CBD – legal basics & what to look out for
Published on : November 30, 2021

There is a lot of confusion: while CBD products are increasingly found in pharmacies, online stores, drugstores, and even kiosks, one often reads that the sale of CBD is not legal. But why then are products offered in abundance? In our article, we shed light on the darkness and take a closer look at the current legal basis.

In 1925, both the sale and possession of cannabis was banned worldwide. This was decided at the International Opium Conference. Then in 1996, cultivation of commercial hemp with a THC content of less than 0.2% was allowed under strict conditions. While agricultural companies are allowed to cultivate and trade EU-certified commercial hemp, groups of people such as traders or allotment gardeners are not allowed to do so. These must obtain a legal permit in order to be allowed to cultivate. Agricultural businesses, on the other hand, are only subject to a notification requirement. However, they are also only allowed to cultivate certain commercial hemp strains in Germany, which are listed in the annually revised commercial hemp variety catalog.

In 2016, the “Fifteenth Ordinance on the Amendment of the Ordinance on the Prescription of Medicinal Products” (AMVV, Annex 1) made it compulsory to prescribe CBD in Germany. Until that time, it was possible to legally sell all different types of CBD products. Due to the fact that this was not sufficiently monitored, and the legal situation was not clarified, CBD products could be freely sold. As a result, many retailers decided to distribute and market CBD products as “dietary supplements” without any promise of healing and/or medical benefits. If you still find a CBD product on which healing promises are listed, it may be a dubious supplier. In such cases, ask for the certificates of analysis, which must list THC and CBD content. According to the current definition or view of the Federal Institute for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), CBD is either a drug or Novel Food, as it was not a common food before 1997. There have been several applications to the EU for some time to elevate CBD to the status of a food or food supplement. However, the authorities seem reluctant to address the issue. The legal situation is also extremely complex, as both the Geneva Conference for Narcotic Drugs must be taken into account, as well as the Agriculture, Food, Tobacco and Medicines Acts, including the Cosmetics and Food Supplements Regulations. In all these laws and regulations, CBD is considered sometimes quite contradictory: sometimes it is a drug, sometimes it is a simple ingredient without psychoactive effects.

However, there are further distinctions in CBD products that can be legally sold, consumed or carried. According to this, the products must be processed. CBD oil, creams, and liquids (for CBD vaporizers) are conditionally legal, while the sale, consumption, and carry-on of flower, cigarettes, and teas are theoretically not allowed. However, since CBD is no longer subject to the Narcotics Act, all products should be freely available for sale. This situation results in the gray area for unprocessed CBD products, into which flowers, teas and cigarettes fall. The ruling in the now famous “Hemp Bar Trial” established that CBD flowers made from commercial hemp are narcotics in the sense of the Narcotics Act (BtMG), but the sale is then legal and permissible if abuse potentials can be ruled out. In order to exclude this potential for abuse, suppliers must label the goods accordingly. One example of this is that a daily consumption quantity for the end consumer must be listed on the packaging. In addition, as already mentioned, no healing promises, or explicit medical benefits may be listed. Many suppliers get around this issue by offering their products as commodities such as “flavored oils.”


All CBD products that have been processed and derived from EU commercial hemp and comply with the maximum THC content of 0.2% are legal to distribute or carry in Germany. However, consumption as “food” would not really be allowed. What you as a buyer do with the commodity, however, is then up to you. In the end, people take these “aroma oils” orally and the available “aroma flowers” are smoked. For unprocessed products, the legal situation is opaque and results in a gray area that causes confusion on many sides. Thus, unprocessed CBD products are legal to purchase as long as potential for abuse can be ruled out. We recommend avoiding products from manufacturers that do not comply with the above guidelines and apply for certificates of analysis to ensure high quality and pure products. 

We hope that this article has provided more clarity and that the current situation can at least be understood. What is certain is that clear legal conditions must be created to regulate the handling of CBD products and make it safer for consumers. 


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Frontier Pharmaceuticals is going to be one of the leading medical cannabis companies to concentrate on specific indications and rare diseases.

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