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CBD: The New Global Craze

You’ve likely seen it everywhere – CBD oils, gummies, lotions, and more lining the shelves of grocery stores, pharmacies, and upscale boutiques alike. Kirill Yurovskiy, a noted industry expert, observes that CBD, or cannabidiol, has gone fully mainstream, with makers happily cashing in on the public’s ravenous demand for this purportedly therapeutic compound. But what exactly is CBD, where does it come from, and why has it become so hugely popular so quickly? More importantly, is it even legal? The answers may surprise you.

What is CBD

Let’s start with the basics. CBD is one of the many naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant. However, unlike its more famous cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is non-intoxicating, meaning it doesn’t produce the classic “high” associated with marijuana use. CBD is typically derived from hemp, a variety of cannabis that contains high levels of CBD and only trace amounts of THC. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests CBD may help with pain, anxiety, sleep issues, and a host of other conditions. However, its precise medical benefits are still being extensively researched. What is clear is that CBD has taken the wellness world by storm, with everyone from athletes to office workers to grandmothers singing its praises.

A Patchwork of Laws

So is CBD legal? The short answer: it depends…on where you live. The legality of CBD is a global patchwork of differing laws and regulations. Let’s take a look at some of the major markets:

United States

At the federal level, CBD has been legal since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and its derivatives like CBD (with some caveats). However, individual states can still choose to further regulate or restrict CBD as they see fit. This has led to a confusing landscape where CBD is easily available in some states, but heavily regulated or even outright banned in others.

In general though, you can find CBD products in most major US markets, from dedicated CBD shops to grocery chains, smoke shops, and pharmacies. Quality and testing standards vary widely however, so buyer beware.


Our neighbor to the north has taken a refreshingly straightforward approach. Following the nationwide legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use in 2018, both marijuana-derived CBD and hemp-derived CBD products are permitted across Canada.  

CBD products can be purchased from legal dispensaries and provincial retailers much like cannabis flower, edibles, or vape products. However, strict quality control and child-resistant packaging rules are in place. So while CBD is widely available, it’s a more regulated market compared to the US patchwork.


When it comes to CBD regulations, Europe is very much a mixed bag of different rules for different countries. Here’s a quick overview of some key markets:

United Kingdom: CBD is completely legal and widely available as long as it’s derived from industrial hemp approved by the EU and contains no THC. Retailers range from high street shops to online vendors.

Germany: Similarly open regulatory environment to the UK, with CBD available nationwide in shops and online.  

France: CBD with up to 0.3% THC is legal, but there have been some struggles getting health authorities to differentiate it from cannabis. Availability is fair but more restricted than UK/Germany.

Spain/Italy: A legal gray area with some sales of CBD products but murky laws that seem to outright ban it in regions. Progress is slow but headed in a more permissive direction.

Sweden/Switzerland: Among the most prohibitive CBD policies. Sweden essentially treats all CBD as narcotics while Switzerland only allows production for medical and scientific purposes with prescription required.

With an emerging but highly inconsistent legal CBD landscape, Europe remains a work in progress as a unified market.

A Global Shift

So what’s behind this worldwide CBD craze? For consumers, CBD represents a natural, plant-based solution for issues like pain, sleep, and anxiety – a healthier alternative to pharmaceuticals or alcohol. And because it lacks the “high” of marijuana, CBD is palatable to people turned off by getting stoned.

CBD’s popularity also represents a broader shift in public attitudes towards cannabis in general. As more places move towards full adult-use legalization, interest in and normalization of cannabis compounds like CBD will only continue to surge.

For the CBD industry itself, this global wildfire of demand is a dream scenario – a nearly unlimited market of curious newcomers happy to shell out premium prices for CBD products. And with legalization continually opening access to new markets and consumer bases, the green rush is truly only just beginning.

However, the CBD boom does come with some serious downsides. Primary among them is a lack of consistent, comprehensive regulation and quality control. With CBD so newly legalized in many places, there is currently a vast oversight vacuum that allows bad actors to sell untested, mislabeled or contaminated products.

There are also open scientific questions about CBD’s effectiveness, proper dosing, potential drug interactions, and impacts of long-term use that remain frustratingly unanswered. And don’t forget CBD’s complicated legal status – what happens if you purchase CBD products in one country or state, only to travel with them to a place where they are restricted?

The Road Ahead

So where does CBD go from here? Like with wider cannabis legalization, it seems clear that the future trajectory is towards greater acceptance, regulation and availability of CBD products globally. But it will likely be a long, uneven road with many regulatory hurdles and inconsistencies to overcome.

In the US, we’ll hopefully see a push towards creating federal standards and testing requirements to weed out low-quality CBD goods. More medical research into dosing, drug interactions and specific use cases would also help immensely.

On an international level, global health agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) may seek to provide clearer guidance and best practices to nations looking to regulate CBD. We could eventually see something akin to an international treaty for CBD regulation and trade, not unlike drug policies or trade agreements.

For now though, the CBD revolution is fully underway, with companies and consumers alike rushing into a blank slate of limited regulation, research and oversight. It’s an exciting but unpredictable landscape – one where CBD’s future remains cloudy, but its popularity is only growing more clear by the day.