The Evolution of CBD Legalization: A Global Perspective

In recent years, the world has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the legal landscape surrounding cannabis and its derivative, CBD (cannabidiol). From a history marred by prohibition and stigmatization, to a present marked by acceptance and exploration, the story of CBD legalization is a fascinating journey that spans continents and cultures. In this article, we will delve into the legal status of cannabis and CBD in various regions, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

A New Era for Cannabis

The shift towards cannabis legalization represents a significant milestone in modern history. Governments worldwide have recognized the need to reassess their approach to this ancient plant. While the journey to acceptance has been gradual, the momentum has been undeniable.

In the United States, the legal status of cannabis has seen a dramatic shift, culminating in a patchwork of state laws. On a federal level, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance, but numerous states have taken matters into their own hands.

CBD Status in the United States

CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, has garnered widespread attention. The Farm Bill of 2018 marked a pivotal moment for CBD in the United States, effectively removing hemp-derived CBD from the list of controlled substances. This legislation opened the door for the production and sale of CBD products across the country. [1]

The story of CBD legalization in the United States is a complex and evolving one. CBD is one of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant, and it has gained popularity for its potential therapeutic benefits without the psychoactive effects associated with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another prominent cannabis compound. Here’s a timeline of CBD legalization in the US.

  1. Early 20th Century: Cannabis Prohibition. In the early 20th century, the federal government and various states began implementing strict laws prohibiting the possession, sale, and use of cannabis, including hemp (a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis).
  2. 1970: Controlled Substances Act. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, making it illegal at the federal level. This classification included all compounds derived from cannabis, including CBD.
  3. 2014: Farm Bill and CBD Research. The Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, included a provision allowing for the cultivation of industrial hemp for research purposes in states that had legalized hemp cultivation. This legislation marked the first step towards the recognition of CBD’s potential benefits.
  4. 2018: Farm Bill Legalizes Hemp. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, commonly referred to as the 2018 Farm Bill, removed hemp from the list of controlled substances and legalized its cultivation, production, and sale as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. This effectively legalized CBD derived from hemp at the federal level.
  5. State-by-State Legalization. Even before federal legalization, many states had already started legalizing CBD for medical and recreational use. This led to a patchwork of CBD laws across the country, with some states allowing full access while others had stricter regulations.
  6. FDA Oversight. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) retained regulatory authority over products containing CBD, including CBD-infused foods, beverages, and dietary supplements. The FDA has been working to establish clear regulations for these products to ensure safety and efficacy.
  7. Ongoing Evolution. The legal landscape surrounding CBD continues to evolve. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, discussions and debates were ongoing at both the federal and state levels about how to regulate CBD products more comprehensively. This includes issues related to labeling, quality control, and the marketing of CBD for various health claims.

CBD Legalization in Europe: A Continent Embracing Change

Europe, a continent known for its diverse cultures and perspectives, has been making strides in CBD legalization. While the approach varies from country to country, there is an overarching trend towards recognizing the potential benefits of CBD.

CBD legalization in Europe was a complex and evolving process, with regulations varying from country to country. 

  1. EU Regulations. The European Union (EU) had regulations in place regarding the legality of CBD products. According to the EU’s Novel Food Catalog, CBD was considered a “novel food,” meaning it required authorization before it could be legally marketed in the EU. This decision was made due to concerns about the safety of CBD and its potential impact on consumers.
  2. Novel Food Authorization. Companies wishing to sell CBD products as a food or dietary supplement in the EU were required to apply for Novel Food authorization. This process involved submitting safety and quality data to demonstrate the safety of CBD for consumption. As of my last update, several companies had applied for Novel Food authorization, and some CBD products had received approval.
  3. Variability Across Member States. The legal status of CBD varied from one EU member state to another. Some countries had more permissive regulations, allowing the sale of CBD products with certain restrictions, while others had stricter policies. For example, in some countries, CBD products were only available as prescription medications.
  4. CBD as a Narcotic. In some EU countries, CBD was classified as a narcotic substance, especially if it contained traces of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This classification could result in stricter regulations and penalties for possession and sale.
  5. Changes and Developments. The legal landscape surrounding CBD was evolving, and some EU countries were considering changes to their regulations. It’s important to note that laws and regulations regarding CBD were subject to change, so staying informed about the specific rules in a particular country or region was crucial.
  6. CBD Derived from Hemp. In general, CBD derived from industrial hemp (containing less than 0.2% THC) was more likely to be legally accepted in many European countries compared to CBD from marijuana, which typically had higher THC levels.
  7. Consumer Demand. Despite the legal complexities, the demand for CBD products in Europe was on the rise due to their perceived health and wellness benefits. This demand often outpaced the regulatory framework, leading to challenges in ensuring product quality and safety.

CBD legality in Europe by country

  • Poland – THC < 0.2%,
  • Germany – THC < 0.2%,
  • Austria – THC <0.3%,
  • The Netherlands – THC < 0.05%, above this limit it is a pharmaceutical product,
  • France – THC < 0.00%,
  • Belgium – THC < 0.2% – prescription required,
  • UK – THC < 0.2%, but only as a dietary supplement,
  • Northern Ireland – THC < 0.2%,
  • Southern Ireland – THC 0.00%,
  • Iceland – no legal regulations concerning CBD, but a very strict marijuana law,
  • Spain – THC < 0.2%, for external use only,
  • Portugal – on prescription,
  • Luxembourg – THC < 0.2%,
  • Switzerland – THC < 1%,
  • Romania – THC < 0.2%, for medical use only
  • Slovenia – THC < 0.2%,
  • Slovakia – illegal,
  • Italy – THC < 0.6%,
  • Denmark – THC < 0.2%, prescription required,
  • Finland – THC < 0.2%, prescription required,
  • Estonia – THC < 0.2%,
  • Lithuania – true hemp cultivation is legal, but the status of CBD products is not clear,
  • Latvia – THC<0,2%
  • Croatia – THC < 0.2%,
  • Bulgaria – THC < 0.2%,
  • Greece and North Macedonia – THC < 0.2%,
  • Czech Republic – THC < 1%,
  • Hungary – THC < 0.2%,
  • Malta – legal marihuana for personal use,
  • Georgia – THC 0.00%,
  • Cyprus – THC < 0.3%
  • Norway – THC 0.00%,
  • Sweden – THC 0.00%,

CBD status in the United Kingdom

CBD’s status in the United Kingdom is relatively clear. CBD (cannabidiol) was legal in the UK as long as it met certain criteria. CBD products were allowed as long as they contained less than 0.2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. This low THC threshold ensured that CBD products did not produce a “high” and were considered safe for consumption. CBD was widely available in various forms, including oils, capsules, and topical creams, and could be purchased both online and in physical stores. The United Kingdom has seen significant changes in its attitude towards CBD. CBD products have been widely available and can be legally sold as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC. [2]

Cannabis Legalization in France

France, often associated with strict cannabis laws, has been gradually opening up to CBD. As of 2023, certain CBD products with less than 0.2% THC have been legalized for sale. 

CBD Legalization in Italy

Italy has a generally favorable stance towards CBD (cannabidiol) products. CBD was legal in the country, provided that it contained less than 0.6% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), adhering to European Union regulations. CBD was readily available in various forms, including oils, capsules, and topical creams, and could be purchased in stores and online. Italy’s lenient approach toward CBD had led to a growing market for these products, and many businesses were capitalizing on the trend. [3]

However, some politicians promote restrictive laws on cannabis and CBD:

“There is a way to guarantee secure income and at the same time fight organized crime: establish a state monopoly on cannabis, the ‘normal’ one. We therefore welcome the Government’s withdrawal of the amendment to the tax law which equated the taxation of light cannabis to that of cigarettes, limiting the sale to ‘shops selling monopoly products’, i.e. tobacconists”


C’è un modo per garantire entrate sicure e al contempo combattere la criminalità organizzata: instaurare un monopolio di Stato sulla cannabis, quella ‘normale’. Accogliamo quindi favorevolmente il ritiro da parte del Governo dell’emendamento alla legge fiscale che equiparava la tassazione della cannabis light a quella delle sigarette, limitando la vendita ai ‘negozi di vendita di prodotti di monopolio’, CBD shop, ovvero ai tabaccai

— Marco Grimaldi

Legal status of Cannabis in Germany

Germany has a relatively liberal stance on CBD (cannabidiol) products. CBD was legal and widely available in various forms, including oils, capsules, and topical products. The key condition for legality was that these products had to contain less than 0.2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), adhering to European Union regulations. CBD could be purchased online and in physical stores throughout the country, and there was a growing market for CBD-infused goods. Germany has embraced the potential of CBD, permitting its sale with THC levels below 0.2%.

CBD in the Netherlands

The Netherlands, famous for its liberal drug policies, has a unique approach to CBD. CBD products with a THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content of less than 0.05% were generally considered legal and widely available for purchase in various forms, including oils, capsules, and edibles. The Netherlands’ open approach to cannabis and CBD allowed for a thriving market with numerous CBD specialty shops and online retailers. While CBD is legal, there are stringent regulations in place, and it is treated as a controlled substance if it exceeds certain THC limits.

The Path Forward: Challenges and Opportunities

As CBD legalization continues to evolve, challenges and opportunities abound. Regulatory frameworks need to be refined, ensuring consumer safety and product quality. Additionally, international collaboration on research and standardization is essential.

To Summarize

In conclusion, the story of CBD legalization is one of transformation and adaptation. From the United States to Europe, governments are acknowledging the potential benefits of CBD and cannabis, creating a legal framework that reflects changing attitudes and scientific discoveries. As we move forward, it is crucial to remain informed and engaged in this dynamic landscape, advocating for policies that prioritize public health and safety.

For more information on the legal status of cannabis and CBD, please visit [URL1] and [URL2].


  1. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)
  2. Consumer cannabidiol (CBD) products report
  3. Uso medico della cannabis