Delta-8 THC and the UK: Is It Legal?


The introduction of delta-8 THC onto the scene in America has meant a different offering of THC, and a new legal predicament. Delta-8 has mainly been a US phenomenon, but as word spreads, so does THC. Here’s a look at Delta-8 THC and the UK, to see how the word of delta-8 is spreading so far.

Delta-8 THC might be most popular in the United States, but as the rest of the world catches on, the industry is sure to blow-up quickly. The best part about delta-8 THC is that it gives users options. Many people like the lower psychoactive effect, and significantly less anxiety and paranoia. If the term ‘delta-8 THC’ is still new to you, check out these great Delta-8 THC deals to try the newest form of THC out there.

The UK and cannabis laws

Before getting into delta-8 THC specifically, and how relevant it is in the UK, let’s remember that delta-8 is still cannabis (or hemp, to be exact). And the UK does have very particular cannabis laws.

Cannabis law is governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act in the UK, and has been illegal as per this legislation since 1971. It is a class B drug under this law. In 2004, it was actually changed to a class C drug, before being moved right back to class B in 2009. Class B drug possession crimes result in up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. For small amounts, cops are more likely to issue a ₤90 on-the-spot fine.

Drug penalties are dependent on different factors, like how much cannabis the person had, where the offender was found with the cannabis, personal history, and whatever other relevant factors are present. Drug policies in the UK were reviewed in 2019, but sadly, no change was made at that time to cannabis scheduling or penalties. So to be clear, the UK has no actual decriminalization policy for small amounts of cannabis.

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For selling/supply crimes, the sentence can be as high as 14 years with an unlimited fine, or both. The highest sentences are saved for large-scale operations, with smaller offences considered the same way as possession crimes, by looking at the amount the person is caught with, their history, and what the supply plan was. The amount an offender is caught with correlates to the ‘category of harm’. 200 kilograms or more is considered Category 1, 40 – 200 kilograms is Category 2, six – 40 grams is a Category 3 crime, and 100 grams or over is Category 4.

Personal cultivation is illegal in the UK, but medical cannabis cultivation is legal, along with medical cannabis which was legalized in 2018. In the country, the medical cannabis program is rather limited, offering only three pharmaceutical products, and an inability for home cultivation. As of yet, very few licenses have been given out, making cannabis medicines hard to obtain for citizens.

Conversely, and weirdly similar to many African countries, the UK has been growing medical cannabis for exportation, in 2016 growing as much as 95 tonnes according to the UN, and in 2017 exporting 2.1 tonnes, which was considered the highest amount for legal cannabis that year, comprising 67.7% of all legal cannabis exports for the year. That last part is a bit confusing though, as the majority of the production is actually being done by GW Pharmaceuticals, which happens to be based out of England.

Delta-9 THC

By now it’s pretty well-known that THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis plants. It appears in greater quantities in some plants, which are called marijuana, and is found significantly less in other cannabis plants, which are referred to as hemp. The chemical formulation for THC is C21H30O2. THC has been demonized for years, and even today is often thought of as only a compound to produce a high, while its medicinal benefits are often overlooked.

This study from 2019, The Association between Cannabis Product Characteristics and Symptom Relief sheds light on the necessity of THC more than other cannabinoids for symptom relief. It is, of course, THC which specifically sits in Schedule I of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances treaty, and likely the main reason that cannabis as a whole, is still in schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Substances. These two UN treaties, regulate the global legality of cannabis.

Of course, we’re not talking about standard THC, but rather delta-8 THC, which is an isomer of delta-9. So, what’s the difference? Not a whole lot. Delta-9 THC comes from THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. THCA is the most abundant cannabinoid, and must be decarboxylated to become the delta-9 THC we’re familiar with. This happens when a carbon atom is removed from a chain with the release of a carbon dioxide molecule (CO2), and usually happens when cannabis is heated, or over the course of time.

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Beth Edmonds