The State of Global Import Laws for CBD Medical Cannabis Oil

The State of Global Import Laws for CBD Medical Cannabis Oil

March 18, 2019 by Colin Munch
The CBD medical cannabis oil industry is booming, with the market expected to hit $22 billion by 2022. Products made of cannabidiol, which have long lived in a legal grey area, are beginning to grow more and more common as countries begin to loosen their stance on the use of cannabis. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is

The CBD medical cannabis oil industry is booming, with the market expected to hit $22 billion by 2022. Products made of cannabidiol, which have long lived in a legal grey area, are beginning to grow more and more common as countries begin to loosen their stance on the use of cannabis. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is extracted from hemp and has a variety of medical applications, from treating anxiety to Parkinson’s disease.  Generally, anything that contains more than 0.3% THC is considered to be for ‘recreational use’ and anything below that, including CBD medical cannabis oil, is not. Most CBD medical cannabis oil is imported as-is, or extracted from imported hemp. The laws and regulations for importing these substances vary wildly from country-to-country, and while many in the international community are relaxing their stance on the criminalization of cannabis production, importation, exportation, and use, there is a lot of confusion regarding import laws, possession rules, and sales regulations. We’ve compiled a list of common countries and broken down what, if any, their import laws are in regards to CBD medical cannabis oil.

Is It Legal To Import CBD Medical Cannabis Oil?
Yes, with permits

Cannabis legislation in the US is a bit of a mess, with the federal government still listing cannabis with THC as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 is any drug that is classified as having a “strong potential for abuse”, with “abuse” defined as any use at all. Many state laws have significantly relaxed their stance of cannabis for medical, and even recreational, use: 9 states have legalized cannabis for recreational or medical use, while 29 states have legalized cannabis for medical use and research. Industrialized hemp farming is legal across the country and New York made big headlines earlier in 2019 when it announced industrial hemp farming initiatives in the state, headed by US Senator Chuck Schumer- CBD medical cannabis oil is primarily extracted from hemp plants that contain less than the 0.3% THC required to be classified as Schedule 1.

While state laws are beginning to relax in the US, the federal government has been slower to respond and the results have been confusing- even chaotic. A report by the Toronto Star explains that while the DEA has begun to allow pharmaceutical-grade cannabis imports from Canada, the US Customs and Border Patrol have refused entry into the US Canadians involved in the industry.

Once you’re over the border, transporting cannabis for medical or research purposes is possible with a permit and from one licenced facility to another, even over state lines- provided both those states have legalized. It is possible to import from outside the US, but it requires a permit from the DEA and, as seen above, US Customs and Border Patrol may stop any imported goods.

In early 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, which in 2013 stated that the federal government would not pursue marijuana prohibition in states that had legalized the substance. Most experts called the rescission more of a symbolic gesture than anything actionable, as cases remain under the purview of individual US Attorneys, but it was a clear example of the confusion surrounding cannabis in the US law enforcement community.

The FDA is slowly working to approve products that contain CBD medical cannabis oil, such as Epidiolex, an epilepsy drug manufactured in Canada that was the first CBD product to gain FDA approval. The FDA’s official stance is: “we treat products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds as we do any other FDA-regulated products — meaning they’re subject to the same authorities and requirements as FDA-regulated products containing any other substance. This is true regardless of the source of the substance, including whether the substance is derived from a plant that is classified as hemp.”

Is It Legal To Import CBD Medical Cannabis Oil?
Yes, with permits

Canada made international headlines in June 2018 when it passed the Cannabis Act, rendering cannabis legal across the country, though laws vary from province-to-province. The law came into effect in October and raised many questions which have yet to be answered.

While the Cannabis Act was primarily focused on the regulation of the production and sales of recreational, psychotropic cannabis, it also muddied the waters for medicinal cannabidiol, or CBD, which is derived from hemp. While it was possible to buy many products made with CBD before the Cannabis Act was passed, the legality of these products was a grey area, to say the least. With the passing of the Cannabis Act, the Canadian Government is attempting to control the spread of all cannabis-related products- including CBD medical cannabis oil.

When it comes to commercial importation, article 22 of the “Importation and Exportation of Cannabis, Controlled Substances and Precursors Memorandum” provided by the federal government of Canada is very clear: “Under the Cannabis Act, a valid permit or exemption issued by Health Canada is required for any (personal or commercial) importation or exportation of cannabis across Canada’s border. Without a valid permit or exemption, it is illegal to import or export cannabis.”

In other words, commercial importation is only possible by licenced dealers or producers, or a registered dealer, and each shipment must have a valid import or export permit, which is only valid for one shipment.

So how do you get a permit? Commercial licences for the importation, exportation, and sale of cannabis can be obtained from Health Canada, while a separate permit is necessary from Canada Revenue Agency to buy cannabis excise stamps to cannabis products for shipping, and to calculate duty. This allows Health Canada to implement its cannabis tracking system, to ensure legal cannabis doesn’t end up being sold illegally, and vice versa.

If you’re not a commercial enterprise importing vast amounts of hemp seeds or CBD medical cannabis oil, you can legally purchase CBD oil from a licenced vendor- just make sure the product you’re buying has less than 0.3% THC.

European Union
Is It Legal To Import CBD Medical Cannabis Oil?
Generally yes, but check individual country laws

Many European countries have legalized medical cannabis, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, and Italy. Obviously, the laws vary depending on the country. Much like the US, EU legislation is, according to this paper by Hemp, “patch-work.” Generally, the EU follows a similar restriction as the US, classifying any hemp product containing more than 0.2% THC as illegal.

The laws are just as confusing as in the US, too. In the UK, possessing CBD itself is not illegal, but it’s impossible to actually acquire since cannabis plants themselves are illegal. Hemp cultivation is legal in the EU, however, certain extraction methods that may produce CBD medical cannabis oil are not, as they can be used to enrich THC compounds and push the THC level over the legal limit of 0.2%

In Germany, medical marijuana is prescribed to “seriously ill” patients, though the definition of seriously ill is not officially defined. You can buy hemp oil, and other hemp products, over the counter in Germany.

Sweden, which has severe drug penalties, has no official stance on CBD other than the very beginnings of classifying it as a medical product, which could take years. Denmark has already completed this legislation and requires a prescription for CBD oil, though topical creams and balms are absent from this requirement and can be bought, and marketed, anywhere.

Is It Legal To Import CBD Medical Cannabis Oil?

Switzerland has its own views on CBD since it is not a member state of the EU. THC is illegal but laws on CBD are significantly more relaxed than other countries. The maximum amount of THC allowed in Swiss CBD products is 1%, compared to 0.2% in most EU member states.

Crucially, you don’t need a permit to cultivate hemp in Switzerland, as long as you abide by the above mentioned 1% rule. This applies to companies as well as private citizens. It is legal to export CBD or hemp from Switzerland, provided the destination country allows its import and the product abides by THC level laws in the destination country.

Is It Legal To Import CBD Medical Cannabis Oil?

Hemp has been grown in China for thousands of years: hemp fibre has been found used as rope and early paper going as far back as 3,400 years. Today, growing hemp in China is completely legal, and brings in US$1,500 per hectare. Numbers vary, but most experts agree China is responsbile for half the world’s hemp production, due to its various possible applications for the military, including its medicinal potential.

Despite the massive size of China’s hemp industry, or perhaps because of it, it is difficult to nail down specifics about the hemp being grown in China. Countries witgh stricter transparency and tighter laws, like Canada, have greater control over the quality and ethical origins of their hemp, but if you’re looking for pure mass production, you can’t go wrong with Chinese hemp. Some experts predict that China is quietly cornering the market on hemp production- they alreayd provide the vast majority of hemp for textiles and have far outstripped the US, which has only recently allowed industrial hemp production partially in an effort to curb China’s massive growth in the area.

As for importing CBD products into China, the country ranks 11th on this list just above Switzerland, a country with far looser laws but a vastly smaller population. Their import numbers are totally dwarfed by the US, who imported US$763.5 million CBD, or 28.6% of worldwide imported cannabis oils, in 2017. We had difficulty finding any specifics about the legality of importation however, so be sure to do some more research beforehand and keep CBD products out of your luggage if travelling to China.

Is It Legal To Import CBD Medical Cannabis Oil?

Brazil has the potential to be the biggest medical cannabis market in the world. Brazil has been steadily decriminalizing cannabis since the mid-2000s and recently approved a bill allowing patients with medical marijuana licences to grow their own plants. However, Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsinaro, is staunchly anti-drug, including cannabis, which places the cultivation bill in jeopardy.

Brazil legalized CBD medical cannabis oil in 2015, as long as it is prescribed by a doctor, but with no laws that allow cultivaiton the only option for Brazilians interested in CBD medical cannabis oil is importation. This means that the only way to provide supply to the massive demand for CBD medicial cannabis oil in Brazil is to import it!

This is good news for the international CBD industry, which is scrambling to grab slices of the potentially multi-million dollar pie that is the Brazilian CBD market. This is especially exciting for other South American countries like Colombia, which has embraced cananbis cultivation. The potential for Colombian CBD medical cannabis oil companies, with its ideal cultivation conditions and regulatory environment is sky high.

A Whole New World

While the governments of the world race to catch up to the public demand for CBD medicial cannabis oil, import laws will be constantly changing around the globe. To take advantage of the massive potential this market presents, investors must stay on top of shifting laws and move fast to indentify and secure business opportunities in what has the potential to be a multi-billion dollar industry.

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