CBD Oil in Europe: What is the Legal Situation?

CBD Oil in Europe: What is the Legal Situation?

Discovered in 1940, cannabidiol is one of 113 identified cannabinoids (a class of chemical receptors) found in cannabis plants. One of the several ways of taking CBD is consuming CBD oil. Cannabidiol oil or CBD oil contains only CBD as the active ingredient. Over the years, CBD oil has earned a bad rap. Many people use it for getting high; however, this is just one side of the story.

Thanks to these benefits, the attitude of governments around the world towards CBD oil is changing.

Many countries recognise the medical potential of CBD oil and have relaxed the legal restrictions surrounding the cultivation, classification, sales, and distribution of cannabis and derived products

Industrial hemp vs. cannabis: The difference

Before we take a look at the legal status of hemp and cannabis and derived products, it is important to understand the difference between hemp and cannabis and hemp-derived products, CBD-based products, and cannabis-derived products.

Industrial hemp and cannabis explained

Both industrial hemp and cannabis come from the same plant, Cannabis Sativa that is native to Central and upper South Asia. While industrial hemp is used for commercial purposes such as manufacturing paper, body care products, and textiles, the term cannabis refers to the recreational, spiritual, and medicinal use involving the smoking of cannabis flowers. Industrial hemp is also used for extracting cannabinoids.

Industrial hemp has a very low concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinol (0.3 per cent-1.5 per cent), the chemical that makes the user high. Cannabis, on the other hand, contain up to 10% THC. Some modern strains may contain up to 30% THC.

While the average height of THC-producing marijuana plants is five feet, average industrial hemp can grow up to 15 feet.

What are CBD-based and hemp-based products?

As the name suggests, CBD-based products contain different concentrations of CBD. Found in extractions from the hemp plant, CBD or cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive compound, meaning it does not make the user high. Sold in various forms, including gels, supplements, and extracts, CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Though CBD is usually extracted from hemp strains, other subspecies of Cannabis Sativa too can be used for this purpose. To maintain THC levels below the permissible limits, many manufacturers remove all compounds, except CBD. The process is usually used by businesses catering to markets where the permissible THC concentration is very low.

Hemp-based products are made from hemp. These products do not contain CBD. Hemp has traditionally had a bad rep and was earlier considered to be a part of the group of substances with a high THC concentration, which is a shame given the many benefits of the plant.

Hemp farming is 100% sustainable.

Thankfully, people’s perception of hemp has changed for the better during the past few years. Today, researchers consider hemp a miracle plant. Over the years, various studies have highlighted the benefits of hemp. Hemp farming is 100% sustainable. Hemp can be grown in rotation with other crops. Additionally, hemp plants do not need chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides to survive and thrive.

Thanks to the reintroduction of hemp in society, industries that manufacture hemp-based products such as biodegradable plastics, eco-friendly (recyclable) paper, textiles, and clothing are thriving once again.

Cannabis-derived products are made from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Cannabis-based products usually have a higher concentration of THC. Many health experts around the world swear by the effectiveness of cannabis-based products in treating several health issues. While some countries in the world have already legalized the recreational and medicinal use of these products, others are in the process of relaxing laws regarding their use.

The legal status of CBD in Europe & Around the world

Countries that have legalized the recreational and medicinal use of cannabis are Spain, Uruguay, Canada, and Georgia. You may find it hard to believe, but cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands. Though possession is illegal, select coffee shops around the country are authorized to sell the substance.

Thirty-three states in the U.S. and Columbia have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis.

Hemp products are legal in all 50 states. European Union criminalizes the sale and use of products that have a THC concentration of more than 0.2%.

Some countries that have legalized the use of both CBD oil and hemp are Argentina, Argentina

Belize, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Columbia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Paraguay, Italy, Latvia, Luxemburg, Peru, Uruguay, Canada, Slovenia, Romania, Sweden, and Spain.

The legal status of hemp-based CBD oil in major Latin-American countries

Over the years, several Latin-American countries have relaxed their laws related to the usage and sale of materials containing cannabinoids. In 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of four plaintiffs who were seeking permission to legally grow and smoke marijuana.

After the landmark decision was passed, Mexico City mayor, Miguel Angel Mancera, introduced a bill that decriminalized the import of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The very next year, Mexico’s regulatory authority COFEPRIS allowed two girls suffering from severe epilepsy to import hemp oil.

Though Brazil has long been an advocate of cannabis legalization, the Latin American country, as of now, has legalized the medicinal use of cannabis. Brazillian citizens with Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy and those experiencing chronic pain due to a medical condition (for example, migraine) are allowed to import hemp-based CBD oils.

How are Hemp seed oil and CBD oil classified by the EU?

Hemp seed oil does not contain CBD. Because it has been available in EU markets for quite some time now, the hemp seed oil is classified as food.

CBD oil, on the other hand, was not available in most markets until 1997. Though the EU does not classify CBD oil as food, CBD-based products are regarded as a novel food in many countries. Countries that have legalized the medicinal use of CBD-based products allow their citizens to legally buy only products that are classified as prescription medications. People buying these products will have to provide a medical prescription.  

Cannabis-derived CBD extracts vs. Hemp-derived CBD extracts

Because cannabis-derived extracts have a high concentration of THC, they are banned in most countries.  Hemp-derived CBD extracts, on the other hand, contain a small amount of THC. Because Hemp-derived CBD does not have psychoactive effects, their use is legalized in almost all countries.

Recreational use of Cannabis

Most countries have allowed only medical use of cannabis. Only a handful of countries allow their citizens to use cannabis for recreational purposes. Some countries have decriminalized cannabis, that is, they have a policy of not pressing criminal charges on citizens who are found in possession of a specified amount of cannabis.

Countries that have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis are Canada, Chile, Australia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Thailand, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Cyprus, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Jamaica, Greece, and Norway. Though 33 states in the US and Colombia have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis, their use is still prohibited at the federal level for any purpose.

Some countries with specific CBD laws

The UK

The United Kingdom does not criminalize the use of CBD. Though CBD can be freely distributed in the UK, CBD derived from cannabis plants cannot be legally obtained in the country. UK citizens are free to cultivate hemp plants with low THC content (less than 0.2%). CBD oil with a higher THC value is considered medical marijuana.


Though Switzerland has declared THC illegal, it does not control the use and sale of CBD containing less than one percent THC. Swiss nationals are allowed to cultivate high-CBD strains that do not exceed specified THC values.


Norway prohibits its citizens from buying whole hemp and cannabis seeds. Norwegians also cannot legally grow cannabis and hemp; however, the government does not restrict the sale of CBD without THC.


Ireland allows Hemp cultivation, as long as the THC content of the plants is less than 0.2%. Ireland prohibits the sale of cannabis and hemp with even low concentration of THC.


CBD does not feature in the list of Sweden’s banned substances. Swedish nationals can buy CBD products online, given the condition that:

a) The dealer is licensed

b) The CBD product being sold contains less than 0.2% THC

c) CBD is derived from hemp

Supplements containing CBD cannot be legally sold in the country. Additionally, marketers in the country are not allowed to use statements of healthy/beauty benefits for promoting CBD products. The country is yet to recognize CBD as a medicine.


Denmark does not criminalize possessing hemp oil, as long as the THC content is less than 0.2%. The country recognizes hemp oil as a medicinal drug, meaning that Danish nationals would need a prescription from a licensed practitioner to legally buy hemp oil in the country.

A table depicting the legal status of CBD oil, hemp, and cannabis in different countries:

Country CBD Hemp Cannabis
Argentina Legal Legal Legal
Austria Legal Legal Illegal
Canada Legal Legal Legal
Chile Legal Legal Legal
Belgium Illegal Legal Decriminalized (up to 3 gram)
Belize Legal Legal Decriminalized (up to 10 gram)
Bulgaria Legal Legal Illegal
Colombia Legal Legal Decriminalized (up to 22 gram)
Costa Rica Legal N/A Illegal
France Legal Legal Illegal
Georgia Legal Legal Legal
Estonia Legal Legal Illegal
Finland Legal Legal Illegal
China Illegal Illegal Illegal
Hong Kong Legal N/A Illegal
Hungary Legal Legal Illegal
Iceland N/A N/A Illegal
Greece Legal Legal Illegal
Guatemala Legal Legal Illegal

To ensure accuracy, our articles have been thoroughly researched by a team of authors, editors, legal counsel, and medical professionals. The only references used are reliable ones.

The content is routinely assessed against recent scholarly research and professional recommendations to ensure the most up-to-date and relevant information.

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