How to Become a CBD Oil Distributor in the UK

Wondering how to become a CBD oil distributor?

Consumer interest in CBD has risen sharply in the last few years, and that trend looks set to continue.

With the CBD industry on the up, many entrepreneurs are looking to take advantage of the fertile UK market.

If you’ve dreamed of joining them but aren’t sure how to start a CBD business, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a six-step guide to show you how to become a CBD oil distributor in the UK.

how to become a CBD Oil distributor in the UK

Why become a CBD oil distributor in the UK?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant species. Unlike its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t have any psychotropic or intoxicating effects. In other words, it doesn’t get you ‘high’.

The recent rise in consumer interest has been driven by CBD’s potential health and wellness benefits. 

Although more research is needed to fully understand its therapeutic properties, studies have so far suggested CBD could be used to relieve pain, aid muscle recovery and treat a variety of complaints. These include insomnia, nausea, acne, asthma, inflammation, anxiety, stress, inflammation.

These potential benefits make CBD one of the most compelling wellness trends to come along in years. Helping people cope with pain, anxiety and other common issues is one of the primary attractions in becoming a CBD oil distributor.

Another factor is that CBD’s appeal seems to be widening. A 2019 report by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis estimated that there were 1.3 million CBD users in the UK, valuing the UK market at £300 million.

The report suggested that CBD usage was no longer limited to trendsetting millennials but had reached the mainstream. It found that 8-11% of UK adults had tried CBD products, with usage high across classes and age groups.

Intrigued? Here’s how to become a CBD oil distributor in the UK in six steps:

Step 1: Know your CBD market

Before embarking on a CBD business venture it’s essential to understand the market you’ll be operating in.

There are a number of important considerations to be aware of, so do your research carefully.

  • Legality: Although CBD is legal in the UK, there are some common misconceptions around what’s legal and what isn’t. If you want your CBD business to be successful, it’s vital to stay on the right side of the law.

    In a nutshell, CBD products are legal as long as they contain less than 1mg of THC per pack. The 1mg limit applies regardless of the size of the pack.

    Products containing more than this amount of CBD would be classed as controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA) and would therefore be illegal.

    You may have seen some sources quote the legal limit as 0.2% THC – however, this applies to the cultivation of industrial hemp and does not apply to finished CBD products. 

    Hemp can be cultivated legally in the UK if it contains less than 0.2% THC, although a licence from the Home Office is required. In addition, despite the fact that you may have seen them marketed openly, it is illegal to sell the buds and flowers of hemp plants.

    Only the seeds, stalk and stalk fibre can be harvested for commercial purposes. The buds, flowers and leaves are considered cannabis and are therefore a controlled substance under the MDA. To find out more, see our article on CBD laws in the UK.
  • Marketing restrictions: CBD companies are not allowed to make medicinal claims about their products. The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has issued guidance relating to CBD stating that ‘medicinal products must have a product licence (marketing authorisation) before they can be legally sold, supplied or advertised in the UK’. 

    Sativex, Epidyolex and nabilone are currently the only CBD or cannabis-based medicines that have been licensed in the UK, and can only be prescribed by doctors.

    This means that CBD companies must not make claims about the medical benefits of their products.
  • Rules and regulations: In January 2019 CBD was added to the Novel Food Catalogue, meaning it’s subject to the EU Novel Food Regulation. Foods are considered novel if they haven’t been consumed to a significant level in the UK or EU before May 1997. All novel foods require pre-market safety testing and authorisation before they can be sold in the UK.

    In February 2020, the Food Standards Agency gave UK CBD companies a deadline of 31 March 2021 by which to have a validated novel food application in place for each of their products. CBD products that don’t have a validated application in place by then won’t be allowed to remain on the shelves. Find out more in our article on novel food applications.

Step 2: Write a CBD business plan

Any new business needs a solid business plan, and the CBD industry is no different.

Your business plan is the blueprint for your fledgling CBD business. It should explain your aims, objectives and strategies, and include sales, financial and marketing forecasts.

If you’re looking to secure investment or a business loan, a business plan is absolutely essential. A strong business plan can also help to garner support from suppliers, customers and potential employees.

Writing a business plan will help you to:

  • Clarify the idea for your CBD business
  • Identify your goals as a CBD distributor
  • Find potential issues
  • Monitor and assess your progress

The government has provided a list of free resources and advice on writing a business plan, including business plan templates.

Step 3: Set up your business

Once you’ve got your business plan and know where you’re headed, you can start setting up your business as a CBD distributor.

There are a few vital things you need to do to get your business off the ground, including:

  • Choose a name for your CBD business. Aim for something related to the CBD industry, that conveys a unique benefit to your customers and that sounds good spoken aloud
  • Decide on your business structure and register your business
  • Open a business bank account
  • Get insurance, if applicable
  • Make sure you’re following any rules or regulations that apply to your business – you don’t need a licence to sell CBD, but there are rules that apply to selling onlineimporting and exporting goods, and data protection. For more information about CBD and licencing in the UK, read our blog.

Step 4: Establish your CBD brand

Building a recognisable and trustworthy brand will inspire customer confidence and help to establish you in the CBD market.

You’ll need to decide whether you as a CBD distributor want to sell purely online or in physical stores. Either way, you’ll need a well-designed website to help you engage with customers and appear reputable.

One of the most important considerations when establishing a CBD brand is to appear professional. The previous under-regulation of the CBD industry has led to confusion and lowered confidence among some consumers, so establishing yourself as a serious brand that customers can trust is key.

When designing your website, logo and other materials, be sure to treat CBD in a mature, respectful way, avoiding imagery that could be linked to cannabis or drug use.

Remember that CBD is a wellness product and cannot be sold as a medicine, so try not to make your branding look too medical.

Perhaps most importantly, show that you’re passionate about CBD. Customers will be much more likely to trust a brand that believes in the product and shows good intentions.

Step 5: Choose your products

As a CBD distributor, sourcing high-quality products should be a top priority. Ensure the products you sell are made in clean conditions in reputable, ISO-certified laboratories.

It’s a good idea to choose products made from organic hemp, to minimise the risk of introducing contaminants like heavy metals.

Lab results should be available for all products, which should show the exact quantities of cannabinoids and other compounds in the product. This will demonstrate that the THC content is within the legal limit and that the product doesn’t contain contaminants. 

Make sure all of your products are clearly and correctly labelled with this information.

Now that CBD has been added to the Novel Food Catalogue, it’s vital you adhere to the regulations and ensure compliancy. Leaf Sciences can assist you with this and allow you to focus on growing your business and brand.

Step 6: Join trade organisations

CBD is a fairly new industry in the UK, and the rules and regulations around it are still evolving. 

Several trade bodies have been set up in order to establish a framework of standards and best practice, with the aim of making the CBD industry safe, reliable and legally compliant.

The Cannabis Trades Association and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry are among these. Becoming a member of one of these organisations will give you access to resources, advice and support to help your business stay compliant, sustainable and reputable, giving you a solid foundation for success as a CBD distributor.

We hope the above has given you a clear idea of how to become a CBD oil distributor in the UK, good luck!

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CBD in the UK: Evaluating the Growing Market

The UK CBD market has grown swiftly in the last few years. Consumer interest is still on the up, suggesting this isn’t just a passing fad.

In this article, we’ve analysed the sector. We’ve reviewed the size of the market, consumer attitudes and the changing regulatory framework around CBD.

cbd in the uk

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of a number of chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, found in the Cannabis sativa plant.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another well-known cannabinoid – the one that causes you to feel ‘high’. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have any psychotropic or intoxicating effects.

CBD is widely available on the UK high street and online and can be purchased in a variety of products. These include oils and tinctures, topical creams, capsules and pills, gummies, vape products, beverages and cosmetics.

Interest in CBD has grown recently due to its potential therapeutic properties, lack of addiction risk and favourable tolerability and safety profile. Studies so far have suggested that CBD could be of benefit for anxiety, stress, inflammation, pain relief, muscle recovery, nausea, insomnia, asthma, acne and concentration.

It is these potential health benefits that are driving consumer interest in the UK. However, CBD’s therapeutic potential is not yet fully understood, and a number of new studies are underway around the world in order to explore it.

Is CBD legal in the UK?

In the UK, CBD products are legal as long as they don’t contain THC, which is a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA).

CBD isn’t a controlled substance. However, a CBD product containing over 1mg of THC per pack would be considered a controlled substance under the MDA, and would therefore be illegal.

In 2018 it became legal for doctors to issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines in special cases where the patient had an ‘unmet clinical need’ – for example, for children with severe epilepsy.

In 2016, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued a statement saying:

“We have come to the opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) used for medical purposes are a medicine.”

However, they emphasised that:

“medicinal products must have a product licence (marketing authorisation) before they can be legally sold, supplied or advertised in the UK”.

This means that even though medicinal cannabis is now legal, CBD companies must not make medicinal claims about their products unless those products have been licensed as medicines.

To find out more about CBD laws in the UK, check out our article on the subject.

CBD in the UK: the state of the market

In June 2019, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) released a report on the UK CBD market. The report, titled ‘CBD in the UK’, detailed the findings of the most comprehensive study to date on the UK’s CBD sector.

The study found that in 2019, the UK CBD market was worth around £300 million with 1.3 million users. This is 3-6 times larger than had previously been estimated. It found that the market is growing rapidly, projecting it to be close to £1 billion by 2025.

The study also found that:

  • Most UK consumers (over 70%) are buying CBD as oils/tinctures or capsules
  • Users with a presumed medicinally-orientated usage spend an average of 2-3 times more per month on CBD than the general user population (£55 compared to £25)
  • Most UK consumers buy their CBD products online
  • UK consumers are paying high prices for their CBD products, and buying is motivated by a variety of factors

A May 2020 study by Alphagreen.io found that 8.4 million UK adults had either purchased or intended to purchase CBD products that year.

The study, based on a survey of 5,000 adults, suggested that UK consumers had spent £150 million on CBD products in the first four months of 2020. It projected that the market would reach £450 million over 2020 as a whole, representing a 50% increase over 2019.

The study revealed a range of reasons for buying CBD, finding that:

  • 42% of consumers bought CBD to manage or relieve pain
  • 21% bought CBD to treat insomnia
  • 19% bought CBD to relieve anxiety
  • 38% of consumers used CBD alongside conventional medicines

Are attitudes to CBD changing?

An initial lack of regulation on the safety and quality of CBD products left consumer confidence somewhat dented. However, two surveys mentioned in the CMC’s report suggest that CBD has now ‘gone mainstream’, with high usage across age groups and classes.

The surveys, undertaken by Dynata and YouGov in May and June 2019, suggest that:

  • 8-11% of UK adults (4-6 million people) have tried CBD
  • Those who had used cannabis to alleviate symptoms of any kind in the previous year were almost six times more likely to have used CBD in the previous year
  • Support for the legalisation of cannabis is higher amongst those who had used CBD in the previous year than the general population (75% compared to 47%)
  • Consumers prioritise purity and quality over legality or origin when buying CBD. Clear labelling information and usage advice were the most important purchasing priorities.

A poll of 2,065 adults conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) in March 2020 found that:

  • 71% of UK adults are aware of CBD products
  • Of those who are aware of CBD, 16% have bought a CBD product
  • 45% do not feel confident that all CBD products are correctly labelled and properly tested, compared to 29% who do
  • 46% said they would be more likely to buy or use CBD products if they could be certain they had been produced to tight regulatory standards

These survey results suggest that although CBD usage is high, consumers would welcome increased regulation and easily accessible, impartial information about CBD products in the UK.

How much CBD is in CBD products?

Without the necessary regulatory framework, it has been possible for some low quality and incorrectly labelled CBD products to enter the market.

As part of its ‘CBD in the UK’ report, the CMC commissioned the UK’s first major third-party testing exercise of CBD products. This involved conducting blind testing on 30 CBD oil products available in the UK.

The results revealed a wide variety in terms of quality. The best products represented very high quality, while others displayed issues in various areas:

  • Only 11 products (38%) contained within 10% of the advertised CBD content. 11 products had less than 50% of the advertised content, while one product contained 0% CBD
  • 45% of the products contained measurable THC (0.04% mean content) or CBN (0.01% mean content). This made them technically illegal in the UK
  • One of the products didn’t contain any cannabinoids at all. This was a product from a high street pharmacy on sale for £90
  • One product contained 3.8% ethanol, putting it above the limit (3.4%) at which it’s classed as an alcoholic beverage
  • Eight products contained levels of heavy metals or solvents that were above the limit for food safety, although below the permissible daily dose in pharmaceutical products

The changing regulations around CBD in the UK

It’s clear to see that in order for the UK CBD market to become safe and sustainable, some regulatory changes need to be made.

Fortunately, this process has already begun. In January 2019 CBD was placed in the Novel Food Catalogue, which is a list of foods covered by the EU Novel Food Regulation.

Foods are classed as novel if they have not been widely consumed in the UK or EU before May 1997, which is when the regulation came into force.

Novel foods need to have a pre-market safety assessment and authorisation before they can be legally sold in the UK. This means that CBD companies must ensure their products are covered by a novel food application.

In February 2020, the Food Standards Agency announced that CBD companies must have a validated novel food application in place for each of their products by 31 March 2021.

This new regulatory requirement paves the way for a responsible, high quality and legally compliant CBD market.

See our article on novel food applications to find out more.

The road ahead for CBD in the UK

CBD in the UK looks set to continue its upward trajectory, with growing demand and curiosity among consumers laying the foundation for a robust CBD market.

There are still some challenges to overcome if the sector is to reach its full potential. But with the recent regulatory guidance establishing a clear trajectory, the market appears to be on a sustainable path.

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Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil: Understanding the Difference

Hemp oil vs CBD oil – what exactly is the difference?

CBD and hemp products have grown in popularity recently, and you may have seen the terms used interchangeably. But is hemp oil the same as CBD oil?

The short answer is no, although they are related. In this article, we’ll unpack some common misconceptions and explain the differences between hemp oil and CBD oil.

hemp oil vs cbd oil
Hemp oil vs CBD oil

Hemp oil vs CBD oil: what are the differences?

Hemp oil and CBD oil are not the same thing – although they are both derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, commonly known simply as the cannabis plant.

There are a number of different varieties of Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is one of them – it contains high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid that causes you to feel ‘high’. Hemp is another strain with a much lower THC content.

Although hemp oil and CBD oil come from the same plant species, there are a number of differences between them:

  • They’re made from different parts of the plant. Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds, which is why you may see it referred to as hemp seed oil. CBD oil is derived from the leaves, stalks and flowers of the plant. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another cannabinoid that is secreted in the plant’s resin. This resin is only found in the leaves, stalks and flowers, and is absent in the seeds.
  • Hemp oil and CBD oil have different uses. We’ll go into this in more detail later, but hemp oil tends to be used as food and in cosmetics, while CBD oil is usually used for its potential therapeutic properties.
  • CBD oil is more tightly regulated than hemp oil. While both products are legal in the UK, CBD is subject to tighter restrictions. Hemp oil has been used for thousands of years and is not subject to restrictions. CBD oil, on the other hand, was recently added to the EU Novel Food Catalogue. This means any product containing CBD must undergo safety testing and authorisation before it can be sold. In addition, CBD oil can only be sold legally if it contains less than 1mg of THC per pack, and CBD companies are not allowed to make medicinal claims about their products.
  • Hemp oil is cheaper than CBD oil. Extracting CBD is a more complex process than pressing oil from hemp seeds, which is reflected in their relative prices. While both products can vary significantly in price, there is a marked difference between them. You can find a 500ml bottle of hemp oil for £5-10, but a 10ml bottle of CBD oil may set you back £50-100.

What are the similarities between hemp oil and CBD oil?

While there are a number of significant differences between CBD oil and hemp oil, there are some notable similarities too:

  • They’re both generally derived from industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is a term that refers to varieties of Cannabis sativa that contain little to no THC. In the UK, industrial hemp must contain less than 0.2% THC to be legally cultivated, and a special licence from the Home Office is required to grow it.
  • Neither of them has psychotropic or intoxicating effects. THC is the main psychotropic compound in Cannabis sativa. As mentioned previously, hemp seeds don’t contain THC, and CBD oil is only legal in the UK if it contains less than 1mg of THC per pack. So while both hemp oil and CBD oil have a range of potential effects, neither of them get you ‘high’.

What is hemp oil used for?

Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years for a multitude of uses. These include textiles, paints, paper, printing ink and building materials. Hemp oil, or hemp seed oil, is obtained by cold-pressing the raw seeds of hemp plants.

One of the primary uses of hemp oil is in food. It has a light, nutty flavour and provides excellent nutritional value. It is rich in essential fatty acids and other polyunsaturated fats, providing the optimum ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and is low in saturated fat.

Hemp oil is also popular in skincare products and other cosmetics. This is because it’s a highly effective moisturiser and has potential anti-inflammatory properties.

Read our blog outlining the best CBD skincare products you can buy in the UK.

What is CBD oil used for?

CBD oil has soared in popularity in the last few years due to its potential therapeutic properties, combined with its favourable safety and tolerability profile.

As well as in oil form, CBD is available in a variety of products including pills and capsules, topical creams, gummies, cosmetics, beverages and vape products.

Although more research must be done to understand its therapeutic potential and full health benefits, CBD is used to treat a range of issues. This includes stress, anxiety, pain, asthma, inflammation, nausea, insomnia and acne.

For more information, check out our guide on how to use CBD oil.

Hemp oil vs CBD oil: why is there so much confusion?

There is often confusion around hemp oil and CBD oil, and it’s not just because they’re closely related.

In the last few years, interest in CBD oil has grown rapidly. A 2019 report by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) valued the UK market at £300 million, with 1.3 million users. It appears that some brands may be capitalising on this by blurring the lines between hemp oil and CBD oil.

Some hemp oil products, whether intentionally or not, can be mislabelled as CBD oil. The under-regulation of the CBD market so far has allowed some low quality and incorrectly labelled products to fly under the radar. For example, in a blind test of 30 CBD products available in the UK, the CMC’s report found that only 38% of samples contained within 10% of the advertised CBD content.

Conversely, some companies may mislabel CBD products as hemp oil in order to sell them in places they would otherwise be prohibited. In the UK, Amazon prohibits the sale of products containing CBD (although it currently allows a limited number of sellers to market CBD products as part of an invite-only pilot). Given that Amazon is by far the largest online retailer, it’s not inconceivable that some companies may be bending the truth in order to sell their products.

Which oil is right for me?

If you’re looking for a CBD oil or hemp oil product, the one you choose will depend on your aims and the context you’re using it in.

Although they have some similarities, now that you know the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil it shouldn’t be too hard to work out which one you need.

Unsure about a product? Be sure to check the label to find out which category it falls into.

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