CBD (or cannabidiol) is skyrocketing in popularity due to its many medical benefits and lack of side effects. But as it’s derived from cannabis, there are a lot of questions surrounding its legality. It’s time to clear that up.
So, is CBD Legal? The short answer is it depends. Sorry to disappoint, but as CBD is relatively new on the medical and legal scene, it’s not very well understood by those making our laws.
Much of the confusion is derived from the fact that politicians and lawmakers don’t understand what CBD is, and therefore issue confusing statements. More comes from the fact that the states and the federal government don’t see eye to eye on this issue.
We’re going to cover everything you need to know about legal CBD below. Here are the key points:
Understanding the Origin of Your CBD
Legally speaking, there are three different kinds of CBD:
Many don’t know (including many lawmakers) that hemp and marijuana are not the same. While both are members of the cannabis family, hemp contains almost no THC (the psychoactive ingredient that gets you high), while marijuana contains quite a lot of it.
Marijuana and any derivatives of it are illegal at the federal level. Hemp and hemp products are, as of 2019, legal at a federal level.
What does this mean for CBD? It means that at a federal level, CBD extracted from hemp is legal, and CBD extracted from marijuana is still illegal.
If you want to find out what your CBD of choice is made from, we recommend calling the company directly to ask them. If it is derived from hemp of any kind, you don’t have much to worry about. If it’s derived from marijuana, you will be at risk if you travel to one of the 40 states where marijuana is still illegal for recreational use.
Understanding Your State’s Laws
The states are still grappling with how to reconcile the legalization of hemp with their own long-standing laws on THC, hemp, and marijuana. Here’s a breakdown of the legal landscape among the states:
You can see why so much confusion exists. While hemp-derived CBD is fairly safe in all 50 states, you must understand that if you don’t have a medical license or if your CBD contains trace amounts of THC, you may be at risk in several states (especially the zero-tolerance THC states we list below).
Let’s take a look at the current laws in each state.
Legal: CBD is completely legal in the following states (recreational, medical, hemp-based, marijuana-based, and with THC):
Low-Risk: CBD is medically legal in the following states (hemp-based, marijuana-based, and with THC):
At-Risk: CBD is medically legal in the following states (hemp-based and marijuana-based, but with restrictions on levels of THC):
Zero-Tolerance: CBD containing ANY THC, even trace amounts, is illegal in the following states:
Now that you know where your state stands, here’s the key info to take away:
It’s all about the THC
Marijuana is still listed as a category 1 illegal substance according to the DEA because it contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the psychoactive component of marijuana that gets you high. Marijuana is legal either recreationally or medically in 50% of US states, while in other states, it remains to be completely illegal. This means that some CBD may contain concentrations of THC that are legal in some states and illegal in others.
When talking about the states, the magic number here is 0.3%. If your CBD contains less than this amount of THC, you’re within the legal limit federally and in 46 states. If it contains more, then it may be illegal in some states.
Full Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolate
CBD products are made with full spectrum hemp oil and CBD isolate. First, we’ll tell you what they are, and then we’ll tell you why it matters legally.
Here’s the difference between the two:
As you may have guessed, the legal implications arise from the amount of THC in the product. If you want to make sure your CBD is completely legal, you should purchase CBD isolate or full-spectrum CBD that contains 0% THC.
But this isn’t always as easy as it seems.
Because the federal government has determined that hemp containing less than 0.3% THC is legal, many CBD companies advertise their full-spectrum CBD as 100% THC-free even if it isn’t. They argue that the low levels of THC are “negligible.” Unfortunately, the authorities disagree in the four zero-tolerance THC states and some at-risk states where a medical license is necessary to possess any THC. Multiple arrests have been made in those states for the possession of CBD oil that contains as little as 0.1% THC.
So, what can you do?
If you want to be sure about the THC content in your CBD, there are three things you can do:
According to a statement given by FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb after the passing of the Farm Bill, CBD has not been approved as an ingredient in food. Therefore, it is still federally illegal to sell gummies, smoothies, energy drinks, and any other prepared food and drink containing CBD in the United States.
As a consumer, this will not affect you. While you may not want to purchase CBD edibles if you live in an at-risk or zero-tolerance state, you will not be prosecuted for possessing them. This legal snag applies to CBD companies producing edibles, restaurants adding CBD to food, and manufacturers using CBD in food and drink.
Why Is CBD so Easy to Buy Online and in Shops?
If CBD isn’t technically legal in every state, why is it being sold and shipped so readily all over the country?
The answer is that CBD is popular. It’s physically and mentally beneficial to so many people, and it has virtually no side effects. It has shown to drastically reduce symptoms of epilepsy, PTSD, and many other conditions, and it’s a very effective pain reliever. It has been touted as a possible replacement for addictive opioids and anxiety medications, and it even has cancer-curbing properties.
People love it, businesses love it, the medical community loves it, financial institutions love it, and therefore, local and state politicians have looked favorably upon it. New laws in favor of CBD are being passed by legislatures every month, and the FDA has recently approved the first prescription drug made with CBD. Even more significantly, the 2018 Farm Bill has removed hemp and CBD from the jurisdiction the DEA and placed it under the purview of the FDA and the Department of Agriculture.
When purchasing CBD online or in a store, it’s important to do your research. But if you buy from a reputable producer making hemp-based CBD products, you are very unlikely to run into any legal trouble.
Key Takeaway: If you buy CBD sourced from hemp with a THC content of less than 0.3%, you will be unlikely to have legal trouble in 46 states.
Is CBD Legal Around the World?
CBD is legal in many countries, but in many others, it is not. CBD is now legal in both Canada and Mexico, but it is still highly restricted in tightly regulated countries like those in Southeast Asia. As the legal climate shifts quickly in terms of CBD and cannabis, we recommend you do your research before buying CBD outside of North America.
We also recommend that you don’t travel with CBD. It’s always best to play it safe if you don’t know the laws surrounding CBD in the country or state you’re traveling to.
Traveling from state to state by plane with CBD on you or in your bag is not considered to be very risky. But, there is a slightly elevated risk of being fined or prosecuted. When you travel, leave your CBD at home and simply buy more once you arrive at your destination.
The Future of Legal CBD
As mentioned before, the laws and regulations around CBD are changing constantly, and almost all of these changes are pro-CBD. Every year, more and more states are legalizing marijuana and all of its components, which include CBD. Even the federal government has lifted restrictions and is encouraging the use of CBD for certain conditions.
Some states may have confusing laws and harsh restrictions on CBD and hemp, but recreational marijuana legalization (and therefore complete CBD legalization) appears to be on the horizon for states like Illinois and New York, and medical legalization is expanding rapidly nationwide.
Finally, with the departure of key anti-cannabis politicians, the road to federal legalization is looking brighter than ever. Federal decriminalization of marijuana and the complete legalization of CBD may occur as soon as this year.