Is CBD Legal in Northern Ireland and What Are the Rules?


The use of Cannabidiol (CBD) has become increasingly popular for treating many medical issues. In this article, we’ll untangle the rules of buying CBD in Northern Ireland

This question of CBD and cannabis rules in various countries is an issue which comes up time and time again, particularly during the last few years. There’s a considerable amount of confusion in Northern Ireland regarding the rules on CBD use and cannabis cultivation offences.

In this article, we’ll untangle this subject in order to weed out the truth. Take a look

The Difference Between Cannabis and Cannabis

First things first, it’s important to clarify the difference between CBD and cannabis, as the rules vary widely between these two:


Cannabis – which also goes by marijuana, weed and dope – is derived from the cannabis plant and contains cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This latter ingredient is the part which produces a high when the cannabis is either smoked or consumed in the form of food.

THC can produce a number of effects in users, include calmness, euphoria and, in large quantities, hallucinations.


Also derived from the cannabis plant, CBD alone does not produce the high obtained from THC, and is widely used for medicinal purposes. It’s thought that this compound can regulate pain, inflammation, discomfort and even depression by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

CBD is most widely available in the form of oil and edibles, such as gummies, and is commonly used to treat a number of conditions and ailments such as epilepsy.

As you can see, the main difference here is that cannabis is used as a recreational drug due to its ability to get the user ‘high’. In comparison, CBD does not cause any such high, and is used simply to alleviate the symptoms of conditions and ailments.

Is CBD Legal in Northern Ireland?

If you’d asked that question a few years ago, the answer would have been a little simpler, however, here are the facts…

To begin with, cannabis is not legal in Northern Ireland, although the drug has been legalised in many states in the USA. In a few countries in Europe, selling, buying and using cannabis for recreational purposes is very much still illegal in NI. Those caught using or in possession of cannabis will face a hefty fine and, in some cases, even a prison sentence.

CBD is, however, legal to use in Northern Ireland, and the use of this substance shares the same laws as in the rest of the United Kingdom. In fact, the CBD market is one of Belfast’s fastest growing industries.

Nowadays, CBD products are widely available in Northern Ireland and are often recommended to patients by healthcare providers. While there have not been any studies in Northern Ireland regarding the benefits of CBD, products such as oil and sweets are used worldwide. Many users swear by their effectiveness at alleviating pain and other symptoms of maladies like cancer.

Growing cannabis is an offence for individuals in Northern Ireland. While businesses growing cannabis for CBD purposes may be able to do so, they first need to obtain a controlled drugs domestic licence in order to do so.

How Has Brexit Affected the Trade of CBD in Northern Ireland?

While the CBD industry has enjoyed considerable success in Northern Ireland, Brexit has presented something of a spanner in the works. Following the UK’s departure from the European Union in January 2020, the rules for buying and using CBD haven’t changed, however, that’s not quite the case for suppliers.

Following Brexit, Northern Ireland is required to continue following EU laws. This means that any company looking to secure authorisation for a CBD product for the Northern Ireland market will need to adhere to EU regulations and authorisations.

This, in most cases, involves an application process which includes the submission of 90-day toxicity data, a process which can cost between £300,000 and £1 million.

Stephen Oliver of The Canna Consultants says, “It is uncertain how much financial and emotional investment has been made by cannabinoid businesses in Northern Ireland, but this will no doubt come as a shock. CBD products in Northern Ireland will be considered unlawful until the product in question is fully authorised by the European Commission, having progressed through the full Novel Food Assessment process.”

All of this may present significant challenges to Northern Ireland suppliers, as well as additional costs which will almost certainly have to be passed on to the end user. In fact, Stephen Oliver described the situation as ‘a shock and a significant body blow for the industry’.

Stephen added that the information was initially not made widely available and was, in fact, found lurking within the Northern Ireland Protocol, all 63 pages of it including six annexes and 369 footnotes.

The Future of CBD Supply in Northern Ireland is Looking Complicated…

To clarify, use of CBD in Northern Ireland is legal, and customers are able to purchase products from a number of outlets, including pharmacies, online, and even at health food shops.

While there are no official guidelines for customer use of these products, users should always read the manufacturer’s guidelines as to the correct use and quantities of products.

While this is good news for customers, the waters are a little murky for providers in Northern Ireland who may now have a number of hoops to jump through in order to continue the supply of these products. Sadly, some suppliers will simply be unable to survive the complicated market.


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