legal update on right and wrong about cbd oil in sweden

As the Swedish authorities' view of CBD oil has become progressively more restrictive, the possibility for consumers to use CBD oil has decreased further. The Supreme Court decided this summer, in Case B 177-19, to redraw the landscape for the use of CBD oil and it can now be concluded that CBD oil is either classified as narcotics or medicine depending on the content and intended use in Sweden.

In this context, it is of course important to understand what CBD actually is. The plant Cannabis sativa contains many different active substances, one of which is called tetrahydrocannabinol ("THC") and the other cannabidiol ("CBD"). THC produces hallucinogenic effects, while CBD does not have those properties.
CBD oil, which of course contains CBD, is produced from the cannabis variety industrial hemp. Industrial hemp has a very low THC content and is normally used for making ropes and fabrics. The CBD oil, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the manufacture of fabrics instead this preparation is being used for pain relief, anxiety and sleep problems. Interest in the oil has spread enormously in recent years and several Swedish influencers have taken after American celebrities and marketed products with CBD oil, which has increased the spread on the market both in and outside Sweden.

*What is what? *

Legally, the industrial hemp is excluded from the definition of cannabis and is therefore not considered to be a drug in its plant form. THC, on the other hand, is classified as narcotics and covered by the drug legislation, while CBD is excluded. In connection with this, it can be mentioned that in the case of products with CBD that are taken by mouth or which are inhaled, the Swedish Medicines Agency, which oversees compliance with the rules on medicines, decided last year that these products must still be evaluated and approved as medicines in order to be sold on the market in Sweden.

Generally speaking, there has been a (mis)perception from consumers and the market at large that CBD oil with low levels of THC is not to be regarded as a drug just because the oil is produced from the industrial hemp that is exempted from the drug legislation. This summer, however, clarification came from the Swedish Supreme Court in Case B 177-19. The Supreme Court ruled that CBD oil, which also contains THC, albeit a very small part, is considered to be narcotics. In other words, it does not matter how large or small an amount of THC the oil contains. The industrial hemp's exemption from the drug legislation thus does not apply if the plant has been transformed into a preparation containing the drug classified substance THC. In summary, CBD oil containing THC is considered to be such a preparation and thus constitutes narcotics.

Therefore, the legal situation is now clear (at least in Sweden). CBD oil containing THC is narcotic and is therefore prohibited to use. CBD oil without THC is covered by the Medicines Act and must be evaluated and approved as a medicine in order to be sold. It is therefore not possible to sell CBD oil, with or without THC, in Sweden without special permission.

However, the legal stance in the rest of Europe is more unclear. In Italy, just as in Sweden, the Italian court has recently issued a verdict restricting the possibility of selling products originating from cannabis. In short, the court states that the sale of cannabis derivatives is a violation of their drug laws unless the products do not evidently have any narcotic effects. How this is to be interpreted in practice only the future can tell. The same applies to how the landscape of CBD oil and its legal existence in the European market will change.

In this context, it can also be mentioned that despite the Swedish authorities' view on CBD oil becoming increasingly restrictive, the granting of licences for medical cannabis in Sweden is increasing. Considering the country as a whole the number of patients who have medical cannabis licenses is still relatively few compared to other countries. It can also be mentioned that more than 30 countries and states have legalized the use of medical cannabis in general. We will not enter into a discussion about exact causes, but it is clear that there is an increased medical interest in drugs derived from cannabis on the market and that there is a large variation between different countries in the liberalization of these drugs.

We are watching the development of this area with interest.

The article is written by Karin Odkrans and Siri Mårtensson Hjälmberg.

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