The market for cannabis oil is booming in the UK. Several high-profile stories purporting to extol its medicinal benefits have added to its popularity. So, what exactly is cannabis oil? Well firstly, the name is misleading. It’s not cannabis oil that is for sale legally in the UK.

The psychoactive component in all cannabis products is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives users the ‘high’ feeling. As a central nervous stimulant, THC can alter mood and sensory perceptions. Cannabis oil has a high level of psychoactive compounds per volume (which can be up to 98% THC content). This potent cannabis oil cannot be sold legally in the UK. To unravel this confusion, we need to look at the history of the cannabis sativa plant.

Over 10,000 years ago, ancient cultivators realised that the plant had dual properties and began separating the plants to isolate their ‘medicinal’ characteristics. The flower buds with their psychoactive effects closely resemble today’s marijuana plants. The other variety of the plant was bred to be tall and durable and became what we now call industrial hemp. The industrial hemp plants tend to produce high levels of cannabinoid (CBD), while producing low amounts of THC. Conversely, the marijuana plant produces high THC levels and low CBD levels. So, both hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, but they are very different.

CBD is closely related to THC but has quite different pharmacological effects. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive so it does not change the state of mind of the person who uses it. However, it does appear to produce significant changes in the body and has been found to have medical benefits. As well as being beneficial for treating a number of ailments, it can promote sleep, boost appetite and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Some scientific studies suggest CBD can help people with epilepsy manage their seizures. CBD oil is also used to ease the symptoms of multiple ¬sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, joint pain, anxiety and depression, along with a range of other conditions.

It’s actually CBD (or hemp) oil
Cannabis oil is illegal to possess, supply or use; whereas CBD is now recognised as a medicine following drug tests into its use. As such, the cannabis oil that is for sale in the UK is actually CBD oil, which is made from approved strains of industrial hemp.

According to the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTA UK), there are approximately 300,000 users of CBD oil and the market is growing month on month. The UK market is now approaching £50 million a year with over 1800 sellers. CTA UK sees an average of 10 new applications each week for companies wanting to sell CBD. Holland & Barrett have been selling CBD oil for more than 2 years and their sales account for 10% of the market share. As well as being taken orally for medicinal use, CBD oil can be applied cosmetically to the surface of the skin and its benefits are said to include preventing signs of ageing and protecting against eczema and psoriasis.

A more in-depth article on this subject can be found on our Learning Centre.

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