Is CBD Legal? Making Sense Of A Controversial Question

Despite the buzz, numerous media headlines and widespread availability of cannabidiol (CBD) online and in popular drug stores, the most common concern and question people still have is, is it legal? In this post, we will answer this question and explain the legality of CBD as it relates to both current U.S. federal and state laws.

However, before delving into that discussion, we need to first understand what CBD is, how it’s derived from the cannabis plant, and the differences between it and THC, the other cannabinoid derived from cannabis. Further, we need to examine how the passing of the 2018 US farm bill plays a role in terms of CBD’s legal status.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a natural, non-intoxicating compound, and just one of over a hundred phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is closely related to another phytocannabinoid also found in cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the compound that causes the “high” that cannabis is known for. However, unlike THC, CBD has little to no psychoactive effects. This means that by taking CBD, you will not feel “stoned” or experience the same psychoactive effects that a person would get using THC.

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Although the true effectiveness of CBD has not yet been approved by the FDA, its therapeutic properties have been revealed through numerous anedoctal evidence showing that it can help a vast range of symptoms. CBD is commonly used to help with chronic aches and pains, inflammation in the body, anxiety, seizures and many other conditions.

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Difference Between CBD and THC

When people talk about CBD, many are still confused about the differences between it and recreational or medicinal marijuana which contain high levels of THC and can make you feel “high.”

CBD can be derived from hemp or marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis. Hemp is simply the common and legal term for cannabis that contains less than .3% THC, and marijuana is the common and legal term for cannabis that contains .3% or more THC.

The 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill, which Congress approved and President Trump signed into law, allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It also puts no restrictions on the sale or possession of hemp-derived products, as long as they are “produced in a manner consistent with the Farm Bill, associated federal regulations, association state regulations, and by a licensed grower.  “

Therefore, the simplest answer to whether CBD is legal depends on how the CBD was sourced . If the CBD was derived from hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC, it is considered federally legal across the United States; CBD extracted from other parts of marijuana with higher levels of THC is not.

Again, this is the most simplistic interpretation. However, as we will learn, the Farm Bill allows for states to have their own regulations. Consequently., certain state laws related to CBD have made the answer to CBD’s legality not as straightforward. Also adding to the confusion is the FDA which has not approved CBD in any food or dietary supplements.

State and FDA Regulations

Several states have adopted their own rules and regulations for CBD products. Alabama, Colorado and Main are the most lenient and currently allow CBD in any product as long as the THC content is no higher than 0.3%. Other states such as Utah and Texas allow CBD in products but require that they all have QR codes for tracking purposes. California allows CBD in food products as long as it does not exceed 0.3% THC and is accompanied with a warning label for pregnant or nursing women. And recently in New York and Washington, state laws were passed which bans CBD snacks and beverages and fines retailers who continue to sell these products.

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The FDA has also weighed in and their current stance is that CBD “cannot be sold under federal law as an ingredient in food, dietary supplements, or animal food .” The FDA is currently working towards adopting a more robust set of guidelines for consumers and CBD manufacturers. The hope is that these new rules will provide better clarity and guidance for both consumers and companies producing CBD products.

If you are interested in learning more about current FDA regulations for CBD, you can check out the FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Questions and Answers page on their website.

Federal Employees and Military Service Members

An additional consideration to our discussion is the use of CBD by those employed by federal agencies or the U.S. military. Recently, the Department of Defense warned their employees that CBD is not allowed on military installations and the Navy has instructed their service members to not use CBD or be subject to disciplinary action. Even NASA stated that employees of the space agency could be fired if they were found to be using CBD. Therefore, if you are employed by federal government, you have additional regulations to consider.

Final Answer

Despite the gray area in which the legality of CBD exists, for most consumers the simplistic answer to the question is the right one. If you are buying CBD which is derived from hemp and it contains less than 0.3% THC, you should be fine. The majority of CBD products available online and in your local drug store are derived from hemp and do not exceed the legal limit for THC.

If you are still concerned about your individual state regulations, it’s advisable to check them, although enforcement of these regulations has been mainly for those selling or distributing CBD, not individual consumers.

And if you do choose to buy a CBD product, make sure to do your own due dilligence on the company you are purchasing from. Only buy from established brands that are fully transparent to what is in their products. Stay away from products or companies that market outlandish claims such as curing disease. Look for companies that have third party verification of what is being advertised in their products and make these lab certifications readily available for review.

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