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Where is CBD Legal Around the Globe? Hemp and Cannabis Abroad in 5 Continents

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    Hemp and cannabis have surged into prominence in the US over the past decade. More than half of the states have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis, and the 2018 Farm Bill federally approved hemp, making CBD and THC popular compounds that many people use daily for a multitude of effects. However, where is CBD legal around the globe? Consumers, businesses, and policymakers need to understand these global legalities and continue the push to see legal hemp access all over the world.

    Is CBD a Drug?

    CBD (cannabidiol) and hemp are often misunderstood terms. Hemp refers to the variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial uses and for cannabinoid extraction to create consumable products. CBD is a compound, called a cannabinoid, found in hemp along with over a hundred other cannabinoids like THC and CBG. While CBD does not offer a high feeling, this compound is not a dormant substance and is not recognized fully by governing bodies like the FDA in the US. CBD can be classified as a controlled substance in various parts of the world (1).

    Cannabinoids have a long history in various cultures but like many other plants and compounds, there is a lack of extensive research on how they interact with humans and animals leading to varying degrees of acceptance. While THC has been more widely known and used globally, the negative perception of THC has often extended to other cannabinoids, including non-intoxicating CBD. Although many countries have begun to permit CBD in different forms, a stigma surrounding CBD and hemp plants persists.

    Is CBD Legal in Europe?

    Europe presents a diverse legal landscape for CBD. While the European Union has made strides in regulating CBD, individual countries have their own specific rules. The most significant difference is the allowable percentage of Delta 9 THC. In the US, the limit is set at 0.3%, but the EU has opted to allow only up to 0.2% in all products (2). The European Court of Justice ruled in 2020 that CBD is not a narcotic, influencing many countries’ policies. However, notable differences still exist across Europe:

    • Germany: CBD is legal, but products must comply with strict regulations, including a THC content below 0.2%.
    • France: Only CBD extracted from hemp with 0% THC is legal.
    • Italy: CBD products are legal with a THC limit of 0.6%.
    • Spain: CBD is legal for topical use but not for ingestion.

    CBD Legal Status in Asia

    Asia’s approach to CBD legality is even more varied than Europe’s, with some countries embracing it and others imposing strict bans. While Japan allows CBD only if it contains 0% THC, South Korea permits CBD for medical purposes with a prescription, and India remains in a legal gray area regarding CBD but permits hemp cultivation for industrial uses. 

    In the last few years, Hong Kong has made headlines stating that CBD is illegal, meaning anyone who possesses, consumes, or distributes CBD can face serious legal implications and lengthy prison sentences (3). These differences in legality can create major confusion for residents and a wide variety of issues when it comes to traveling around Asia or visiting from the US or the UK.

    An infographic of a world map where CBD is legal vs not for blog titled "Where is CBD Legal Around the Globe? Hemp and Cannabis Abroad in 5 Continents"

    CBD Legal Status in South America and Africa

    In South America, countries are increasingly embracing CBD, though the level of regulation varies. In Brazil, CBD is legal for medical use with a prescription and laws regarding THC have been lessened (4). Argentina permits CBD for medical purposes but prohibits recreational use. Colombia allows CBD for both medical and commercial purposes, reflecting a more liberal stance. Chile also permits CBD for medical use but under strict controls.

    In Africa, the legal status of CBD is evolving, with some countries leading the way in regulation. South Africa permits CBD use with restrictions on daily dosage and THC content. Zimbabwe has legalized CBD for medical use, provided proper authorization is obtained. Uganda is currently exploring the regulation of CBD, indicating a potential shift towards legalization. In Ghana, the legality of CBD is under review, suggesting future regulatory changes may be on the horizon.

    Do Australia and New Zealand Allow CBD?

    In Australia and New Zealand, the legal status of CBD reflects a careful yet progressive approach. In Australia, CBD is legal for medical use and can be obtained with a prescription. This ensures that patients have access to CBD under medical supervision, maintaining a balance between accessibility and safety. 

    Similarly, in New Zealand, CBD is legal with a prescription and must contain no more than 1% THC (5). This regulation ensures that CBD products are controlled and safe for medical use, offering patients therapeutic benefits while adhering to strict legal standards. Both countries demonstrate a commitment to integrating CBD into their healthcare systems responsibly.

    Where is CBD Legal

    As hemp and cannabis gain prominence in the US, global legalities remain complex and varied. While the 2018 Farm Bill federally approved hemp and many US states have legalized cannabis, international regulations differ significantly, making it essential for consumers and businesses to understand these differences. 

    CBD can offer therapeutic benefits without THC’s psychoactive effects, but its legality varies in each country from limiting the amount of THC within a hemp product to not allowing for CBD to be purchased. As research on cannabinoids progresses, it is important to stay informed about legal developments and consult healthcare professionals before use. When purchasing hemp products internationally, always check current laws to ensure compliance as regulations can change over time.

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    Works Cited:

    1. Wiley, Jenny L., et al. Cannabidiol: Science, Marketing, and Legal Perspectives. 20 Apr. 2020, https://doi.org/10.3768/rtipress.2020.op.0065.2004.
    2. Griffiths, Paul, et al. “Addiction Research Centres and the Nurturing of Creativity. Monitoring the European drug situation: the ongoing challenge for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).” Addiction, vol. 107, no. 2, May 2011, pp. 254–58. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03369.x.
    3. De Guzman / Hong Kong, Chad. “CBD Tends to Perplex Regulators. Hong Kong’s New Ban Reinforces Asia’s Strict Drug Approach.” TIME, 1 Feb. 2023, time.com/6251453/hong-kong-cbd-ban-facts.
    4. Feature: Brazilian President Signs New Drug Law — No Jail for Users | StoptheDrugWar.org. stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2006/aug/31/feature_brazilian_president_sign.
    5. “Laws and Regulations – Australian Hemp Council.” Australian Hemp Council – Leading the Hemp Industry Together, 21 Jan. 2024, australianhempcouncil.org.au/laws-regulations.
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    CEO | Craig Henderson

    Extract Labs CEO Craig Henderson is one of the country’s top experts in cannabis CO2 extraction. After serving in the U.S. Army, Henderson received his master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Louisville before becoming a sales engineer at one of the nation’s leading extraction technology companies. Sensing an opportunity, Henderson began extracting CBD in his garage in 2016, putting him at the forefront of the hemp movement. He’s been featured in Rolling StoneMilitary TimesThe Today Show, High Times, the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies, and many more. 

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