Is CBD Legal?

A Guide to Cannabidiol's WorldWide Legal Status

Medical cannabis has been used throughout the world for hundreds of years. But in the 19th and 20th centuries, marijuana came to be recognized as a drug and was made illegal in most countries. Today, things are starting to change again with the world of medical cannabis. Some countries have legalized all forms of cannabis, while others only recognize CBD as legal. In many more, things are murky. So is CBD legal? Let’s have a look at legislation in different parts of the world.

Whats is CBD?

CBD is a cannabinoid compound extracted from the cannabis plant. Unlike the other, better-known cannabinoid THC, CBD doesn’t cause a “high.” Instead, it has a wide range of benefits on both mind and body. For example, it can prevent epileptic seizures, treat chronic pain, and alleviate anxiety and depression.

CBD is used as a medicinal ingredient because of its effect on the endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for regulating pain, appetite, mood and inflammation in the human body. Although we don’t fully understand how CBD is able to impact that system, its therapeutic properties are now undeniable. However, research on the topic is relatively recent, and legalization has not always followed suit. 

A recent wave of CBD legalization

CBD was first discovered in 1942 and recognized as different from THC. From then on, research on the effects and benefits of the compound really began. In the 1970s, clinical research on CBD started to appear, and the compound was legally recognized for its therapeutic effects in a handful of countries. In the late 1990s, medical marijuana became legal in the first few U.S states. From then on, the legalization of CBD spread throughout the world. Nowadays, CBD is legal in most of the Western world, though regulations vary from country to country.

As of 2017, the World Health Organization even recognizes CBD as a substance with many health benefits and a low potential for abuse. 

In 2018, CBD was also legalized by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). As a result, athletes can now take CBD (to help with recovery or fight inflammation, for example) without fear of failing a test. 

The legal status of CBD around the world

Is CBD legal where you live? Let’s have a look at the current state of affairs for CBD in the English-speaking world. 

is cbd legal in usa
Is CBD legal


Is CBD legal in the United Kingdom?

In the U.K, CBD is a particularly fast-growing trend. Products are available for purchase in health shops, organic stores and online. But is CBD legal in the United Kingdom? 

CBD is legal in the U.K.  as long as it doesn’t contain any THC. This is a bit of a difficult point, as CBD generally contains at least traces of THC. That means the product you’re buying in the United Kingdom may actually be illegal if tests manage to prove the presence of THC.

Although these harsh regulations make it harder for growers to get their products approved, CBD is easy to come by in the U.K, and it is considered legal. 

North America

Is CBD legal in the United States?

In the United States, the situation is a bit complicated. This is because different states allow and disallow certain types of cannabis.

To understand the legal situation of the U.S, we need to understand the distinction between hemp and marijuana. Hemp refers to a type of cannabis plant that contains very little THC, under 0.3%. It’s also the plant from which CBD is extracted.

Marijuana, on the other hand, has a high THC content and often contains very little CBD.

Buying and selling marijuana is legal in a couple of states, but it’s still far from being the majority of the country. 

In all American states, however, growing, selling and consuming hemp is legal. Of course, products must still follow federal regulations. And that’s where things get a bit more complicated…

For starters, the FDA (food and drug administration) has yet to approve CBD. So for the moment, it can’t be sold as a medicinal product, or be advertised for its health benefits. 

What’s more, there’s been an increasing number of products accused of not following regulations. They might either have lied about their CBD or THC content, or have been produced using illegal methods.

All of this is creating a lot of uncertainty around the status of CBD in the United States. So, is CBD legal there? Yes, but only in some circumstances. 

Is CBD legal in Canada?

In Canada, the situation is completely different from the United States. There, recreational cannabis is legalized throughout the country. In other words, smoking marijuana is no longer a legal offense. But is CBD legal as well?

The short answer to this question is yes, but only with the proper regulation. In Canada, CBD products must be produced by licensed producers approved by Health Canada.

Products that are manufactured by unlicensed producers are still being sold throughout the country. However, they are technically illegal and have not been checked and approved for quality.


Is CBD legal in Australia?

In 2018, Australia legalized hemp and hemp products throughout the country. However, legalization also came with some quite harsh conditions. So, is CBD legal in Australia?

In many ways, the Australian legalization of CBD is similar to that of the U.K: CBD products are legal so long as they contain no traces of THC. Australia takes that point quite far, making CBD products illegal if they contain over 0.005% THC. 

In a few cases, farmers have had to destroy their entire crops for being slightly over that limit. However, these harsh legal regulations have not stopped Australia from developing a solid market for CBD products.

It is currently legal to purchase CBD products in Australia for anyone over the age of 18. 

Is CBD legal in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, CBD has been available as a prescription medicine since the early 1980s. But is it easy to purchase, and is CBD legal in the country?

You will only be able to buy CBD products with a doctor’s prescription. CBD can be prescribed for any number of conditions, including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and arthritis. Without a prescription, it is illegal to import and use CBD products. 

The situation might change relatively son, however, as an upcoming September 2020 referendum promises a new vote to legalize recreational as well as medical cannabis. 

Areas that are still waiting for legalization

In this guide, we’ve chosen to cover the legal status of CBD in the main areas of the English-speaking world. Many other countries are still awaiting the legalization of CBD. In some, even medical use is illegal. Here are a few of the countries where CBD is completely illegal:

  • Albania
  • Belarus
  • Bolivia
  • Russia
  • Serbia

Areas that are still waiting for legalization


The legalization of medical cannabis and CBD still has a long way to go. But in most Western countries, it is at least available to those with serious medical issues. In the next couple of years, we can expect to see CBD legalized and more readily accessible throughout the world. Until then, thousands of people will have to keep on battling to gain access to the medicine they need. 

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