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Is Delta 8 Legal in the UK?

Delta-8 is gaining popularity for its milder psychoactive effects compared to its more well-known counterpart delta-9 THC.

The legality of Delta-8 in the UK remains somewhat unclear. Due to its similarity to THC, it is generally considered illegal. Additionally, Delta-8 is often synthesized, and UK law currently prohibits synthetic mind-altering substances. At the moment there are no legal Delta-8 THC products for medical purposes recognized by the National Health Service (NHS).

What is Delta-8?

Delta-8, or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, is a cannabinoid found in both hemp and cannabis plants. It is chemically similar to the more well-known delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC), which is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. However, delta-8 THC is known to produce milder psychoactive effects compared to delta-9 THC.

Chemical Structure and Sources:

  • Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC share a similar molecular structure, but differ slightly in the placement of a double bond between carbon atoms. This small difference accounts for the variation in their effects.
  • Delta-8 THC is found in trace amounts in cannabis plants. It can also be synthesised from cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp, which has led to its increased availability in various products.

Psychoactive Properties:

  • Delta-8 THC is psychoactive, meaning it can produce a “high.” However, users often report that the high is less intense and more clear-headed compared to delta-9 THC.
  • It is sometimes preferred by those who seek the therapeutic benefits of THC without the stronger psychoactive effects associated with delta-9 THC.

Uses and Popularity:

  • Delta-8 THC is available in various forms, including edibles, tinctures, vape cartridges, and gummies.
  • Its popularity has grown in regions where delta-9 THC is strictly regulated or illegal, as users seek alternative cannabinoids for relief from anxiety, pain, and nausea.

Current UK Legal Framework

Understanding the legality of delta-8 THC in the UK requires an examination of the existing legal framework governing controlled substances, particularly those related to cannabis and its derivatives.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971:

  • The primary legislation regulating controlled substances in the UK is the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This act classifies drugs into three categories (A, B, and C) based on their perceived harm and potential for abuse.
  • Delta-9 THC is classified as a Class B drug under this act, making it illegal to possess, produce, or supply without appropriate authorisation.

Cannabis and THC Distinctions:

  • The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and subsequent amendments do not explicitly mention delta-8 THC. However, the broad definitions of controlled substances can encompass a wide range of cannabinoids, including those that are synthetic or naturally occurring.
  • The act distinguishes between controlled cannabinoids and non-controlled cannabinoids like CBD, which is legal if it meets certain criteria (e.g., derived from an approved industrial hemp strain with less than 0.2% THC and containing no more than 1 mg of THC per product).

Interpretation and Enforcement:

  • Given the lack of specific mention of delta-8 THC in UK legislation, its legal status remains ambiguous. The Home Office, responsible for drug policy and regulation, has not issued explicit guidance on delta-8 THC.
  • In practice, delta-8 THC could be considered a controlled substance under the broad definitions used in the legislation, particularly if it is viewed as an analogue of delta-9 THC.

Implications for Consumers and Businesses

Given the ambiguous legal status of delta-8 THC in the UK, both consumers and businesses must consider the potential legal implications and risks associated with its use and distribution.

For Consumers

  • Legal Risks: Consumers purchasing or using delta-8 THC products in the UK may be at risk of legal consequences. While there have been no high-profile cases specifically targeting delta-8 THC, the possibility exists that it could be treated as a controlled substance under current laws.
  • Product Quality and Safety: The lack of clear regulation means that the quality and safety of delta-8 THC products can vary significantly.
  • Public Health Concerns: Without regulatory oversight, there is a risk that delta-8 THC products may contain contaminants or be inaccurately labelled, leading to potential health hazards.

For Businesses

  • Compliance and Legal Risks: Businesses selling delta-8 THC products face significant legal uncertainty. They must navigate complex and ambiguous regulations, which could result in enforcement actions or legal challenges. Ensuring compliance with existing laws, even in the absence of specific guidance, is crucial.
  • Import and Export Considerations: Importing delta-8 THC products into the UK or exporting them to other countries can be particularly risky. Different jurisdictions have varying laws on cannabinoids, and businesses must ensure they comply with both UK regulations and those of the destination country.
  • Regulatory Scrutiny: Businesses involved in the sale of delta-8 THC products may attract scrutiny from regulatory bodies such as Trading Standards and the Home Office. Ensuring product quality, accurate labelling, and adherence to safety standards is essential to mitigate this risk.

Comparison with Other Jurisdictions

The legal status of delta-8 THC varies significantly across different jurisdictions, reflecting diverse regulatory approaches to cannabinoids. Comparing the situation in the UK with other countries can provide valuable insights into potential future legal developments.

United States

In the United States, the legality of delta-8 THC is complex and varies by state. Following the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalised hemp and hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3% delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC emerged as a legal grey area. Some states have explicitly banned it, while others allow its sale and use.

The federal legal status remains ambiguous, with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) suggesting that synthetically derived delta-8 THC might be illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.


In Canada, cannabis and its derivatives, including delta-8 THC, are regulated under the Cannabis Act. Delta-8 THC is considered a controlled substance, similar to delta-9 THC, and its production and sale are subject to strict regulations.

Only licensed producers can legally produce and sell delta-8 THC products, and they must comply with stringent quality and safety standards.

European Union

The European Union (EU) has a mixed approach to cannabinoids. While CBD derived from hemp is generally legal, the status of delta-8 THC is less clear. Some member states, such as Germany, classify all forms of THC as controlled substances, including delta-8 THC.

Other countries may have more lenient or ambiguous regulations, but the overall trend is towards strict control of psychoactive cannabinoids.


In Australia, delta-8 THC is considered a controlled substance under the Poisons Standard and is classified similarly to delta-9 THC. Its production, possession, and sale are illegal without appropriate licences and regulatory approval.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) oversees the regulation of all cannabinoids, ensuring strict compliance with medical and safety standards.