Settling the Debate: Is CBD Oil Legal?

When it comes to whether or not CBD is legal, it all depends on where it comes from.

CBD oil
The sale of CBD oil and other hemp products is a major business with a large profit margin. Unsplash/CBD Infos

CBD oil—it’s all you hear about these days. The health benefits of CBD are numerous, and it is a non-intoxicating alternative to THC. Once you begin talking about CBD with your friends and family, however, some objections come up. The legality of CBD is hotly contested among some, while others do not seem to understand the difference between THC and CBD.

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So, who is right? Is CBD legal? The answer is: it depends. Federal and state laws are definitely at odds with each other. While CBD is legal in most states, there are exceptions to the rule. Let’s explore the concrete information surrounding CBD, so that you know how to answer concerned friends and family.

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Unfortunately, the situation is a bit confusing, and the answer is likely to be continually changing as more states consider full legalization. This guide will clarify where the law currently stands, as well as where things may be headed in the future.

The DEA Furthers Confusion

In order to fall in line with the United Nations’ stance on controlled substances, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has emphasized that CBD is considered a controlled substance. After realizing the confusion and backlash from this statement, it was amended to clarify that CBD, among other cannabinoids, occur in marijuana, which is an illegal substance on the federal level.

According to federal law, CBD is illegal. In certain states, however, it is legal. Only six states still consider CBD to be entirely illegal: Idaho, Nebraska, Indiana, South Dakota, Kansas and West Virginia. This disagreement between state and federal law causes issues for many who wish to use CBD oil.

Was the DEA’s Announcement Illegal?

CBD is usually extracted from hemp, not marijuana. Additionally, only Congress is allowed to add a substance to the controlled substances list. For these reasons, hemp growers are not happy with the DEA’s statement. However, the DEA holds that cannabinoids, in general, have always been considered a controlled substance.

While the DEA cannot add or remove substances from the list, it appears that the organization may have been correct in their statement that CBD is already illegal. Congress has been attempting to pass legislation to remove CBD from the controlled substances list. This wouldn’t be necessary if it was not considered a controlled substance.

Medical Needs Matter

Thirty-three states have passed various legislation regarding medical marijuana. In these states, CBD is also under state protection. Sixteen other states have laws allowing CBD, even though marijuana is not allowed. High levels of THC are not allowed in these products.

While THC provides a psychoactive effect, CBD offers the same medicinal benefits without the “high.” Patients looking for CBD, however, may have issues finding it, since dispensaries and other facilities that sell CBD products are not always allowed.

Georgia is an example of a state with medicinal allowances. CBD with less than 5% THC is allowed to treat:

  • Alzheimer’s,
  • Autism,
  • Tourette syndrome,
  • AIDS,
  • Peripheral neuropathy,
  • And other diseases.

The Endocannabinoid System

CBD oil
CBD oil is beginning to make the news on a regular basis due to the changes it has made in the lives of many. Unsplash/R+R Medicinals

Our bodies contain a system of cannabinoid receptors, known as the endocannabinoid system. While these receptors are present throughout the body, they come in different forms. THC and CBD, for instance, bind to different receptors than each other. This is how both can offer medical benefits, while only THC possesses psychoactive properties.

There are over 100 compounds present in cannabis, and we are only just beginning to understand how each one interacts with the human body. Future research could show the benefits of compounds still unknown to us.

The Laws Continue to Change

CBD can be a controversial subject, despite its lack of a psychoactive effects. Because of this, the laws can often change. Alabama was only allowing CBD use in clinical trials, but the state recently decided to legalize CBD. This was made possible through the Farm Bill.

In areas where CBD continues to be illegal, arrests are rare. One may be arrested for selling it, although the items are usually just confiscated. Possession does not usually end in arrest. If CBD is illegal in your area, however, it is important to obey the law.

The Farm Bill

The Farm Bill, passed in 2014, made the production of hemp legal under approved pilot agricultural programs. This was intended for research purposes. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC. Though hemp technically contains THC, the THC is not psychoactive in such a small amount.

While hemp fiber and seeds are mentioned in this bill, CBD is not specifically mentioned. If CBD can be derived from hemp fiber and seeds, then CBD is legal. But whether or not this is possible remains up for debate.

The Source Matters

When it comes to whether or not CBD is legal, it all depends on where it comes from. A lot of companies that sell CBD claim that their CBD is extracted for hemp. CBD that comes from hemp is legal; CBD extracted from other parts of marijuana is not.

This makes hempseed oil legal on a federal level. There are differences, however, between hempseed oil and CBD oil. Some companies that claim to sell CBD oil are only actually selling hempseed oil.

CBD and Hemp

It is not possible to extract cannabidiol from hempseed, currently. Flowers and leaves are where the cannabidiol comes from, although you can get a small portion from the stalk. This is not to say that your CBD oil does not actually contain CBD, however. The sourcing is what may be questionable.

In Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon, you can be sure that the amount of CBD on the label does exist. In these states, cannabis is completely legalized. Products must pass state mandates regarding their claims on labels, so companies that fake information may be in legal trouble. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ran tests on multiple CBD companies’ products in 2015 and 2016 and found that the CBD content was over exaggerated or not at all present.

The FDA does not regulate CBD, so keep this in mind. They just tested the products as a one-time experiment. Sometimes, industrial-grade hemp is imported from Europe or Canada, but this is not often potent. Other companies genetically engineer strains.

Ease of Access Issues

Because of fear from the ruling of the DEA, many non-cannabis retail stores are not willing to stock CBD oil. There are some stores, however, that focus on CBD and hemp products. There is also the possibility of ordering CBD oil directly from websites.

Other retailers claim that the statement made by the DEA has, in a sense, backfired on the DEA itself. Some areas have seen CBD sales climb. It is expected, however, that all of the confusing information surrounding CBD oil will cause some producers to be more careful with the production process, to make sure they are above reproach.

Clarifying the Confusion

The DEA’s final statement on the issue is this: “Cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), cannabinols (CBN) and cannabidiols (CBD), are found in the parts of the cannabis plant that fall within the CSA [Controlled Substances Act] definition of marijuana, such as the flowering tops, resin and leaves.”

This means that CBD is only legal if it is sourced from other areas of the plant that do not qualify as “marijuana” given its current definition by the federal government and the DEA.

While some states allow CBD possession, federal and state law must both agree for CBD to be free of consequence. For example, someone who fails a drug test because of CBD that contains too much THC will not be allowed to work a federal job.

Some CBD products are completely free of THC. Those that contain trace amounts are referred to as “full spectrum” products, and you are still supposed to be able to pass drug tests due to the minimal presence of THC.

In general, CBD that contains less than 0.3% of THC is considered legal across the United States.

Continuing the Fight

CBD that comes from hemp is legal; CBD extracted from other parts of marijuana is not. Unsplash/Robert Nelson

Hemp farmers are not going to quietly stand by the DEA’s ruling. The Hogan Law Group in Denver helped the Hemp Industries Association, RMH Holdings and Centuria Natural Foods challenge the ruling by the DEA. There are 74 agricultural groups and companies that compose the Hemp Industries Association.

Not all proponents of legalization disagree with the DEA, however. Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), clarifies that this is a legal technicality regarding a truth that already exists:

“The DEA makes it clear they don’t have to explicitly list anything as a controlled substance as long as a substance is intended for human ingestion, not approved as a drug by the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), or is structurally or pharmacologically similar to another controlled substance,” he explained.

While this ruling is an administrative change, it does not change anything regarding law enforcement. Armentano’s acknowledgement of the DEA’s statement shows that it may have backing, regardless of one’s stance.

Do the Research

If you are looking to buy CBD oil, make sure to research multiple products before selecting one. While a certain amount of trust must come from the manufacturer, you can still be diligent about reading the labels and studying the providing company.

  • Where is the company from?
  • How long has the company been producing and selling CBD oil?
  • Do they have any certifications or other form of verification?
  • What part of the plant do they claim to extract the CBD from?
  • What other ingredients may be present?

It is possible to research information about your CBD oil and make an educated choice on which product you should consume. You can also ask people who currently use CBD oil for their opinion on which product works best.

The Bottom Line

CBD sourced from portions of the marijuana plant are illegal on a federal level, but legal in most states. Check the law in your local area to be sure of the rules. The legislation surrounding cannabis and CBD is constantly changing, and as the legalization of marijuana spreads, so will the legalization of CBD oil (no matter what the THC concentration).

There are many who rely on CBD oil for the medical benefits of cannabinoids without being able to use THC. CBD oil is beginning to make the news on a regular basis due to the changes it has made in the lives of many. For those looking to avoid the psychoactive effect of medical marijuana, CBD may serve as a more desirable alternative to THC.

The sale of CBD oil and other hemp products is a major business with a large profit margin. The product is touted to have medical benefits, skincare benefits, and to produce quality lotions and paper products. Companies will continue to push for the production of these products.

Depending on the Source and THC Percentage, CBD Is Legal

CBD hemp body balm
CBD hemp body balm Unsplash/Mathco Health Corp

CBD extracted from the “non-marijuana” portions of cannabis is legal, but it is not likely that many products claiming to have CBD are following this guideline. Many states disagree with federal law, however, and allow access to the product.

When investing in a CBD product, be careful about who you trust. Try to find a reputable manufacturer that is not likely to falsify label information. Referrals from someone you know personally may make a difference in this area. Also, if you’re concerned about the legality, make sure that your CBD is third-party tested or guaranteed to contain no more than 0.3% THC.

The Future Is Full of Change

Everyone is beginning to see the effects of legalization in Colorado and Washington, prompting other states to follow suit. If legalization continues to be a positive influence on the economy, medical needs, and other areas, then it is only a matter of time before legalization hits the federal level.

Just remember, when in doubt, consult state law. Chances are, you can use Google to find a state-sponsored website with all the information you need concerning the legal status of CBD oil in your state. You can also check with your employer if you are worried about drug testing.

Regardless of the DEA’s statement, the DEA follows what is already in effect. If Congress removes cannabinoids from the controlled substances list, then the DEA will have no sway over any type of CBD use. Legislation with this purpose is constantly under discussion, so it may only be a matter of time before the change comes to the Controlled Substances Act.

Settling the Debate: Is CBD Oil Legal?