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CBD Oil and Driving UK: Safety, the Law and Everything you Need to Know

CBD Oil and Driving UK

Driver safety is a top priority for many people these days, and rightly so. Every time you get behind the wheel it is absolutely critical that you are able to drive to the best of your ability, with full focus and concentration. This is essential to make sure that you keep yourself and others safe while on the road.

Accordingly, authorities have imposed strict restrictions on driving while under the influence of not only alcohol, but also drugs.  In the UK and other countries, these regulations have been accompanied by aggressive testing campaigns to catch and prosecute offenders.

You probably know that driving while under the influence of drugs like THC is not only ill-advised, but illegal and could land you in trouble with the law. But what does this mean for other cannabinoids, notably CBD?

Let’s take a look.

CBD & Driving: The Basics

The CBD compound is non-psychoactive and non-addictive, unlike that other famous cannabinoid THC. CBD is one of dozens of compounds called cannabinoids that are naturally found in cannabis plants, including not only CBD and THC, but many others too. All cannabinoids act on the human body’s endocannabinoid system, helping to promote better wellbeing.

CBD isolate is guaranteed to contain only pure CBD. However, broad-spectrum CBD products can contain a large number of different cannabinoids. Many CBD fans prefer broad-sprectrum CBD because the various cannabinoids work together in what is known as the “entourage effect” to produce better results.

There are obviously a number of concerns of taking Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in marijuana plants, while driving. This is the compound that causes you to get high, which can affect your judgement, reaction times and therefore your ability to drive safely.

However, most CBD oil has concentrations of THC that are so negligible that they will not have any effects on the human body. In fact, in order for CBD oil and other CBD products to be sold legally in the UK, it must contain less than 0.2% THC. THC in these concentrations will not get in the way of your ability to drive.

Among the most noted properties of CBD is that it is an anti-inflammatory and sedative. This is why CBD helps you to relax and can be helpful in managing anxiety.

For more on CBD and anxiety check out our detailed post on CBD and anxiety.

Given the sedative effects of CBD, it is logical to wonder whether it may make you sleepy and therefore effect you while driving. However, as we’ll discuss later in this article, taking CBD even immediately before driving is unlikely to make you sleepy. In fact, it is more likely to have the opposite effect.

Is it Legal to Take CBD and Drive?

There can be some confusion over the legality of CBD oil and driving, usually because of the confusion between cannabis, hemp and marijuana. In the UK, there are restrictions on driving while under the use of various substances, as well as set drug driving limits for each.

Furthermore, since 2015 the UK has implemented tests to check drivers for the presence of these substances. If you are found to be driving with concentrations of any of these substances about their legal limits, you will face strict penalties of a minimum one-year driving ban, unlimited fines and up to six months in prison. If convicted for drug driving you will also have a criminal record.

The current threshold limits for illegal drugs while driving in the UK are:

Benzoylecgonine50µg/L
Cocaine10µg/L
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannibinol (THC)2µg/L
Ketamine20µg/L
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)1µg/L
Methylamphetamine10µg/L
MDMA10µg/L
6-monoacetylmorphine (Heroin)5µg/L

You’ll notice that CBD is not on this list. However, THC is: legally, you are only allowed to have a blood content of up to 2µg/L (two micrograms per liter) while driving in the UK. If you are tested and found to be in excess of this limit, you can expect to end up in serious trouble.

Some people use the terms THC and cannabis interchangeably, and so you may have heard it said that it is illegal to take cannabis and drive. This may make you think that CBD, as a cannabinoid (a compound found in the cannabis plant) is illegal to take while driving. You may therefore be worried that if you take CBD immediately before you drive your car you could end up in trouble.  

It is important to know that THC and CBD are not the same thing, and neither are THC and cannabis. THC and CBD are both cannabinoids that naturally occur in cannabis plants. However, THC is one cannabinoid that is found in high concentrations in one type of cannabis plant, marijuana.

On the other hand, CBD is a completely different cannabinoid, and commercially-available CBD is generally derived from the hemp plant. These plants may contain minimal amounts of THC, as well as other cannabinoids, but CBD and THC are not the same thing and are completely different chemical compounds! Therefore, just because driving while under the influence of THC is restricted, this doesn’t mean that driving after CBD is also illegal.

Still not sure about the differences between hemp and marijuana? Check out this post to clear up any doubts.

If you are using a CBD oil or other CBD product that is being sold legally in the UK, you should have no issues with driving legally. For a product to be sold legally in the UK, it must have no more than 0.2% THC concentration. Similarly, for these products to be sold in the US, they can have no more than 0.3% THC. In either case, you are unlikely to get a positive result in a drug test, and will not feel any of the psychoactive or other effects of the THC.

CBD & Drug Tests

Under current UK law, police officers can test drivers if they suspect that they are under the influence of drugs. In recent years, they have developed and introduced drug screening kits that can test drivers for THC, cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs.

It’s worth noting that UK police cannot conduct random drug-driving tests, they need to have to have probable cause in order to issue a drug test. This could be that you’re driving erratically, or that they find evidence of drug paraphernalia in your car.

If they have probable cause, a police officer may conduct a roadside saliva test to check for the presence of illegal or restricted drugs. Alternatively, they may ask you to do a “field impairment check” to see if your driving abilities are impaired. If either test returns a positive result, you will be taken back to the police station for a blood test. The results of this official blood test, if positive, can then be used to prosecute you.

There are some limited situations where you may have a detectable concentration of THC in your saliva or blood after using CBD oil or another CBD product. However, most of these instances relate to buying low-quality CBD products that have a higher THC concentration than you were aware of.

You can read our full post on CBD and drug tests to learn more about this topic.

However, the bottom line is, if you use CBD that has less than the legal concentration of 0.2% THC, you are very unlikely to return a positive result for THC on a drug test.

This is where the importance of buying locally-made CBD oil or at least a product sold by a reputable local dealer comes in. If you buy a CBD oil of foreign origin it can be difficult to be sure that it meets UK requirements, and in particular the THC concentration.

In short: as long as it is legal to buy, possess, and use CBD in your country, it is likely that it is legal to take CBD and drive. In the UK there are no restrictions on taking CBD and driving, and as long as you are using a CBD oil that has been legally sold in the UK you will have no issues.

The legality of CBD varies greatly across the world, however, so be careful if you are travelling or living abroad. See our full guide to CBD legality in the UK and overseas for more on the legal status of CBD, and be sure to check the specific laws regarding driving and CBD in your location.

Legal concerns aside, is it a good idea to take CBD while driving? Let’s take a look.

How does CBD Impact on Driving?

Generally speaking, the CBD compound will not affect you strongly enough to impact on your driving. It is the presence of other compounds, in particular THC, that you need to worry about. If you take a CBD oil that has a high concentration of THC (above the legal limit for CBD products sold in the UK) you may experience some effects that will make it more difficult to drive.

So again, it is important to make sure you buy a high-quality, accurately-labelled CBD oil that has a THC concentration of 0.2% or less. Always be sure to check the THC content before taking any CBD oil – this should be shown on the label – and verify that this is accurate by checking the manufacturer’s lab reports.

Additionally, it is important to only buy quality CBD oil from reputable suppliers, so you can be confident that the information they give you is correct. Otherwise, you risk getting scammed and not only receiving an inferior product, but one that may contain high enough levels of CBD to make it unsafe to drive.

The direct effects of the CBD compound is not going to give you an immediate sleepy effect, and will not impact on your driving performance.

Does CBD make you Sleepy?

One of the common uses of CBD is to help improve sleep quality. Studies have indicated a link between CBD and better sleep, though research is still in its early stages and this area needs further investigation.

Does this mean that CBD makes you sleep and could therefore affect your ability to concentrate and drive safely?

Helping you get a good’s night sleep is not necessarily the same as making you sleepy. A recent literature review found that CBD is effective in reducing insomnia and promoting deeper REM sleep overnight, especially for people who suffer from insomnia because of anxiety.

Furthermore, the review found that taking CBD overtime can help to reduce daytime sleepiness. This is because when you regularly sleep better, with quality, REM sleep overnight, you will be more alert and refreshed during the day. In this way, taking CBD may actually make you feel less sleepy rather than more sleepy while driving.

However, to understand why this is we need to learn a little bit about how CBD works.

How does CBD work?

As mentioned, CBD is a cannabinoid, a particular type of compound that is only found in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids have a significant impact on the human body because they interact with our bodies’ endocannabinoid system. Like the digestive system and the cardiovascular system, this is an integral human system that is responsible for regulating and balancing many of the body’s processes, including immune response, cellular communication, memory, appetite and metabolism.

CBD interacts with different cannabinoids in the body and attaching to cannabinoid receptors. This helps to boost the functioning of the body’s natural endocannabinoid system in a variety of ways including better digestion and improved sleep.

The Verdict

Rules and guidelines are helpful, but it is important to remember that compounds affect everyone differently. Therefore, how you feel after you take CBD may be different to how others react

As long as you are using a quality CBD product with the negligible levels of THC which are legal for sale in the UK, from a legal perspective you are absolutely ok to drive after or while taking CBD. Driving after taking CBD will ultimately be a personal decision. Notice how you feel after taking CBD and see whether you feel it is safe and responsible to drive.

Take a look at our other posts to learn more about CBD, its benefits, and advice, and keep checking back for the latest news!

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