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Weed In The UK: Cannabis Legal Status Guide

“Is weed legal in UK?” is a common question of cannabis lovers while travelling there. We've got you covered!
21 September 2022
8 min read
Weed In The UK: Cannabis Legal Status Guide

Contents:
  • 1. Cannabis laws in the uk
  • 1. a. Possession
  • 1. b. Sale
  • 1. c. Growing
  • 2. Is cbd legal in the uk?
  • 3. Is it legal to send cannabis seeds to the uk?
  • 4. Medicinal cannabis in the uk
  • 5. Industrial hemp in the uk
  • 6. Politics
  • 7. History
  • 8. What is “cannabis light”?
  • 9. Good to know

Weed in the UK is illegal for recreational use and it’s classified as a Class B drug while medical use of weed was legalized in 2018, meaning that a specialist doctor can prescribe it if needed. Cannabis has been restricted in the UK since 1928 but recreational use was limited in the 1960s and made completely illegal in 1971. Despite its illegality, the UK is the largest exporter of legal cannabis in the world. So if you’re planning to move to the UK, read along to learn all you need to know to avoid getting in trouble!

1. Cannabis Laws in the UK

As mentioned, weed in the UK was classified as completely illegal in 1971 in the Misuse of Drugs Act, this means that it’s still illegal to possess or consume cannabis in the UK although penalties may not be too severe depending on the amount of weed you’re caught with. Cannabis is a Class B drug along with ketamine and codeine, for example, so if police find small amounts of cannabis in your possession, you’ll most likely get a fine of around  £90 and if you’re under 18, they have the right to inform your parent or guardian.

 

Weed in the uk: cannabis laws in the uk

Cannabis laws in the UK.
 

UK police usually have a relaxed approach when it comes to small amounts of cannabis and will not target recreational consumers, this means that you will not necessarily get a fine if caught when cannabis as it depends on:

 

  • The amount of weed in your possession;
  • Where you were caught with the weed;
  • Previous drug offenses and other aggravating factors.

 

Keep in mind that the maximum sentence for possession is up to 5 years or an unlimited fine, and sometimes both. Recently, in 2019, the UK reviewed its drug policies and announced no reforms would be made. Experts claim that UK weed legalization seems unlikely in the near future.

Possession

Getting in trouble with small amounts of weed for personal use won’t get you in jail but can end up costing around £90 - 100 up to £2500, depending on the situation Now, larger amounts can really get you in trouble. 

Sale

On the other hand, selling and distributing weed is a serious offense in the United Kingdom. Those caught with larger amounts of weed or in large-scale trafficking operations may get an unlimited fine and: 

 

  • Up to life in prison for class A drugs;
  • Up to 14 years in prison for Class B or C drugs.


But sentences are given based on the amount of cannabis. This is classified into Categories 1 through 4.

 

Category 1200 kilograms or more
Category 240 - 200 kilograms
Category 36 - 40 kilograms
Category 4100 g - 6000g

 

Remember that in the UK, “intention to supply” defines trafficking as selling and giving cannabis to friends but also transporting, storing, importing, and exporting weed.

Growing

Manufacturing or producing any drug, including growing weed is illegal in the UK, however, cannabis for medicinal and scientific use is legal.

 

Weed in the uk: growing

It is completely illegal to grow weed in the UK.
 

Reports found that the UK has grown around 95 tonnes of weed in 2016, making it the biggest exporter, producing around 67.7% of the world’s total.

2. Is CBD Legal in The UK?

The UK finally recognized CBD as a medicine based on its efficacy. The UK’s home office allows the sale of CBD oils in the country as long as it does NOT contain over 0.2% THC. Licenses for CBD oil production cannot be granted yet but it can still be sold legally, even in health-food markets.

Related story
What is CBD?

3. Is it Legal to Send Cannabis Seeds to the UK?

So, are cannabis seeds legal in the UK? Yes! Cannabis seeds can be purchased and sold legally in the UK and it’s also legal to receive them via mail or send them out. However, growing cannabis is still illegal so the seeds cannot be germinated or grown.

4. Medicinal Cannabis in the UK

Medical cannabis products were legalized in 2018, and registered doctors are now allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis to those who need it. But, access is restricted to a limited number of doctors. The decision to legalize medicinal weed was welcomed by many but the laws are too restrictive so unfortunately, medicinal cannabis is only available to a few patients. Currently, there are only 3 medicinal cannabis products available:

 

  • Sativex
  • Nabilone
  • Apidioles

 

These medications will only be prescribed if all other treatment options are unsuccessful.

5. Industrial Hemp in the UK

It is legal to grow hemp with a government license but the UK has a small hemp market. Licenses go for around £580 while renewals cost around £326. Hemp growers also must provide proof and details of the seeds used, THC content, and whether the seeds are approved by the EU. Now, there are certain restrictions.

 

Weed in the uk: industrial hemp

The UK is the biggest hemp exporter, producing up to 67.7% of the world's total!
 

For example, growing is not allowed near public schools, for example, and the police must be informed about the cultivation operation.

6. Politics

Politicians have different opinions on cannabis in the UK. Several MPs have admitted to using cannabis and some went as far as to say the current laws were inappropriate, ineffective, and out of date. So here’s a quick rundown of the main political parties and their views on cannabis:

The Conservative Party

The Conservative Party has often stated that recreational cannabis use should be illegal. The current government even introduced roadside tests for cannabis and cocaine which can lead to a 1-year sentence and fines up to  £5000 when caught driving under the influence. This measure was heavily criticized as the THC levels permitted are extremely low.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party has different opinions on cannabis laws. On one side,  the ex-prime minister Tony Blaire reclassified weed from a Class B drug to C and five years later his successor changed it back to a Class B drug. Despite the more liberal approach, they have never mentioned decriminalizing cannabis.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have declared the need to reform current cannabis laws and also decriminalize them for personal use.

The Green Party

The Green Party, as you may imagine, is the only party that openly states that weed should be decriminalized. They also advocate medicinal cannabis for everyone that needs it.

The Scottish National Party

The Scottish National Party has spoken in favor of decriminalizing weed and the need to reform drug policies according to their views.

UKIP

UKIP is NOT known for its liberal policies but they have stated that drugs should be decriminalized as the war on drugs has been lost decades ago.

7. History

In the 1900s, weed in the United Kingdom was very popular as a medicinal and recreational substance but the increasing popularity and invention of other drugs led to the illegality of cannabis in 1928. In 1971 the Misuse of Drugs Act was introduced and cannabis was classified as a Class B drug until the 2000s when a temporary change in the government view on cannabis in response to the changing perception of the population towards weed. A year later, in 2001, the CHASC (Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee) led huge research into drugs and reported that the current drug policies needed change, and the population needed education rather than criminal sanctions.

 

Weed in the uk: history

The history of cannabis in the UK.
 

This report also recommended the reclassification from Class B to Class C while recommending the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Also in 2001, other studies were conducted where police officers would no longer arrest for possession but instead issue a warning and confiscate the cannabis which led to trials on medicinal cannabis in 2022 and the downgrade from Class B to Class C in 2004. Unfortunately, in 2008 the government reclassified cannabis as a Class B drug due to the supposedly long-term impacts on mental health. After lots of criticism, cannabis got reclassified as a Class B substance but with known medicinal uses in specific situations. This leads us to the next topic…

8. What is “Cannabis Light”?

As the name suggests, cannabis light is a lighter version of weed, meaning it’s a low-THC product of up to 0.6% THC. Cannabis light first became available in Italy in 2017 when a Supreme Court ruling allowed the sale of weed devoid of doping or psychotropic effects. But, cannabis light is not legal in the UK. Although regulations on CBD in the UK are pretty firm, the movement in the industry signals there’s more change to come. But at the moment, this is what you should know about CBD in the UK:

 

  • CBD products are not for medicinal use as they can only be sold as a food supplement or a cosmetic.
  • Selling CBD products are legal as long as they do not contain THC or CBN and are derived from hemp.
  • You need a prescription for medicinal weed.
  • CBN is considered illegal in the UK.
  • CBD weed is NOT legal.

 

But are there cannabis clubs in the UK? Yes, there are approximately 80 cannabis clubs in the United Kingdom and some even have their own locations that can have up to 150 members and thousands of affiliates. This model is inspired by Spain’s cannabis club models which provide a safer environment for cultivators and consumers. At the moment, the UKCSC (United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs National Committee) has three main goals:

 

  • To allow people to grow weed in their own homes;
  • To legalize sharing weed without fear of prosecution and;
  • To legalize the consumption of weed in a social group or within a private club or private establishment.

 

Now, remember that weed is still illegal in the UK but the cannabis clubs and popular opinion lead us to believe that cannabis will be legal eventually, all we have to do is be patient.

9. Good to Know

A survey has also found that British people see weed as being less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Also, a different study showed that 76% of British would consider using medicinal cannabis if prescribed by their doctor. This survey also shows that:

 

  • Despite being illegal,  almost 12% of 16 to 34-year-olds have used weed in the last year and the UK is currently number 26 in the world in numbers of users. Weed is the most common drug followed by hashish.
  • Male consumers are almost double the number of female consumers.
  • Approximately 70-80% of the weed in the UK is homegrown.


The majority of people in the UK have a very relaxed attitude towards cannabis and cannabis users, particularly young adults. A recent survey has found that approximately 43% of respondents support recreational legalization. However, nearly the same percentage oppose it. When asked if cannabis should be legalized, respondents said:

 

  • Cannabis should remain illegal - 40%
  • Cannabis should be decriminalized - 24%
  • Cannabis should be legalized - 27%
  • Not sure - 9%

 

So you live in the UK or are traveling there soon you probably won’t get in trouble as long as you respect the laws and regulations, and most likely you’ll be able to enjoy the city (and a joint) without any problems.

21 September 2022