Yes, cannabidiol (CBD) is legal, but the regulatory landscape of its enforcement is undergoing active development. Topical creams and salves that contain CBD can be purchased in some national drugstores in specific states. Manufacturers who produce their own oil products sell them online and ship to all states.
Most cannabis derivations fall under the Controlled Substances Act’s Schedule I umbrella, which claims they lack currently accepted medical uses and safety for use under medical supervision, and have a high potential for abuse. This contradicts the Department of Health and Human Services’ current stance, however, and as a result, cannabis products like CBD have been able to slowly work toward their current legal status.
Two acts of Congress, the 2014 and 2018 Farm Acts, eased restrictions on CBD. 2014’s Farm Act carved out an exemption from the Controlled Substances Act for “industrial hemp,” a type of Cannabis sativa that lacks marijuana’s psychoactive ingredients.
The 2018 Farm Act further expanded and clarified the provisions of the 2014 Act regarding hemp, and explicitly denoted CBD and other cannabinoid chemicals as legal hemp byproducts.
Laws in specific states can restrict elements of the production process. For a CBD product to enjoy nationwide legality, it must come from hemp, whether grown domestically or imported, rather than from a psychoactive strain of cannabis. Manufacturers must label the product as containing CBD.
If purchasing a CBD product, make sure it comes from hemp with a certified THC level of less than 0.3 percent.
CBD products made from psychoactive cannabis come with restrictions, but are also legal in some states. 31 states and the District of Columbia allow these products for qualifying patients with a medical reason. 9 states and the District of Columbia choose to allow recreational use of these products as well.
What is the Hemp Farming Act of 2018?
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, introduced by Senator Mitch McConnell, set out to clarify the legal status of low-THC strains of C. sativa and expand hemp growers’ eligibility for government crop insurance and research grants. Its provisions were incorporated into the 2018 Farm Act, a general agriculture bill, and as part of that bill, override the Controlled Substances Act which usually covers the products of any C. sativa strain.
In their final form, these provisions allow for the production of some cultivars of C. sativa, and in turn allow buyers to produce new products using the crops. The provisions also make growing these cultivars less risky for farmers.
This act affects farmers, producers, and consumers differently.
The Farm Act’s hemp farming provisions establish rules under which farmers can grow the hemp that becomes legal CBD products. It covers which strains growers can use, the regulatory environment they have to navigate, and punishments for violations of these rules.
Farmers must grow C. sativa strains with less than 0.3 percent THC. Strains higher than this value remain marijuana, rather than hemp, under the law. While small violations do not instantly result in felony charges or the loss of a production license, the government still punishes the growing of illicit strains.
The Act also establishes a state-federal joint licensing system for growing hemp. States may freely set up their own licensing and regulation programs, but if a state chooses not to, the federal government will license and regulate hemp growers in those states.
Hemp farmers also qualify for crop insurance from the federal government. If farmers lose a crop in the natural course of work, the government can reimburse them for the loss. This makes growing hemp less risky and encourages new growers. As supply grows, cost to the consumer for CBD oil and other products should shrink.
For those who want to produce CBD oil and other products legally, the Farm Act’s hemp provisions enable the movement of hemp and its byproducts across state lines.
This enables producers to both buy hemp from one state for processing into products, and sell those products outside of the state in which they were produced.
Producers must do their due diligence, however, regarding the sourcing of these materials. Just as farmers must use specific strains and have a license to produce CBD, legal sourcing of CBD requires the use of those same strains.
Consumers can now legally acquire CBD oil products and other hemp derivatives in the same way producers can. Ordering online or transporting CBD products between states no longer poses an issue. So long as the products they use have been produced with hemp and not marijuana, consumers can enjoy CBD oil products.
The easing of CBD oil regulations could also increase competition among manufacturers. Consumers will reap the benefits of this shift, as companies from around the country find new and innovative ways to use CBD and other hemp products.
What types of CBD products are legal for consumption?
So long as the CBD components have been sourced appropriately, consumers can freely buy most goods containing CBD. Consumers can purchase the oil itself or choose one of many products infused with its isolate.
CBD oil products
These products usually come in a medicine dropper bottle, similar to iodine. Drops can then be added to food or drink to make legal CBD edibles at home, or taken orally. These products may be labeled as hemp oil, CBD, cannabidiol, or hemp extracts.
CBD gummy products
The Farm Act made CBD gummies legal, and these have proven to be one of the most popular items so legalized. Like conventional gummy candy and gummy vitamins, CBD gummies come in many shapes and flavors. Users should check the packaging for any directions or limitations on use.
CBD topical creams
CBD topical creams have shown promise in relieving some skin conditions and localized inflammation. While these products have not been tested thoroughly, early results from the University of Kentucky have been promising. In cases of long-term joint pain and inflammation in rats, topical gels reduced pain.
CBD capsules contain CBD oil in an easy-to-swallow pill, similar to over-the-counter pain relievers. These products perform the same duties as other forms of ingested CBD, such as oils and gummies, but add convenience and consistency.
CBD vape oils
CBD vape oil offers another way to take CBD by mouth. Users install a cartridge in a vaporizer, which might take the form of a pen or box, and breathe in a mixture of water vapor and CBD oil. Inhaling CBD makes more of the compound available to the body than some other methods.
CBD isolate offers nothing but the cannabidiol in its purest form. Isolate can come in a crystalline or powdered form, depending on how fine it is. Similar to CBD oils, isolate can be administered orally on its own, through food and drink, or vaped. Isolate is best mixed with a carrier compound for maximum effectiveness.
Is CBD legal in all 50 states?
While CBD is legal in all 50 states, some states differ on how legal it is. The Farm Act sets standards, but states can choose to be more restrictive. States with hemp pilot programs, like Kentucky, have already begun exploring regulations in earnest, while others will have to catch up as the Farm Act goes into effect.
States disagree on the use of CBD as a food additive for commercially-produced food. This does not affect those adding CBD oil to their food at home.
Legalities below concern possession and purchase of CBD products. Not all states have implemented grower regulations yet, and some may choose not to allow the growing of industrial hemp.
More Reading on CBD Legality
- The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer – Brookings (December 2018)