CBD Legislation in the UK Costs British Hemp Farmers

CBD Legislation in the UK Costs British Hemp Farmers

Potential products are literally being tossed in the trash.

10 August 2023 | Hannah Rubery

CBD Legislation in the UK Costs British Hemp Farmers (image)

The United Kingdom's cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp industry have seen significant growth in recent years, driven by increasing consumer interest in the benefits of these natural products. However, while CBD products, most of which are imported, enjoy legal status and broad acceptance in the UK, the country's own hemp farmers face legislative restrictions that prevent them from fully participating in this burgeoning market.

Hemp offers a variety of uses to consumers

Hemp, a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, has been utilized for centuries due to its versatility and robustness. Contrary to popular belief, hemp is much more than a source of CBD. It's a sustainable, eco-friendly crop that serves multiple purposes. Hemp fibres, for instance, are incredibly durable and are used to produce a variety of products such as textiles, ropes, and even building materials. The seeds of the hemp plant, rich in protein, fibre, and healthy fats, find their use in the food industry, being incorporated into granolas, protein powders, or used to produce hemp seed oil. Additionally, hemp is also beneficial in counteracting soil degradation, making it a valuable asset in crop rotation practices.

Understanding the current hemp legislation in the UK

The United Kingdom's hemp legislation, as it stands, is a source of ongoing frustration for many British hemp farmers. The law permits the cultivation of hemp only for specific purposes - chiefly, the production of industrial materials like fabrics from the stalks of the plant, and the extraction of oil from hemp seeds.

However, the use of the rest of the plant, especially the flowers and leaves that contain cannabidiol (CBD), is strictly prohibited. These parts of the plant must be destroyed. This means that while CBD is legal to purchase and use in the UK, it is not legal for British farmers to produce it domestically. The legislation, therefore, compels the UK to import a large amount of CBD oil, while the local farmers are restricted from taking advantage of this rapidly expanding market.

Despite hemp's versatility and multitude of uses, from manufacturing fabrics to producing oil from seeds, UK law currently prohibits local farmers from harvesting the plant for CBD oil production. This paradoxical situation has led to a mounting call for legislative reform to ensure the country's hemp regulations align with the contemporary understanding and uses of hemp, including the production of CBD oil.

Bottles of CBD oil casting shadows on a table (image)

British hemp farmers are growing restless

The current legislative framework in the UK has left British hemp farmers in a state of frustration and discontent. Despite the global market for CBD oil skyrocketing and the plant's myriad uses, the restrictive laws have effectively excluded them from this lucrative sector.

The legislation permits them only to harvest hemp for fabric manufacturing and seed oil production, while the remainder of the plant, which could be used to produce CBD oil, must be discarded. This equates to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of potential revenue that farmers are forced to waste, merely because the legislation has failed to keep pace with the evolving uses of hemp. This missed opportunity for additional income has intensified calls for the government to reconsider and update its 'backward' hemp laws.

Recently, the UK government shut down the sole supplier of hemp-grown CBD in the British Isles over claims of the products contained THC, despite trace amounts being legal by the government's standards. Jersey Hemp is looking to potentially take this to court as they claim unfair treatment. These events have further highlighted the need for legislative reform and a more modern approach to hemp farming in the country.

The Potential Benefits of Hemp Cultivation in the UK

The benefits of embracing hemp cultivation extend far beyond the farm gate, promising significant socio-economic and environmental advantages for the UK. For farmers, diversifying into hemp cultivation could provide a new and lucrative revenue stream, particularly in the face of diminishing returns from traditional crops. It also offers a solution to the common ecological challenges of farming, as hemp, a low-input crop, improves soil health, sequesters carbon and requires less water and no pesticides.
Woman stood by a field making a love symbol with her hands (image)
More broadly, a thriving domestic hemp industry could bolster the UK's economy by reducing dependence on imported CBD products, creating new jobs, and fostering innovation in sustainable farming and manufacturing practices. This potential underscores the need for legislative reform to unlock the inherent benefits of hemp and ensure the UK keeps pace with the global shift towards more sustainable, diversified and resilient agricultural systems.


In conclusion, the UK's current hemp legislation appears to be a contradiction in terms. While on one hand, the booming CBD industry is increasingly catered to by imported products, on the other hand, homegrown hemp farmers are bound by restrictive laws that prevent them from fully participating in this burgeoning sector. This not only results in the waste of valuable plant material that could be used to manufacture CBD oil but it also squanders the potential for significant socio-economic and environmental benefits.

The clear need for legislative reform is underpinned by hemp's versatility, ecological benefits, and the growing acceptance of CBD products globally. It is high time for the UK to align its hemp laws with the modern understanding and applications of this remarkable plant, thereby empowering British farmers and contributing to a more sustainable and resilient agricultural industry.