Wondering if CBD is legal in other countries?
It’s a good question. With the rapidly rising popularity of CBD up against archaic cannabis laws that were established almost a century ago, CBD laws can differ greatly across the globe.
While CBD is non-psychoactive, not every country welcomes the cannabinoid with open arms. There are still places in the world where CBD is prohibited. Whether you’re a world traveler and want to travel with CBD, or just curious as to how CBD laws differ around the world, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s take a look at the legality of CBD in other countries.
Countries Where CBD is Legal
There are 195 countries in the world. Given the diversity of each country, the fact that cannabis has been so widely criminalized for so long and that the use of CBD is something relatively new, it’s not surprising that laws vary widely around the world when it comes to CBD.
There’s actually quite an extensive list of countries where CBD is legal and where it’s not. Following are some of the most popular countries where CBD is considered legal.
Before Canada became the second country in the world to fully legalize cannabis (Uruguay was the first), CBD was illegal without a medical marijuana prescription. Under past Canadian law, the possession and sale of CBD oil was illegal in the same way other cannabis products (including those that contain THC) were illegal. The fact that CBD contains zero psychoactive effects didn’t matter to Canadian authorities. Cannabis was cannabis, high or no high.
This all changed recently when Canada legalized cannabis nationwide. According to the Government of Canada’s summary of the bill, the Cannabis Act makes it legal to purchase “fresh cannabis, dried cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis seeds, or cannabis plants.”
In case you didn’t hear, Mexico enacted a nationwide medical cannabis program in 2017. Not only did the measure classify THC as “therapeutic,” but it also permitted for CBD products with less than a 1% THC level to be classified as supplements. In Mexico, CBD is now treated just the same as plain old vitamin C.
While there are some particular rules and regulations surrounding CBD in the United Kingdom, for all intents and purposes, CBD is legal in the UK. According to Business Matters, the UK’s leading SME business magazine, laws regarding CBD in the UK changed in 2016 due to the several scientific studies that have been conducted on the cannabinoid. In order for CBD oil to be legal in the UK, however, it must be derived from one of the 63 EU approved industrial hemp strains. THC levels must be less than 0.5%.
There are some 50 countries in Europe, and in most of them, CBD is legal. THC limits must be below 0.2%. France was one of the most recent European countries to allow CBD, despite the fact that they have the highest rate of cannabis consumption in all of Europe.
In Switzerland, cannabis that contains more than 1% THC is classified as an illegal drug. Laws regarding CBD changed in 2017 and CBD oil that contains less than 1% THC is now sold at virtually every smoke shop across the country famous for chocolate, glistening lakes, quaint villages and the high peaks of the Alps.
In 2017, Luxembourg introduced a two-year pilot program allowing its citizens to obtain cannabis extracts for a variety of different health conditions. CBD that contains less than 0.3% THC is legal in the country.
You’re good to go in Denmark with CBD oil as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC. The catch is that CBD is considered a medicinal drug, which means the Danish must obtain a prescription before they can purchase CBD oil. The exception? CBD topicals (such as creams, salves, lotions and lip balms) are legal and can be purchased without a prescription.
Yes, you read that correctly. CBD is legal in South Korea. Sort of. On November 23, 2018, South Korea became the first country in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis. The amendment that passed in November was submitted in January by Democratic party lawmaker, Shin Chang-Hyun.
According to Hyun, “The current law strictly forbids the sale and purchase of cannabis, which led to a recent case of a mother being arrested and sentenced in court for buying cannabis oil from overseas to treat her son with brain cancer.
“The main ingredient of hemp oil is cannabidiol (CBD), which has no hallucinogenic effects. CBD has been tested in the U.S., Canada, and Germany and proven efficacy in neurological and brain diseases such as brain metastasis, autism, and dementia in clinical trials.”
The process of establishing regulations on what exactly will be allowed when the law does go into effect is ongoing. Cannabis containing THC will remain illegal. Koreans who want to use CBD will need to obtain a letter from their doctor that explains why CBD would be beneficial. Although expected to be tightly controlled with an extremely limited product selection, the legalization of CBD in South Korea is an extremely significant breakthrough for the industry as a whole.
Aside from the above-mentioned countries, other countries where CBD is legal (if extracted from industrial hemp and typically containing less than 0.2% THC) include:
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- Puerto Rico
- Republic of Slovenia
- South Africa
- Virgin Islands
Countries Where CBD Laws are Changing
Australia legalized medical cannabis in 2016, but this doesn’t exactly mean that CBD is legal (or easy to obtain). Most people in Australia are prohibited from using CBD. It’s only legal for a limited number of people with specific conditions. It is available for prescription by these individuals, however, obtaining a prescription for CBD hasn’t been easy.
Since CBD was rescheduled in 2016, only some 500 people have been able to get a prescription. In 2017, CBD was changed from a “schedule 9 drug” (prohibited) to a “schedule 4 drug” (legal by prescription only).
In New Zealand, CBD is a controlled substance. Some restrictions on CBD were lifted in 2017, and doctors and GPs in the country can prescribe cannabidiol without special approval. The drawback? There are no CBD products that are approved in New Zealand, no CBD products can be made in New Zealand and imported CBD products are not allowed to be stored. Patients who get a prescription for CBD are forbidden from ordering it from overseas and must ask their health provider to order it for them.
Countries Where CBD is Illegal
While there are quite a few countries that have legalized CBD in one way or another, there are still countries where citizens don’t have the same freedom. Not every country is clear on laws regarding CBD, however, following are some of the countries with strict cannabis laws where possession of CBD could get you in trouble.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates has a strict zero-tolerance policy when it comes to cannabis, CBD included. If you’re found with so much as a trace of cannabis, you’re looking at a four-year mandatory minimum sentence. If you’re traveling to the United Arab Emirates, it’s best to leave your CBD behind.
Cannabis is decidedly illegal in Russia, and CBD is no exception. Possession, sale and production of both recreational and medical cannabis and cannabis-derived products are prohibited by law. While there is a thriving underground cannabis counterculture in Russia, medical officials are strongly against legalizing cannabis for any medical purpose. This includes CBD.
Malaysia is known for having some of the strictest drug laws in the world. Possession of 200 grams of cannabis can get you the death penalty, and death by hanging is mandatory if you’re caught with large amounts of illegal substances (including cannabis, cocaine, heroin and more). According to the BBC, the death sentence recently given to a young man selling cannabis oil to sick individuals stirred a lot of controversy about Malaysia’s extremely harsh drug laws.
A petition gathered thousands of signatures, with some high-profile politicians (including the prime minister) standing firmly behind it. After much discussion, the medical benefits of cannabis were acknowledged, with one minister “fully behind it.” What’s more is, because of this case, the death penalty in Malaysia was completely abolished. While CBD still remains illegal in Malaysia, like many parts of the world, laws are slowly changing.
The world is a big place, full of hundreds of countries that each have their own cultural differences, customs and laws regarding cannabis and cannabis-derived products. CBD is legal in other countries but not all of them…yet. We believe the day will come when everyone has access to CBD. Until then, we’ll simply continue to take small steps forward until we reach that day.