The list of states approving medical or recreational use of marijuana and CBD keeps growing. Thirty-three states have passed medical marijuana laws. Twelve states have enacted CBD-explicit medical laws. Cannabidiol products are a popular part of current health and well-being trends, but is CBD even legal? Learn more about state and federal CBD laws in this FindLaw article. Use this guide to learn about federal and state regulations regarding CBD use and which of these regulations affects you where you live.
Marijuana, Hemp, CBD Oil: What’s Legal and Where
Jan. 8, 2019 — As the legalized cannabis industry in the United States grows with nearly every election, consumers interested in these products have more and more options. But they might also have more questions, given the different sources of the products, the difference in federal and state laws, and the difference between those that make you high and those that don’t.
And November’s midterm elections, along with action by Congress late in 2018 to legalize hemp in the Farm Bill, brought even more changes to the landscape. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant with a negligible amount of the high-producing THC found in marijuiana.
Here is a scorecard of what’s legal and what’s not.
Marijuana & the States
Even though, thanks to the Farm Bill, hemp lost its status as a Schedule I drug – one that has no proven medical purpose and potential for abuse – marijuana did not. That means even though many states have legalized its use, the federal government still considers marijuana and CBD products derived from marijuana in almost any form to be illegal. But so far, federal law enforcement officials have not used their power to swoop in and shut down marijuana operations in states that have legalized it.
The list of states where medical or recreational use of marijuana and CBD is legal keeps growing. Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C., have passed medical marijuana laws (including 10 states and the nation’s capital where recreational and medical use is legal), says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Also, 14 states have enacted CBD-explicit medical laws.
And, according to Armentano, all cannabis products, including marijuana and medical CBD, are illegal in Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska.
What About CBD Products?
CBD products sold online run the gamut, from tinctures and creams, to gummies and pills, to coffees and teas. Most experts believe the Farm Bill makes it clear that consumers anywhere can legally buy these products if they’re made from low- or zero-THC hemp. But that could change if your state’s lawmakers explicitly act to ban them.
CBD products are often marketed as anti-inflammatories and pain relievers that can also help with insomnia and anxiety. Some strains of CBD are popular with parents of children with severe epilepsy.
Within days of the Farm Bill becoming law, the FDA issued a statement saying any hemp-based CBD product that is marketed as having therapeutic benefits or as a dietary supplement is illegal to sell unless the FDA has reviewed and approved it. Opening the marketplace, it seems, also opened the products to regulatory oversight.
And the FDA would still have authority over hemp products used as food, says Todd Harrison, an attorney and chairman of the Venable LLP law firm’s FDA group in Washington, D.C.
And what about buying CBD products online, especially if you are in a state where CBD is not legal or is restricted? There are more unknowns than knowns.
”I think there is very little risk for consumers,” says Harrison, especially if it is a CBD product made from hemp. “If you are buying CBD from marijuana, there might be a risk.” But, he says, “I don’t think the states are going to take action against the consumer.”
Jonathan Miller, JD, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry group, says, “I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested for buying CBD online.” He has heard about store owners selling CBD products being cited.
What the New Law Means for Hemp
Industrial hemp has potential for food, medicine, and even car parts. And it’s been called a potential boon for Kentucky farmers looking for an alternative to their tobacco crops.
Industrial hemp can be grown only under specific conditions, such as in state pilot programs.
Under the new law, state governments, not the federal government, would primarily regulate the hemp products.
Hemp “will [now] be an agricultural commodity,” like wheat or oranges, Miller says. “It does not impact marijuana-derived CBD.”
The provision in the new Farm Bill, he says, clarifies “the legality of hemp-derived CBD.”
Even with the Farm Bill provision, state or local governments can impose stricter limitations, Miller says. Right now, about 15 states have “pretty strong pro-hemp CBD statues. All the rest are vague or silent.”
“It is going to bring some level of clarity to this market,” NORML’s Armentano says.
It will carve out an exemption for traditional hemp plants, defined as having a maximum of 0.3% of THC, he says. “Those are no longer defined as controlled substances.”
While the language implies that compounds derived from those plants and put into products would also be exempt, it’s not explicit, Armentano says, so gray areas remain.
Is Cannabis Oil Legal?
Although cultures around the world have used cannabis for centuries, Americans are just now beginning to understand what cannabis and the chemical compounds in it do to the human body. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, in particular, has become wildly popular for its alleged health benefits, but is CBD oil legal?
America’s relationship with cannabis is complicated. According to federal law, cannabis — including CBD — is still predominantly illegal, although there are exceptions. Even with the continuing federal prohibition of cannabis, most U.S. states have enacted their own cannabis-related laws. As such, CBD oils reside in a legal grey area.
When Is CBD Oil Illegal?
It depends. In terms of federal law, the legality of CBD oil depends largely on where the CBD came from and where it is being used, so it is important to understand some cannabis fundamentals.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Both industrial hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis family, but they are treated differently under federal law. Industrial hemp, as defined by the federal government, is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight. Marijuana is defined as any cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC by weight.
If CBD oil comes from hemp, it is federally legal. If CBD oil comes from marijuana, it is federally illegal. State laws, however, vary widely.
Every U.S. state allows for the use of cannabis in some form, but each state’s laws are different. For example, Washington state law allows residents to legally consume CBD oil for recreational purposes, whereas South Dakota state law categorizes CBD as a Schedule IV controlled substance and allows citizens to use CBD only in forms that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, e.g., Epidiolex.
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabis is filled with chemicals. Arguably the most well known of these chemicals is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whereas THC is largely responsible for cannabis’ “high,” CBD does not result in a high. Supplement manufacturers are making CBD into many forms, including oils, tinctures, pills, and lotions. Some supposed benefits of using CBD include:
- Pain relief
- Reduction of anxiety and depression
- Treatment of cancer-related symptoms
- Acne treatment
- Neuroprotective properties
- Heart health
- Antipsychotic effects
It is important to discuss the use of CBD oils or products with a medical professional. Noted side effects include diarrhea, changes in appetite and weight, and fatigue. Additionally, because so many factors influence CBD oil’s legality, it is worth your time to become familiar with your state’s cannabis laws. And if you are accused of illegally possessing cannabis, contact an experienced defense lawyer near you.
Your Guide To CBD Legalization By State
Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
In the past several years, cannabidiol (CBD) has gone from fringe to mainstream in the world of wellness. Today, you can easily find CBD in a variety of forms—tinctures, capsules, gummies and more. Despite its popularity, there’s a lot of confusion regarding even the most basic aspects of CBD, including what it is and whether it’s legal.
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Your ability to purchase and consume CBD legally largely depends on where you live. There are both federal and state regulations regarding CBD use, and knowing which of these regulations affects you is key to consuming the cannabinoid safely and legally.
What Is CBD, and Is It Legal?
CBD is a chemical compound naturally found in cannabis sativa, a plant species that includes both cannabis and hemp plants. (Think of cannabis sativa as a family and cannabis and hemp as sisters within that family.) The primary difference between the two plants is that hemp contains higher amounts of CBD than THC (the main intoxicatingly psychoactive compound in cannabis) while cannabis plants contain higher amounts of THC than CBD.
CBD and THC don’t contain the same amount of psychoactive components associated with feeling “high,” according to Mackenzie Slade, director of Cannabis Public Policy Consulting. “CBD is technically a psychoactive cannabinoid, but when derived from hemp plants, the psychoactive component is very, very low,” she says. While CBD won’t get you high, early studies indicate many potential benefits, including the possibility of mitigating depression and anxiety symptoms, relieving pain and protecting against some neurological diseases.
CBD is also scientifically linked to the prevention of seizures, leading the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a prescription drug called Epidiolex, which contains CBD as an active ingredient.
Despite these benefits, Slade says the legality of CBD is a gray area that legal analysts continue to hash out. Remember how CBD can be derived from both cannabis and hemp plants? That origin plays a role in its legality. At the federal level, CBD derived from cannabis is considered a Schedule 1 substance and is illegal, explains Slade. But CBD derived from a hemp source containing less than .3% THC by dry weight is not illegal because hemp is not a controlled substance. “[This distinction is called] a ‘source rule’ because CBD itself is not identified on the Controlled Substance Act schedule,” says Slade.
Additionally, it’s illegal to sell CBD products that are not FDA-approved, according to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. “The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [states] that once a substance is used as the active ingredient of a new drug that has been approved or authorized for clinical trials, food and beverages containing this ingredient cannot be introduced into interstate commerce. This is called the drug exclusion rule,” says Slade. She explains that this means the FDA’s approval of Epidiolex eliminated the possibility of producing and selling any food or beverage with CBD. This detail makes the situation even more complicated because CBD is commonly used in foods and drinks like lattes and juices. “[This is why] the federal legal status of CBD depends on the type of product it is and its source,” adds Slade.
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2018 Farm Bill
The most important year for CBD legalization (so far) was 2018 when the Agriculture Improvement Act (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill) was signed into law. “Farm bills are legislation that govern agricultural production and are updated every few years,” says Slade. “They basically serve as the federal government’s enabling laws to regulate and provide guidance on agriculture and food.”
The 2018 Farm Bill was the first time a farm bill included hemp cannabis plants. It effectively made the cultivation, production and sale of industrial hemp federally legal and regulated. When this change occurred, brands selling products containing CBD were elated because it meant hemp farmers would be able to extract CBD from their plants for ingestible purposes legally. But Slade says their hope was premature due to the drug exclusion rule, which was already in effect because of the FDA’s approval of Epidiolex.
CBD Legalization by State
All these layers make the question of whether CBD is legal to sell tricky to answer, and rules regarding CBD possession and use are just as complicated. Here, it comes down to the state in which you reside, as different states have different CBD regulations. While hemp-based CBD is legal at a federal level, some states consider using or possessing any cannabis product illegal—period. Other states only allow CBD use medically. This variance is outlined in greater detail in the chart below.
|State||CBD Legal Status||Additional Details|
|Alabama||Conditionally legal||CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Arkansas||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|California||Fully legal||Hemp-derived CBD edibles are not legal in the state, but cannabis-derived CBD edibles are; doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced and legislation has been proposed to remove this restriction|
|Delaware||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions, though the CBD market in general is relatively unregulated in Delaware|
|District of Columbia||Fully legal|
|Florida||Conditionally legal||Hemp-derived CBD oil only|
|Georgia||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions; must contain equal amounts of THC and CBD, and THC content cannot exceed 5%|
|Hawaii||Conditionally legal||Hemp-derived CBD oil only|
|Idaho||Conditionally legal||All varieties legal so long as there is no traceable THC content|
|Indiana||Conditionally legal||All varieties legal so long as they do not exceed 0.3% THC|
|Iowa||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC legal with medical cannabis license; list of accepted conditions is fairly restrictive|
|Kansas||Conditionally legal||All varieties legal so long as there is no traceable THC content; medical CBD oil legal with license for specific conditions, provided the THC content doesn’t exceed 5%|
|Kentucky||Conditionally legal||Hemp-derived CBD oil only|
|Louisiana||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Maryland||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Massachusetts||Fully legal||Oil with THC content exceeding 0.3% fully legal for adults age 21 and up and for adults 18 to 20 years old with medical cannabis license|
|Minnesota||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Mississippi||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license; limited number of accepted conditions; must be obtained from University of Mississippi; cannot exceed 0.5% THC|
|Missouri||Conditionally legal||CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC legal with medical cannabis license—no qualifying conditions|
|Nebraska||Conditionally legal||Hemp-derived CBD oil only; cannabis is illegal even for medical purposes|
|New Hampshire||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|New Jersey||Fully legal|
|New Mexico||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|New York||Fully legal|
|North Carolina||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license; however, the program is limited to a very small subset of the population of study participants and patients suffering from specific conditions|
|North Dakota||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Ohio||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Oklahoma||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license—no qualifying conditions|
|Pennsylvania||Conditionally legal||CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Rhode Island||Conditionally legal||CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|South Carolina||Conditionally legal||CBD oil exceeding 0.9% THC legal with medical cannabis license; very restrictive list of qualifying conditions|
|South Dakota||Conditionally legal||Medical and recreational cannabis products illegal; ballot measure proposed to change this ruling following a successful 2020 ballot measure that was overturned by the Supreme Court|
|Tennessee||Conditionally legal||CBD oil exceeding 0.9% THC legal with medical cannabis license; very restrictive list of qualifying conditions|
|Texas||Conditionally legal||Low-THC (up to 1%) CBD oil available for patients with qualifying conditions|
|Utah||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|West Virginia||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Wisconsin||Conditionally legal||Cannabis-derived CBD oil legal with medical cannabis license for specific conditions|
|Wyoming||Conditionally legal||Hemp-derived CBD oil only|
Despite these regulations, CBD legalization remains a hot topic. “The hemp and CBD industry need regulatory certainty for ingestible products, and I think it will inevitably come through legislation requiring the FDA to regulate hemp extracts,” says Slade, adding that this level of oversight is key for preventing illegal CBD products from ending up on store shelves. “There will also be a need for the FDA to include enforcement policies to stop all illegal production and sales while that regulatory infrastructure is being developed.”
It’s likely that regulations surrounding CBD legality will continue to evolve and fluctuate over time. The conversation has only just begun.