CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of numerous chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Popular as a natural wellness product, it is also backed by a certain amount of early scientific evidence suggesting it may help with certain health conditions.
Unlike the most well-known cannabinoid, THC, CBD is not psychoactive so does not create the ‘high’ associated with smoking cannabis. In fact, it is generally made from hemp plants – low-THC strains of cannabis – that in the UK must contain no more than 0.2% THC by dry weight.
Processing to extract the CBD generally reduces this amount even further, before it is added to products including CBD oils, vaping liquids, edibles and topical creams.
However, given that CBD is a cannabis-based substance, you may be wondering whether it’s legal to take it on flights from the UK, and how the laws at your destination may be relevant.
Is it Legal to Take CBD Oil on a Plane in the UK?
Cannabis and its psychoactive ingredient THC are controlled substances in the United Kingdom but CBD in its pure form is not. It’s therefore perfectly legal to take CBD products on UK flights and, as long as you follow the rules for carrying liquids in your hand luggage (see section below), you’re unlikely to have any problems at UK security.
Nevertheless, it’s extremely difficult to eliminate all traces of THC when extracting and refining CBD and there are rules about this that are worth being aware of.
The UK has set a limit of 1mg of THC per individual bottle or packet of a CBD-based product, regardless of its size. That means that the allowable percentage of THC may vary from product to product. For instance, a 30ml bottle of CBD oil containing 1mg of THC would be 0.003% THC, while a 10ml bottle containing the same amount would be 0.01%.
Some CBD products contain more than the legal amount of THC. That’s why it’s important to choose a brand that provides third-party lab tests that verify THC levels.
You should also be aware that the laws in the country you are flying to may differ from those in the UK and that penalties for possessing cannabis-based products may be severe (see section below).
Can you take CBD Oil in your Hand Luggage in the UK?
Since CBD containing allowable levels of THC is legal to take on flights in the UK, there’s nothing about the substance itself that prevents you from carrying it with you. However, if the product is a CBD oil, you’ll still need to conform to the rules for taking liquids in hand luggage.
- containers must hold no more than 100ml
- containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm
- contents must fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed
- the bag must not be knotted or tied at the top
- you’re limited to 1 plastic bag per person
- you must show the bag at the airport security point
Since CBD oil rarely comes in containers as large as 100ml, these regulations are unlikely to pose a problem.
The guidelines also point out that there could be different rules regarding carrying liquids in countries outside the EU. So if your journey includes a transfer or layover before a second flight, make sure you check the rules for that country with your airline and the airport.
Flying with CBD from the UK to Other Destinations
The laws about CBD and cannabis-based products vary widely from country to country. In many, it is completely legal, in others possession may carry harsh penalties. Rules about THC levels in CBD products also differ. That’s why before you travel you should always check the laws and regulations in the country and the airport you are flying to and if in any doubt do not take CBD products with you.
Good CBD brands make independent laboratory analyses of their products available on their websites, showing the levels of THC and CBD. If you do decide to take CBD on a flight, you may want to print out the relevant reports for reference.
If you have been prescribed medication containing CBD or THC – such as the multiple sclerosis treatment Sativex/nabiximols or the epilepsy drug Epidiolex – make sure to carry a relevant medical certificate with you.
CBD is legal in most countries in Europe as long as it has no more than 0.2% THC in it, but there are exceptions. Due to a change in how the law is interpreted, CBD edibles are no longer allowed in Austria, while in other countries CBD is still considered to be cannabis and is illegal. To be safe, check the specific laws of the country you are flying to before deciding to travel with CBD.
The United States Transport Security Administration says it doesn’t search for marijuana or other recreational drugs but will report you if they’re found, so CBD is unlikely to be an issue in these circumstances. However, the legal status of cannabis and cannabis products varies from state to state so you should check the specific laws at your destination and bear in mind that the federal THC limit for CBD products is 0.3%.
When flying elsewhere in the world, find out what the stance is on CBD and cannabis-based products and, if in doubt, do not take them with you. Australia and New Zealand are reasonably liberal countries but CBD is still illegal to buy there – and there are some countries, in Asia and the Middle East for example, where carrying CBD might feasibly be considered drug trafficking, which comes with the severest penalties.
The author of this article is not a medical expert and nothing in this article constitutes medical advice or gives rise to a medical practitioner/patient relationship. You should seek specialist medical advice where required. Never disregard professional medical advice or refrain from seeking it because of something you have read here.