drug possession per capita, most of which these offenses were cannabis related incidents (1).
- In Slovakia, CBD is classified as a type 2 drug under a psychotropic substances act so it remains illegal (2).
Are there legal CBD gray areas in European countries?
For some countries there are loopholes in the legislation when one could get away with purchasing CBD products under specific circumstances, these nations are considered in the legal gray area.
- In Belgium, forms of CBD such as edibles and oils are banned, but they can be prescribed by a doctor (2).
- In the Czech Republic it is legal to buy THC free products which would not classify the product a controlled substance.
- Estonia allows for hemp to be used medically with a prescription, but it cannot be marketed as food.
- Finland classifies CBD as a prescription medication with many loopholes in its legislation for consumers to purchase.
- Hungary allows hemp products under 0.2% THC, however the manufacturers must report each product to the National Institute for Pharmacy and Nutrition.
- In Iceland, isolates are legal but CBD is still very restricted.
- In Ireland isolates cannot be extracted using solvents and any trace of THC is prohibited.
- In Latvia if you purchase CBD as a souvenir it's not illegal, but otherwise it is.
- As for Serbia, a cannabis ban was proposed, but is yet to be enacted (3).
Even in countries that have legalized cannabis, the circumstances vary across borders. Each nation has legislative nuances to their CBD regulations so it is important to be aware if traveling to a different country that you know their specific laws.
Note: This article was written in June 2022. With the ever-changing landscape of cannabis legislation and regulations worldwide, some of this information is subject to change since the publishing of this article.
- Abela R. Is Cannabis Oil Illegal In Russia? Herb. https://herb.co/learn/is-cannabis-oil-illegal-in-russia/. Published April 28, 2022. Accessed June 28, 2022.
- Alphagreen. CBD in Europe: Legal status of CBD country by country. Legal Reader. https://www.legalreader.com/cbd-in-europe-legal-status-of-cbd-country-by-country/. Published March 12, 2021. Accessed June 26, 2022.
- DailyCBD. Guide to buying CBD products in Europe-Updated for 2022 . Daily CBD. https://dailycbd.com/en/europe/. Published April 13, 2022. Accessed June 28, 2022.
- SW Londoner. Is CBD legal in the UK and Europe? South West Londoner. https://www.swlondoner.co.uk/life/22112021-is-cbd-legal-in-the-uk-and-europe. Published November 22, 2021. Accessed June 28, 2022.
This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Caroline Cassol. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy in Storrs, Connecticut.