Refresh Checked Unchecked Menu Search Shopping bag Geolocation Person Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube Info Icon CBC Icon CBC Shape CBD Icon CBD Shape CBG Icon CBG Shape THC Icon THC Shape THCV Icon THCV Shape Loading…

UK Halts CBD Sales

October 6, 2016
Street view of Trafalgar Square at night in London
Editor’s Note: This story was produced in conjunction with Volteface

This article has been updated to include quotes from an MHRA spokesperson.

On Monday cannabidiol (CBD) producers and distributors in the UK started to receive letters from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) demanding that they cease to sell, supply, promote, advertise or process orders for CBD products within 28 days. The letters stated that CBD now satisfies the definition of a medicinal product. The revised definition will leave UK patients with no legal access to CBD.

Officials with the MHRA are due to release a statement tomorrow, Oct. 7, to clarify the position. A spokesperson from the agency released the following statement:

We have come to the opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are a medicine. Products for therapeutic use must have a medicines’ licence before they can be legally sold or supplied in the UK. Products will have to meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards to protect public health.

We have written to UK CBD stockists and manufacturers to inform them of our view. These products will require a marketing authorisation to be granted before they can be legally sold, supplied or anywhere advertised in the UK.

Individuals who use CBD for treatment should take questions to a health care professional, the MHRA said, adding, “We can provide regulatory guidance to any company who may wish to apply for a licence.”

Peter Carroll of the End our Pain campaign, a UK medical cannabis patient advocacy group, said that “we agree that there is a need for more control in the CBD market to protect people from unscrupulous suppliers and to make sure that people understand what they are taking.” But, he added, “we fear that today’s sudden move will cause huge distress to people who rely on these products.  It will drive many people to look for CBD on the black market. It is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

“Today's sudden move will cause huge distress to people who rely on these products.”
Peter Carroll, End Our Pain campaign

This decision further complicates the status of medical cannabis in the UK. The definition of CBD, one of the main active ingredients in cannabis, as a medicinal product is in stark contrast with The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 scheduling of cannabis as having “no medicinal value”. This adds another exception to the 2001 Regulations, the other being Sativex, a cannabis-extract which is available in very limited circumstances for some MS suffers.

CBD has been soaring in popularity recently as many people purchase it in a variety of forms either as an aid to relaxation, in an attempt to quit nicotine, or for a number of serious ailments and medical conditions. CBD has been linked to a number of potential medical applications with strong anecdotal evidence of its efficacy in treating epilepsy, anxiety, depression, and multiple sclerosis, among many other conditions.

GW Pharmaceuticals, producer of Sativex, released the results of its latest phase III clinical trial for Epidiolex, a liquid formulation of CBD, on September 26. The company hopes to achieve approval in Europe, but the product is still at trial stage and not available for patients. The product is in development for the treatment of a number of conditions, specifically rare pediatric epilepsy disorders including Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.

It is unclear how long, or costly, the license application will be for current CBD vendors and whether any will in fact be successful. Medicinal products must meet certain standards before being granted a marketing authorization. Interestingly, the MHRA states that “proof of efficacy generally relies heavily on clinical trial evidence, and no products must be marketed pending any license application.” To date there have been some exciting but very limited trials around CBD but there is a lack of full clinical trial evidence. The process could take years, and it is unclear whether the results of the Epidiolex trials will be relevant to other CBD products or limited to a unique GW Pharmaceutical formulation.

There have been many concerns over the unregulated CBD market. Until now, companies were able to sell CBD products so long as they did not make any medical claims about the product. There were stories of companies breaching this condition as well as providing products of dubious origin and quality. Regulation and standards of some sort will likely be welcomed by the industry but there are serious concerns over the cost, time and process involved in making license applications.

The short deadline of 28 days will come as a worrying shock for the thousands using CBD. Many will question whether this very short deadline is in the best interests of patients. For the time being we simply don’t know how long it will be before patients relying on CBD will be able to legally access their medicine in the UK.

Read more about cannabis issues in the UK and Europe at Volteface

George McBride's Bio Image

George McBride

George McBride is head of advocacy at Volteface.

View George McBride's articles

  • lovingc

    Trust the British to do things backward and sideways. As is usual they want to throw the baby out with the bath water. CBD is not a drug that needs this kind of interference and doing it at the expense of patients is unconscionable.

    • So who decides which drugs do need regulation and which don’t?


      General clamour on the internet?

      That is why we have the MHRA and it is doing its job properly. CBD clearly is a medicine. The problem is that some sort of interim measures need to be put in place to allow those currently using it as a food supplement to continue doing so pending the issue of a marketing authorisation.

      • Bob Mann

        The claims for CBD are no worse than the claims made by hundreds of herbal remedies which is basically what CBD and cannabis in general are. Just more effective.
        There really is no need to regulate CBD anyway.
        Exactly what is likely to happen?

        • Placebo

          Considering how many shady companies/website sell “CBD infused” products which when tested barely contain any CBD tells me that some kid of regulating absolutely is necessary, but certainly not in a way that lines big pharma’s pockets and raising the cost of cannabis based products, look at Sativex, I believe it costs MS patients something like $7,000 for a year’s course of treatment, how much would the actual plant product cost for self medication?

          • Bob Mann

            I can see your point although I have no trouble at all accessing CBD flower in Canada.
            It’s a well regulated industry here. Anything sold *legally* has to have a full monograph.
            The problem comes when people have a difficult time finding product and end up ordering online from the shady.
            I can see potency being regulated as to minimums but CBD plants are considerably lower yeilding than the higher THC plants, there is nothing CBD can do that can cause you any harm so calling it a drug because someone has said it’s high in x and x has been shown to help with condition y is massive over-reach. Look how many food products make the same or similar claims.
            This is just a bureaucratic way of removing cannabis and cannabis products from market.

          • Placebo

            Pfft being in Canada you got the gold ticket in terms of what medicines are available to you, Canada or Colorado, best C’s to live in 😉

          • Bob Mann

            I can’t complain. It could only be better if I was in Vancouver.

      • glorpthesmelly

        “So who decides which drugs do need regulation and which don’t?”

        Big Pharma, that’s who.

        You would be naive to think otherwise.

      • Wilhelm Barfot

        “CBD clearly is a medicine”. Well, according to the FDA cannabis has no medicinal properties at all. None whatsoever. The fact that they at the same time secretly patented those nonexistent properties has nothing to do with it…
        These state agencies only wants our best and of course they are not corrupt beyond belief. Cochran institute? Never heard about them…

  • Typical Tories and so obvious.. Great for mom n pop online shops tho, no way am i going to get a letter here asking me to stop exporting, thats just total nonsensical. It might mean small business can compete with holland and barret a while 😉 I understand to a degree, we made our cbd oils with care and organic and costs a fortune to achieve those standards and then it starts getting grown everywhere and cbd companies pop up overnight. As with most things weed, “know your source”

    • IMSiegfried

      They don’t have to make you stop exporting. They only have to seize products at customs.

      • Placebo

        I had that problem purchasing CBD E-cigs from the USA to Sweden, was seized at customs.

        • IMSiegfried

          I’m sorry that happened to you. :-/

  • leebee112

    I will say it Again The UK Government is in bed with This pharmaceutical company, They Granted the Carte Blanche To this company a couple of weeks before they announced that they would not be renewing their position on Declassification on Cannabis as promised pre election. This is another typical serving themselves before the country.

  • Nolifye

    they need to do a petition immediately and protest.

    all shops and patients need to organize now infont of the government

  • Craig Andrews

    Please remember that it maybe illegal but is also perfectly Lawful. legal is government rules, lawful is Natural rules.

    • Which has no relevance to the real world whatsoever.

      • Craig Andrews

        Really ! You must be legally bound after signing all the government agent paper work ! Natural Law trumps man made laws, unless of course you consent.

      • Bob Mann

        Yeah, that will do you a lot of good if you get imprisoned or fined.

    • Paul

      Isn’t it great we have someone like Peter to moderate EVERY post and comment so as to set everyone straight as to his thinking? Thanks Peter! Keep sticking that paper in everyones face! You missed a few!

      • frank

        people please research Peter Reynolds and clear – not what the cannabis and CBD community in the UK need

  • The Outlier

    The UK has slid back in time about 50 years. Do not expect anything ‘progressive’ or even logical out of that government.

  • Robert McDaniel

    Money, money, money

  • Chris Bennett

    Soon the world will wake up to the facts..Now imagine the increase in demand for cannabis when the rest of the public finds out the medical benefits.The ability to cure or treat cancer, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis,HIV and so many more conditions it’s crazy. For years we have been brainwashed against a plant that is nothing less than magical when used correctly. We have been told it causes brain damage and kills brain cells when in fact studies that are unbiased show the exact opposite. Cannabis has been shown to be a neuro protectant and is patented as such, it protects against brain damage . One study shows that when it comes to traumatic brain injury just smoking cannabis can save your life, by protecting your brain and preventing swelling. Studies also show that cannabinoids promote brain health and and promote neurogenesis not brain cell death. The fact is millions of taxpayer dollars have been used to lie to the public at the cost of thousands of lives. All because of a couple dicks who were protecting their profits. Anyone who thinks this trend is on a course of correction is mistaken. Information that shows the positive attributes of cannabis is being pulled off the internet daily. Studies that prove the medicinal value of cannabis are vanishing from Pubmed at record speed. and are being replaced by negative studies. Why didn’t the DEA reschedule cannabis or deschedule it? To protect the interest and holdings of the department of H.H.S. patent on cannabis. Many people know of the patent# 6630507 , but don’t know of “Kannalife science” the company which has joined with them to profit over this lie. Kannalife is one of the only cannabis related company to be happy over the DEA deciding to keep it schedule 1. Of course they would be. When your in bed with the federal government and they are helping you to profit over the people why would you want the system to change? Don’t even get me started on the corruption involving the state of Virginia and cannabis laws. If you would like to learn more ,read my review of Kannalife on their facebook page. Feel free to leave your own and tell them what you think about them.

    • IMSiegfried

      I thought the DEA placed on schedule 2? Not that that would help anything.

      • Bob Mann

        Not yet they didn’t.
        They are fighting rescheduling.
        Job preservation after all.

        • James Peters

          Once the FDA approves a drug then rescheduling usually happens. Marinol is Schedule III and Nabilone is Schedule II.

          • IMSiegfried

            “once the FDA approved a drug”. The problem is that receiving FDA approval is so costly and burdensome that only big pharma companies have the money to comply. And mom and pop businesses are destroyed in the process.

        • IMSiegfried

          “Job preservation after all.”
          Exactly. :-/

  • Open Minds

    This will eventually happen in the US, unless we completely deschedule cannabis. Placing cannabis in Schedule 2 is a trojan horse that will play into Big Pharma’s hands.

    • Josh Orr

      this is what I am afraid of as well….. its a tough situation. Having the same problem with kratom right now- we want it recognized as medicinal, but that means regulations and the vendors will be shut down unless licensed. It puts more money in the pockets of the bigger companies

      • Paul

        Good luck with that!

    • Paul

      It has to get decriminalized and the only way is to get it off of schedule 1 list. It cannot move forward here. I don’t think you are going to get anyone to move it from Schedule 1 to completely safe overnight. I’ll take schedule 2!

    • Amanda

      Where I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA there are too many people who want it legalized. Hell everything else is here. Sin City all the way. But for actual patients, we’ve been struggling with the licensing price and 1 1/2 month wait for your card. Time to stock up before it sky rockets.


      There is a solution to this don’t go schedule 2 or decriminalization, go for full repeal of Prohibition

  • Goonerjunglist

    As a Uk citizen im loosing hope of the Uk ever legalising or regulating full THC cannabis. If this is how the gov are acting over CBD then what hope do we have?

    • Craig Andrews

      The hope is that you drop the citizenship and set sale aboard sovereignty !

  • primostyles
  • Florin Buchi
  • chris pollard

    as of the 8/10/2016 there is no evidence to back up this claim here in the uk

  • Paula Victoria

    BIG pharma want to cash in on sick people, no surprise there.

    • Such a boring, evidence-free, hysterical, conspiracy theory. Do you think we should have a free for all where anyone can market anything they want for any purpose or do we need a govt agency to regulate medicines?

      The answer is self-evident and it has nothing to do with some misguided, dippy-hippy, anti-pharma agenda

      • bkrharold

        There is no need for conspiracy theories, the intentions of the government are self evident. You have a very naive trust in the government and it’s good intentions.

      • Amanda

        I agree you are being quite trusting of a mutlibillion dollar company that approves easy access to amphetamines for pediatrics but has a problem with a zero side effect herb that stops seizures. Do you see the comparision? No one is against safety measures. People are against these huge corporations that cash in on keeping people sick. If people stay sick they keep taking meds. If people had cures for illnesses they would stop taking the meds when they got better.

        There is no need to approve and readily market so many different opiate based products which are highly addictive. If you research you will find a massive pandemic of opiate addiction and prescription abuse worldwide.

      • IMSiegfried

        If they regulate like the FDA it will be a de facto ban.

  • The public is not allowed to heal themselves by the pharmafia lobby
    influenced Politicians…They want to keep this new source of cash in
    the Old Boys Network.

    The result now that people start to know about the truth about cannabis ?
    More and more homegrowers risking fines and worse to get to a nature grown plant’s goodies.

    Fuck ! the PharMafia !!

  • owlmother

    Problem in this country seems to be that the voting majority are just plum brainwashed stupid and we all have to suffer because of them. One planet, one love

    • Craig Andrews

      One Law, Natural Law, stand up for YOUR rights 🙂

  • Joe Menn

    So the MHRA is taking plays right out of the American FDA’s “F YOU” playbook? Protect Pharma at any cost, destroy an industry because you can and to hell with the people who the product is helping? I guess they prefer people on opioids and other harmful drugs that are sold by the big boys with their BIG money: GW, GSK, Bayer can’t have low cost competition.

  • Bob Mann

    Good Lord the UK has gotten backwards over the past while.
    Keep electing smarmy, egotistical Conservatives and it will stay this way.
    (So glad my parents brought me to Canada when I read stuff like this)

  • BenSamizdat

    Most of the foods we eat are also medicinal. Is the UK going to halt sales of apples and broccoli and tomatoes now because they have vitamins and minerals and cancer-fighting compounds? Evil is as Evil does.

    • Bob Mann

      That’s it exactly.
      The claims for CBD are no different than the claims for flax seed oil, cod liver oil, St John’s Wart, CoQ10 and literally thousands of products.
      This nothing more than a conservative effort to get rid of any and all cannabis products.
      I predict this will end up biting them hard down the road.

  • Paul

    FINALLY! A GOVERNMENT THAT ADMITS THAT CANNABIS HAS MEDICINAL PROPERTIES! YEAAA!!!! The UK has let the cat out of the bag, thank you brothers and sisters! The U.S. government just finished re-evaluating and reclassifying marijuana as a schedule 1 drug again with no medicinal properties only months ago, the idiots! This shows how worthless and self-serving our government is. This cannot hold up much longer when you have the UK stating that it is medicinal properties and needs to be regulated. I have chronic back pain from 4 ruptured disks and am disabled. Cannabis works with my Methadone in a synergistic way to help me not only reduce the amount of opioids I need to take but helps it work better. We’re getting towards full legalization, at least for medicinal purposes. Thank God!

    • IMSiegfried

      I’m sorry but the FDA can and does easily ignore UK and EU research studies, regulations and laws. Just look to vaping if you want to learn more about how governments and countries differ.

  • Full spectrum organic hemp cbd extract here

  • Amanda

    This is why Britian pulled away. They were sick to death of the nit picky regulations that took years of committees and money. They were tired of being told no to everything unless……

    Standards should be in place for quality and safety. But there is no need to go so far as to make people suffer. Just prove your products come from a reputable company. Word of mouth will shut down the less desirables.

  • mikel34

    This decision will cause great distress to those innocent people who use this naturally occurring plant, while at the same time, it will cause great elation for the pharmaceutical companies for whom your government actually works. Score another victory for our purchased politicians that voted in favor of this. To vote in favor of this measure, one can only fall in to 2 camps; uninformed fools and corrupt individuals holding political seats. Not very encouraging either way

  • Richard Lovato

    The reason twenty eight days was given is so the Pharma Companies can have enough time to patent and control CBD because it cures cancer!!

  • massvocals

    I would let them have the problem . if there is no license requirement why should you stop selling it , where is the law and those selling it would be exempt form such or included under any regulation , to tell them to stop just stop i tell them to go fly a kite , there no jurisdictional issue as there is no license so F^*K them

  • massvocals

    why do people think the government or agency can just make it so > they can not ignored the fools and file harassment charges

  • Erron Present

    hello yall for anyone in US or UK goto order your cbd online they can ship to you. anywhere in the USA except Missouri so what i recommend is to stock up over the next 28 days before the law halts all sales in the UK

  • Your Mom 4 Ever

    This is insane. So under their premise, if I use Geranium flowers, Nettle, Tulsi, Hibiscus, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Fever Few, Licorice Root, Ginger, Ginseng, Lavender, Camomile, Comfrey or any other herb for medicinal, it is now got to go through some quality control? Hello, these are everyday items that people actually grow organically and use in their foods or teas for pain, arthritis, GERD, inflammation and so on. Next, we will have to certify if our life is quality controlled.

  • Izzat So

    Sounds just like the US DEA announcing a ban on kratom only 28 days before it was to take effect (this has now been delayed). HOW DARE you regular folks use a non-pharmaceutical to relieve your pain? Don’t you know that will hurt PharMa’s feelings (not to mention their usurious profits)?

  • D wise

    Why is it the the governments always have to have their hand in to grab money from sick people.
    Its always about control because they always know what is best for us,right!
    How many years have they jailed people for use and IT HAS NO MEDICINAL VALUE THEY SAID.
    Now out comes the politicians to rip people off to fill their pockets


    This was bound to happen, GW’s Sativex is a trojan horse to Cannabis Prohibition forever in New Zealand it already costs $1,300 NZD per bottle

  • For a full directory of CBD suppliers you have to check out

  • Eliao Jah

    Ban it from the public from the public and now enters a pharmaceutical company to patent, market and sell something already found in naturally occurring in nature right back to us……when is this going to stop?

  • At least for now we can buy it where available and we will be able to obtain licences moving forwards to market the products with medicinal value.

  • Juuso J

    There is this absolute fact that some Cannabis strains work better with some diseases than others and none of the Big Pharma companies can recreate these strains in a lab. It’s not the ratio of CBD and THC. It’s because of the whole spectrum of different cannabinoids that affect the human endocannabinoid system. People are already confused with CBD and THC and the pressure towards governments is huge. But it seems yet AGAIN that decisions are made the capitalistic way and once AGAIN it benefits a few and causes harm to MANY. The plant is SO much more. It naturally is great that the stigma towards Cannabis is slowly shifting. Why CAN’T we make the shift right the first time around. Greed.

  • Christian Zuger

    Seen CBD products sold here in the UK so much misinformation flying around but can perfectly imagine Big Pharma restricting this market.

  • Yvan
  • Samantha Cook

    You can only take intense pain for so long before you’ll do anything to escape it. Cannabis makes my life so much easier. It allows you to be comfortable. I wish to thank /AnnCannMed/ for their very efficient service and oil quality. I recommend them to anybody who needs help.