Meanwhile, the US recently clarified that CBD is a Schedule I drug.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The therapeutic effects of cannabidiol, the non-psychotropic chemical compound in cannabis known as CBD, have been well documented. Now the United Kingdom has effectively moved past the stigma to the science and classified CBD as an actual medicine.
In the UK, the US, and elsewhere, CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment for epileptic seizures, pain, inflammation, anxiety, and other ailments. It's often taken as an extract, such as in an oil or tincture form, separate from the other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.
"The change really came about with us offering an opinion that CBD is in fact a medicine, and that opinion was based on the fact that we noted that people were making some quite stark claims about serious diseases that could be treated with CBD," Gerald Heddel, director of inspection and enforcement at the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), told Sky News.
Upon looking at the evidence, Heddel said it was clear that people were using CBD products with the well-founded belief that they would actually help.
But within the UK, most people have been getting their CBD products from unregulated sources, which could be selling unhealthy products with additives and other ingredients that could in fact make people sick.
According to Project CBD, for instance, CBD derived from industrial hemp, as opposed to whole plant cannabis, may lack critical terpenes (aromatic molecules) that work in harmony with the cannabinoids, while containing a great number of contaminants since hemp is a "bio-accumulator" that drains toxins from soil.
With the MHRA's decision, CBD manufacturers will need to show that their products meet safety, quality, and efficacy standards, but they'll be completely legal if they are. Some worry, however, that the this move may also send mixed messages about cannabis altogether. Federal law in the UK, as in the US, does not recognize the therapeutic value of cannabis, and possessing it is a criminal offense.
Read More: Why This Cannabis Oil Has Lawmakers Stumped
On the other hand, for activists who want to see cannabis legalized in the UK, the MHRA's decision opens up the debate over the plant's medicinal value.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.