Is CBD Legal Everywhere? Check Here to Find Out
One fine day, you hear about CBD and its miraculous benefits, and suddenly you see it everywhere. This remarkable substance has gone mainstream, and you can even find it in gas stations. Whoop-de-doo!
But you heard it comes from cannabis, so now you’re wondering, “Is CBD legal or just a new code name for marijuana?”
Well, the short answer is that buying CBD is federally legal in the 50 states of the union, but herein lies the catch—not always. The truth of the matter is that the legal status of this compound is quite fuzzy.
So, if you want the long answer, follow me for a walk-through of everything that revolves around the legality of this constituent of the cannabis family.
Table of Contents
The 2018 Farm Bill
On December 20th of 2018, an $867 billion Farm Bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump. While this bill essentially expanded farm subsidies and provided permanent funding for farmers’ markets and local food programs, it also put an end to hemp prohibition—something that had been the bitter state of affairs for 81 years!
In 2014, a Farm Bill had allowed programs for the research of hemp with limited legal protections. This decision gave way for authorized states to transform state regulations that halted hemp and hemp-derived products.
The 2018 bill is a reloaded version of the 2014’s one, here’s a quick brief on what it stands for in terms of hemp:
The 2018 Farm Bill has also given the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to regulate all products that comprise hemp and its derivatives.
How all of this works is quite simple. The USDA regulates the growth of the plant. The FDA polices the diverse range of products derived from hemp.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducts testing of the THC content of hemp crops.
Now, hemp-derived products are federally legal to manufacture, sell and purchase. However, individual states reserve the right to refuse sales of any particular products.
This means that although CBD has been de-scheduled as a controlled substance, there are still some states that have put their own restrictions on it, because of the lack of federal guidelines and ambiguous rules cited by the FDA.
It’s safe to say that the CBD and hemp industry is “legal-ish,” and this isn’t changing until more guidelines and regulations are put into place by the agency to ensure the quality of hemp-derived products.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp and Marijuana are varieties of the same family of plants—the Cannabis sativa L.—a complex plant that produces hundreds of compounds, each one of them, with different potential medical value.
Understanding the difference between these two varieties can be as simple as moving past from how similar both plants look like and having a closer look at their individual chemical profiles.
Both hemp and marijuana produce CBD and THC, which are “sister molecules” that belong to a class known as cannabinoids. In fact, these plants produce more than 100 cannabinoids.
CBD stands for cannabidiol and THC for tetrahydrocannabinol. Both compounds have medical value, but THC has a drawback, it’s the intoxicating compound responsible for the high you feel when smoking marijuana.
That’s why marijuana remains illegal, because it has high amounts of the chemical that alters your mind.
All cannabis varieties produce THC to protect themselves from pest and mold. When it comes to hemp, the THCA synthase—the enzyme responsible for THC production—is genetically dormant. This automatically means that hemp plants can produce handsome amounts of CBD with little levels of THC.
Growing hemp for CBD isn’t the same thing as growing it for industrial purposes. Breeding hemp for CBD isn’t an exact science, and levels of THC aren’t always “legal-ish.”
Let’s find out how.
The Growing Pains of Hemp for CBD
Humans have cultivated hemp over thousands of years. Founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it for fiber and seed production.
However, growing hemp to extract CBD requires a different and more careful approach than classic hemp. Modern hemp most likely requires the same care as marijuana breeding.
The crop that American farmers are growing nowadays to get CBD is a new hybrid form of hemp grown not for fiber, or seed, but to have higher levels of CBD and minute traces of THC.
Since you’re asking, “Is CBD legal?”, then you should know how easy it is for hemp growers to end up breeding marijuana inadvertently.
Cannabis is related to humans not only because our bodies make their own natural cannabis-like compounds called endocannabinoids, but also because it has two sexes: male and female.
Male plants are used for industrial products such as textiles, fuel, and bio-plastics.
Female plants are beloved because of their cannabinoid content. Hemp females make most of their cannabinoids in their flowers, also known as “buds.”
When female flowers aren’t pollinated, they produce more of the gooey cannabinoid resin, in a desperate act to attract male pollen. This magnifies the levels of either, CBD or THC. Most new U.S. hemp farmers are looking to satisfy the skyrocketing demand for CBD, so they favor the grow of females for maximum cannabinoid production.
Male flowers, on the other hand, produce large amounts of pollen that are transported by air to pollinate the feminine flowers. The natural pollination process can wake up the dormant THC genes and increase the very concentrations of the molecule that farmers wish to keep low. A good reason to get rid of any male as soon as it appears.
Pollen can be controlled when hemp is grown in a greenhouse. But if a farmer has an outdoor hemp field, then there’s a chance that pollen will hook up with the ladies and give birth to the “wrong sister.” We know this as “cross-pollination.”
Cross-pollination can occur with pollen from wild hemp or illicit marijuana fields where male plants aren’t controlled, and their pollen can be easily spread by the wind. That’s how a legal and certified hemp crop can become a “hot crop.”
By law, hot crops have more than 0.3% THC when they’re tested by the DEA and must be destroyed. But this doesn’t keep hot hemp out of the market. THC levels can also increase after a crop is tested.
Hot hemp being destroyed
What all of this really means? Well, Your CBD could have higher amounts of THC—aka illegal CBD—if it’s sourced from hot hemp. That’s why is important to check the third party lab report of every product you get.
In this report, also known as “Certificate of Analysis” (COA), you can find the cannabinoids profile of the CBD you’re purchasing.
The Extraction Process Can Make Your CBD Illegal
While there are various methods of extracting CBD from hemp, each method results in different concentrations of each cannabinoid.
CBD products can be classified in three categories:
These products contain all the compounds present in hemp, including THC.
Same as full-spectrum but without THC
Contain CBD solely
To get broad-spectrum CBD, the concentrated traces of THC are removed from the extract through a process called “liquid chromatography.” This process removes THC at low temperatures, while ALL other natural compounds such as fatty acids and terpenes and other cannabinoids stay intact.
Full-spectrum CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t go through this method—then you will find traces of THC along with CBD in the extract.
Poor extraction methods can leave you with a product that has illegal amounts of THC and that’s also contaminated with chemical solvents.
Why Are Most CBD Products Out There Illegal?
Remember the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp? Well, because of it, many vendors have the perception that there’s a green light to market CBD as a health and wellness supplement.
The FDA holds authority to regulate the CBD fast-growing market and ensure the safety and quality of the hemp-derived products.
CBD has been already approved as the active ingredient in Epidiolex—a drug to treat epilepsy. Drugs are NOT allowed in supplements, food, or beverages, because they fall under a different set of regulations.
What the agency says is that CBD in dietary supplements and foods is a no-go. The products you find on the market are NOT officially approved by the FDA. However the majority of the CBD companies still sell them.
The agency has issued warning letters to companies that are currently selling products that explicity make health claims. But has not told them to stop creating CBD infused food and drinks.
The FDA recently expressed concerns about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD. “The FDA has seen only limited data about CBD safety, and these data point to real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason,” the agency stated.
This completely contradicts the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that no risk has been associated with the use of CBD.
ARE CBD PRODUCTS A HEALTH RISK?
The FDA concerns about CBD—issued in a customer’s update on November 2019—are coming from its work on Epidiolex, the only CBD product that has passed the FDA’s regulations and approval process. This drug treats seizures in children with a highly concentrated form of CBD isolate.
The products you find on the market are different. They contain significantly lower levels of CBD and are usually mixed with other compounds from the hemp plant. All these compounds together impact the body in different ways than a highly concentrated and purified CBD isolate.
The truth of the matter is that, to date, there’s no conclusive data turning down or supporting the safety of this compound.
All CBD products are subject to the same laws and requirements as any other new drug. However, fly-by-night vendors are breaking these laws because the FDA can’t police every label.
Is there fake CBD on the market? You bet! Snake oils are roaming free in the Wild West that has fostered the green rush. But there are also reliable brands that treasure their customers with high-quality products, and you will find them with a little research.
SO, IS CBD LEGAL EVERYWHERE IN THE U.S.?
Heads up: This article is NOT intended to provide legal advice, use it for informational purposes only. Always consult with a legal expert if you’re in doubt.
CBD is federally legal in the 50 states of the union. However the hemp industry is lacking clear guidelines and regulations from the federal agencies. That’s why many individual states are putting restrictions on farmers, sellers and buyers.
When purchasing CBD products you have two options, buying over the counter products at dispensaries, health and wellness stores and head stores—or ordering online.
Ordering online is the easiest way to get your CBD, since there’s no legislation preventing people to get hemp products through the web. Buying online is convenient and also safe, because before purchasing you can easily:
- Check updated third-party reports
- Research the brand and read reviews
- Reach out customer service
However, proceeding with extreme caution is a must if you live in a no-CBD-friendly state. There’s still a chance that local authorities will treat you like a criminal if they catch you buying, selling, or simply possessing any quantity of CBD product.
It’s worth noting that hemp-derived CBD refers to any products that have no more than 0.3% THC content. Marijuana-derived are products with higher levels of THC.
In some states, CBD is only legal as part of a medical marijuana (MM) program, which usually requires a doctor’s approval and an official MM card. This card is only valid in the state where you register it.
Other states have strict rules for THC, and only CBD products with zero THC in their content are allowed.
A few states only allow products with the FDA approval, while others—where CBD is legal—don’t allow it as an additive in food and beverages.
Without further ado, let’s explore the legislation for hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD in each state.
CBD Laws State by State
The Aloha State runs two distinct but related medical cannabis programs: The registry program that allows patients with certain health conditions to legally purchase medical marijuana.
And the dispensary program that monitors how dispensaries grow, manufacture, and sell the products to qualified patients.
- Mature stalks
- Any combination of the mature stalks
- Fiber produced from the stalks
- Sterilized seeds incapable of germination
- Oil or cake made from the seed
Be cautious when buying CBD in Idaho because if you get caught with just the smallest trace of THC in your product, you will be facing charges.
Members of the U.S. Military, the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines have been warned that despite changes to state and federal laws, the use of CBD is completely forbidden.
Hooray for Arizona that allows cops to use CBD!
Legal Status of CBD Around the World
Several countries around the globe are embracing hemp-based CBD and its health benefits.
In the European Union, CBD laws can differ from country to country, but most of them allow the consumption of products containing no more than 0.2% THC. The exception to the rule are Croatia and Slovenia, where the compound is treated equally as marijuana and carries a ban.
In Denmark, Finland, and Norway, it is only legal to use and possess CBD if it’s prescribed by a doctor.
Many countries in Asia have some of the strictest laws for cannabis in the World. Surprisingly, CBD is legal in Japan and Thailand as long as it has no THC.
In Australia and New Zealand, you still can’t use or import CBD legally without a prescription.
In Latin America—a region that has utterly suffered the stigma and havocs of the war on drugs—countries like Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru, have legalized the medical use of cannabis, and CBD is allowed with the standard 2% THC. In Brazil, a prescription is needed to get CBD, but this is expected to change soon.
Uruguay is the first country in the world that legalized cannabis for both medical and recreational use in 2017, followed by Canada in 2018.
As you can see, the legal status of CBD is a grey zone. The substance is federally legal, but the products, NOT so much.
Only one CBD product has been approved by the FDA, and it’s a drug to treat seizures in children. The agency don’t want products being advertised as supplements or making health claims.
In such a dynamic and unregulated market, laws are constantly changing. What is law today may completely change tomorrow. I’ll do my best to keep you updated, so it’s recommended to always check back here at CBDety. But you still should do your homework and check with the local laws where you live.
Buying online is the easier way to get your CBD, because it has almost no restrictions, and you can do a little research on the brand before purchasing.
My answer to your question, “Is CBD legal?” is… “It’s Iegal-ish—but worth a try.”