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CBD Laws: An International Update

cbd laws

The legal status of CBD changes almost weekly. At G2, we track it closely and keep our clients up to speed. Check out this sampling of CBD laws in G2-monitored countries. Don’t blink, though, because it just might change.

For a more thorough assessment of CBD’s legal status, please download Chronic Uncertainty: The International Legal Status of CBD.


  • Australia: Currently, Australia is not a CBD-friendly country. Under Australia’s Poisons Standard, which classifies “substances” and places regulatory restrictions on them, CBD is a prescription-only drug when intended for therapeutic use. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (Australia’s FDA-equivalent) has even issued a warning about CBD being illegally imported into the country. However, low-THC hemp seeds are specifically permitted in foods in Australia.


  • Austria: The Austrian government recently issued a decree banning the sale of food containing CBD, because CBD is considered a “novel food” under the EU’s novel food regulation. See EU Novel Food Catalogue and Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. The decree also bans CBD cosmetics.


  • Belgium: CBD is not allowed in “foodstuffs” in Belgium because it is an EU novel food. Belgium actually gets really strict about all-things-cannabis. Hemp seed oil, which is definitely not a novel food and is in no way psychoactive, is prohibited in Belgium unless the seller is granted a “derogation” by Belgian regulators.


  • Denmark: Medicinal products containing CBD require a prescription in Denmark. If a supplement contains CBD, it will likely have to be evaluated by the Danish Medicines Agency (Lægemiddelstyrelsen) to determine whether it is a medicine. If it is determined to be a medicine, it must not be sold without Lægemiddelstyrelsen authorization. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) provides additional information about CBD here.


  • France: In France, CBD resides in a legal grey area, but CBD shops have been forced to close in response to pressure from local authorities.


  • Germany: In 2016, Germany added CBD to its list of prescription-only drugs. Just last month, Germany’s Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit) stated that CBD is not marketable in food in Germany because it is a “novel food” under the EU’s novel food regulation.


  • Hong Kong: According to Hong Kong’s Food and Health Bureau and the Department of Health, CBD is not considered a “dangerous drug” and therefore not controlled under Hong Kong’s Dangerous Drug Ordinance. However, pharmaceutical products containing CBD must be appropriately registered – and Hong Kong has not yet registered any pharmaceutical CBD products. Regarding foods and beverages containing CBD, Hong Kong authorities have stated: “[S]ince it is difficult to extract pure CBD, the food products and drinks concerned may highly likely contain other cannabinoids controlled under [the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance] (such as THC). The local food trade should avoid importing or manufacturing products concerned lest they would breach the law.”


  • Iceland:  It is not legal to sell medicinal products containing CBD in retail stores or via the internet. However, a person can import CBD for personal use if the product is manufactured as a medicinal product and complies with Icelandic laws regarding the import of medicinal products. CBD food supplements fall under the jurisdiction of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (Matvælastofnun). which prohibits imports of CBD supplements unless the importer has demonstrated (with input from the Icelandic Medicines Agency) that the product is not considered a “medicinal product” in Iceland.


  • Ireland: According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), hemp oil supplements that contain higher levels of CBD than naturally found in low-THC cannabis are illegal. FSAI states that CBD oil extract produced through methods like supercritical CO2extraction have been placed on the market “without authorisation and are not permitted for sale.”


  • New Zealand: CBD is a prescription-only ingredient in New Zealand. According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health: “Patients may import up to three months’ supply of a CBD product into New Zealand if they have a reasonable excuse, that is, an original letter or an original prescription from a New Zealand authorised prescriber.” The only part of the hemp plant that can be used for food is the seeds.


  • Sweden: According to the Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket): “Products containing [CBD] are drugs. . . . Since the pharmaceutical legislation requires that medicines be approved or registered, the sale of these products is not permitted.” The Swedish National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) states that CBD products are often considered drugs, but where they are not considered drugs, “they are new foods and must be approved before they can be placed on the market.”


  • Switzerland: According to the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic), CBD is not subject to the Narcotics Act because it is not psychoactive; however, it is subject to other regulations, including the novel food regulation. Swiss regulators specifically state that CBD is legal in cosmetics.


  • United Kingdom: In the UK, CBD – in its pure form – is not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. However, if it is marketed for medicinal purposes, it becomes a medicine and must get marketing authorization from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). That said, industry groups believe that CBD may be legally sold as a food supplement, provided it is not marketed with medicinal claims. Unfortunately, the UK’s Food Standards Agency has recently taken the position that CBD is a novel food and therefore cannot be sold as a food supplement in the UK. Despite this development, CBD continues to be sold in high-street stores in the UK.


  • United States: Although hemp-derived CBD is no longer considered a controlled substance in the US, CBD is not permitted in dietary supplements. However, the FDA has scheduled a public hearing for May 31, 2019, where stakeholders will share their experiences and challenges with CBD products. It has also established an internal working group to explore potential pathways for dietary supplements and/or conventional foods containing CBD to be lawfully marketed. Meanwhile, the FDA continues to crack down on CBD products that are marketed with claims to treat disease. See, e.g., FDA Warning Letter dated 3/28/19.


G2 stays on top of pharmaceutical and dietary supplement laws, worldwide. To make sure your portfolio stays in compliance, contact us at To stay up-to-date on all-things-CBD, register for G2’s CBD News and Updates.

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