Is It Legal To Grow CBD Plants In The UK?
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As you may know, the CBD industry in the United Kingdom has been growing at exponential rates since its legalisation in late 2018. However, to this day, CBD and Hemp laws in the UK are still confusing as ever. It also doesn’t help that many people still mix up Hemp and Cannabis for the same thing.
Others, who may already know the distinction between the two, might just think that because Hemp is non-psychoactive, that it is totally ok to grow a few plants for personal use, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case, and it is actually a little trickier than that.
Anxious About UK CBD Law? Don’t Miss: UK CBD LAW – AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS
Recently, many people have been questioning whether or not it is legal to grow their own hemp plants for CBD, which plants are legal to grow and whether or not you can make your own CBD at home. For that reason, we have compiled here a few of these questions, and hope to clear up any questions and doubts for you.
- What are CBD/Hemp Plants?
- Cannabis v.s. Hemp Plants
- Is it Legal to Grow Cannabis and Hemp Plants?
- Legality of Growing Cannabis and Hemp Plants at Home
- Legality of Growing Cannabis and Hemp Plants as a Company
What are CBD Plants?
First of all, it is important to know that CBD comes from both hemp and marijuana plants. That’s because they are the same plants. Varieties of Cannabis plants containing traceable amounts of THC (around less than 0.2%) are known as Hemp plants. While marijuana refers to varieties of Cannabis plants containing higher amounts of THC.
Cannabis (Marijuana) v.s. Hemp Plants
Apart from psychoactive effects, there are also a few other differences between hemp and marijuana plants. Even though they are both from the Cannabis family, they look and grow different. Hemp leaves are thinner and are concentrated near the top of the stalk. The plant itself is very tall and slender, so thanks to this, it can be grown much closer together.
Hemp is very hardy and can be grown pretty much anywhere, while marijuana requires a carefully controlled environment or a hot and humid climate. Hemp is grown and used for multiple purposes: consumption, textiles and even building materials. While marijuana is grown for medicinal and can not be used for textiles since it’s fibre has a low tensile strength.
If the hemp is meant to be used for consumption, cultivators must be careful about where they grow their hemp as it can absorb any of the toxins in the soil. However, this isn’t always a negative, as it improves soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and isolating carbon. Making it extremely industrious and sustainable.
As mentioned before, the main and biggest difference between the two is the THC content. In the UK, there are still numerous laws against the personal use, growth, or distribution of the cannabis plant in the United Kingdom.
Is it Legal to Grow Cannabis and Hemp Plants?
When it comes to this particular subject, there are two different categories which separate the answer to this question. The first is whether or not it is legal to grow cannabis and hemp plants at home, and the other is whether or not it is legal for companies to grow cannabis and hemp plants.
Legality of Growing Cannabis and Hemp Plants at Home
Growing your own plants at home to make your own CBD sounds quite appealing to many people in the UK. But there are a few laws regarding this issue that prevent the average person from simply growing their own plants for CBD.
For one thing, growing cannabis (marijuana) plants is still forbidden by the law, as you read above, due to its high content of THC, which remains an illegal substance in the United Kingdom, as per the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971.
Therefore, growing your own cannabis plants in the UK is definitely a no-go in the eyes of the law. In fact, just being caught with cannabis in the UK is penalised by up to 5 years in prison, by an unlimited fine or even both.
Additionally, being caught producing and distributing marijuana (or any other Class-B drugs) in any way is penalised with up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. For this reason, we very strongly advise against even considering this as an option.
You may be surprised to find that Hemp is equally as illegal in the UK as cannabis is and can only be grown for commercial purposes with a license. Meaning, you cannot grow it for personal use at all. Again, we strongly advise against doing this. It may seem that just because there is a low THC content, then it should be fine, but is it really worth all the legal repercussions?
Our suggestion? Just go online, do some research about CBD brands and the different ways you can take CBD, and buy CBD products from your favourite shop in a matter of seconds. Not only will you find much better quality CBD, but you will be much safer.
Legality of Growing Cannabis and Hemp Plants as a Company
Naturally, CBD must be sourced from either Cannabis sativa plants or Cannabis sativa L. plants. Therefore, in order to produce and distribute products which contain CBD, certain standards need to be meet and you need a license to grow Hemp and Cannabis.
A number of different documents and presentations must be presented in order to even be considered as a potential receiver of an industrial hemp license. Then they must go through a Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) check. You also have to pay a fee with your application. New licences usually cost £580, with licence renewals costing £326.
Then, when the license is granted, there are still a number of rules and regulations in which these companies must follow in order to ensure the public’s safety and well-being. For example, the plant can’t be grown in the vicinity of schools or areas of public access and you also have to tell your local police where you’ll be growing hemp.
However, even after following all of the strict rule and regulations for growing industrial hemp, it is still extremely hard to get a license that allows cultivators to harvest hemp flowers for CBD. At the moment, there is only one farm in Jersey in all of the UK that is able to harvest hemp flowers for Cannabidiol. Meaning, most of the CBD products bought has been made with European hemp cultivated outside of the UK.
Some of the Home Office rules for growing industrial hemp include:
- The location, hectarage and contact information must be provided.
- Cultivators must undergo a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) Check.
- Apply for and pay the licensing fee of £580, then £326 for the renewal.
- The seed type used must be confirmed with the home office and be approved by the EU.
- Crops must not be grown in “sensitive” locations (i.e. near schools or areas of public access).
You can find out more about growing industrial hemp in the UK on the Government hemp licensing page.
Growing cannabis (marijuana) is a much more difficult process since marijuana is only allowed to be grown with a special license and for medicinal purposes. Finding information on how to do so is quite difficult as the guidance for the Cannabis-based medicines expert panel with the Home Office was withdrawn on the 26 July 2019.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) have put many rules down for companies to follow in order for there to be a stronghold on both quality control and on substance distribution.
Processed hemp products can be legally traded and used in the UK as a food supplement without a license if their THC content is 0.2%. Achieving this percentage can be quite trying for the normal person, but CBD brands have all the necessary equipment for this process and can do it all in a short time. Not to mention, they have the technology needed for testing and making sure all their CBD contains less than the legal 0.2% limit of THC.
Is it actually legal to grow CBD plants in the UK? What are the laws in place regarding CBD cultivation? Find out the answers here!
Is Growing High-CBD Cannabis Different from Growing High-THC Cannabis?
If you’re thinking about growing hemp or high-CBD strains of cannabis in order to harvest the CBD, you may be wondering how similar the process is to growing cannabis for THC.
The process is remarkably similar, but not exactly the same.
On a biological and legal level, the only difference between hemp and high-CBD or high-THC cannabis plants is… the amount of THC and CBD. These are all simply different strains of the cannabis plant.
This plant in the front is a high-CBD strain of cannabis, with low levels of THC. Those plants in the back? They are all high-THC strains of cannabis. It’s hard to tell the difference, isn’t it? That’s because the only difference is the THC percentage.
Closeup of a bud on that same Critical+ CBD Auto plant
Hemp vs Cannabis vs Medical Marijuana: Like Different Strains of Roses
I look at my balcony and I have two rose bushes; a “Floribunda” and a “Fragrant Cloud”. They’re both strains of roses, but they grow differently and their flowers look and smell markedly different. The Floribunda grows lots of tiny orange roses that don’t have much of a smell, while the Fragrant Cloud makes just a few big hefty red roses that envelop the air with flowery perfume.
Each of these roses has their own “personality” but the actual plant care is basically the same. They get the same types of nutrients, watering, pruning, etc. This is basically what you’re looking at when it comes to different strains of cannabis, hemp or marijuana.
What is hemp and why is it legal?
Hemp was recently legalized on a federal level in the United States. But how is hemp different from cannabis?
There is exactly ONE difference between regular cannabis or marijuana and hemp….
The THC content. That’s it. You can have two strains of cannabis that look exactly the same, but if one contains less than 0.3% THC, it is considered hemp, while if it has even 0.4% THC by dry weight (in any part of the plant) it’s no longer considered to be hemp.
Learn more on the USDA government website (Excerpt: “The term ‘industrial hemp’ includes the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part or derivative of the plant including seeds, whether or not it is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed). The tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) concentration is the distinguishing factor between industrial hemp and marijuana. Industrial hemp cannot have a THC concentration more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”)
I know it seems like it should be more complicated than that, but that’s it. “Industrial hemp” is basically any strain of cannabis with extremely low levels of THC. The strains of hemp used by farmers typically have also been bred for a specific purpose such as providing fiber.
These plants are a type of industrial hemp. This cannabis strain has been selected to produce negligible amounts of THC and strong fibrous stalks.
How to Grow Cannabis or Hemp for CBD
If you want to grow your own CBD, the most important thing is to start with a high-CBD strain. You can’t force a cannabis plant to produce more CBD than its genes allow, and many if not most popular cannabis strains contain high levels of THC and less than 1% CBD. Genetics is key!
- Choose a high-CBD strain of cannabis.Note: if a plant contains more than 0.3% THC it is not considered hemp. If you’re concerned with THC percentages and making sure you’re growing hemp, it’s extremely important to get a strain from a trusted breeder.
- Grow mostly like typical cannabis. Here’s a 10-step guide to getting set up and growing your own cannabis. Here are tips for increasing CBD when growing cannabis.
- Pay attention to harvest time. For the highest levels of CBD, you should harvest plants at the beginning of the harvest window. Both CBD and THC start to degrade as buds continue to mature. If you harvest buds late there are a few differences. Buds harvested on the later side usually have slightly lower levels of CBD and THC, but higher levels of CBN. As a result, buds harvested later tend to be less psychoactive (due to less THC), and are more likely to make you feel sleepy or have a strong body effect (due to more CBN). Because of the various ways cannabinoids interact with each other, it’s important to experiment with harvesting early vs later to see what works best for you. Just because harvesting early gives the absolute highest level of CBD doesn’t mean the resulting buds will work the best for you. You should experiment with different harvest times because every body reacts differently!
- Keep the leaves. CBD is contained not just in the flowers/buds of the plant, but also in the leaves. The CBD concentration is relatively low so the leaves are not suitable to smoke, but the CBD can be extracted by turning the leaves into things like butter, tincture or oil. Note: CBD extractions made from leaves are typically less concentrated/strong than extractions made from the actual flowers/buds.
- Extracting CBD. Unlike the leaves, the CBD-rich buds/flowers are often smoked or vaped. However, many people prefer to consume them in some type of edible form. This has a slower onset but the effects tend to be longer-lasting. For the most part, any method that extracts THC will also extract CBD, as they’re both cannabinoids that easily attach to oil. The problem is you can’t easily separate THC and CBD from each other. So if the starting plant matter has no THC, then a simple extraction into butter/oil/tincture will extract the CBD. But if you’re trying to get just CBD from plant matter that has both THC and CBD, well you need equipment for that! This is why it’s so important you start with the right strain. If the plant produces only the cannabinoids you want, you don’t have to do anything but extract and enjoy them.
We’re currently testing various methods to further increase CBD levels when growing small hemp plants indoors. We’re also collaborating with experts to produce the best butters, oils, tinctures and CBD-rich candies so you have access to professional quality CBD sources at home. Stay tuned!
Is Growing High-CBD Cannabis Different from Growing High-THC Cannabis? If you’re thinking about growing hemp or high-CBD strains of cannabis in order to harvest the CBD, you may be wondering how