Cannabis has a complicated history in the United States. Although US citizens have been medicating with the herb for hundreds of years, it only took 10 years to demonize and ban the cannabis plant for several decades.
In fact, only 11 US states have legalized recreational cannabis so far. The introduction of the “marijuana” term by the federal government in the 1920s created a dichotomy that is very difficult to overcome these days.
Many people still think of cannabis as only marijuana — or they simply confuse hemp with the latter.
The federal government recently passed legislation that clearly sets hemp and marijuana apart — arguing that hemp plants can’t produce psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use.
Hemp was finally crossed off the list of controlled substances, giving people open access to the plant for the first time since 1937.
However, CBD can be found both in hemp and marijuana, which may raise questions about its legality.
What’s the exact legal status of CBD? Are all CBD oil products legal? How do you tell the difference between CBD oil from hemp and marijuana?
Continue reading this guide to find out.
What Is CBD and Is It Legal In My State?
CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol — one of 113 identified cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and arguably the most prominent when it comes to medical benefits.
The cannabinoids are natural compounds that mostly occur in cannabis plants, although they’re not exclusive to that species. You can also find them in plants like Helichrysum or Echinacea, but only in trace amounts.
Cannabinoids are known to interact with the endocannabinoid system — the prime neurochemical network in our bodies comprised of receptors and hormones.
Endo means “inside the body”, so cannabinoids produced by the body are called endocannabinoids. Conversely, the same plant-derived molecules are called phytocannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system is indirectly involved in regulating a variety of processes in the human body by either accelerating them or slowing them down.
That’s why compounds like CBD have such a long list of health benefits and potential medical uses.
The Endocannabinoid System Balances the Following Functions:
- Energy metabolism
- Immune function
- Pain transmission
- Temperature regulation
Why Do People Use CBD?
Through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, CBD offers an impressive array of benefits to human health.
People usually use CBD to regulate stress response, reduce the transmission of pain signals to the brain, promote sleep, and improve general well being.
CBD has so many applications because it engages with this centrally-regulating endocannabinoid system — triggering a sort of “chain reaction” all across the body, helping in the regulation of the other organ systems.
Research on CBD is still in early stages, although there have been a few clinical trials that investigated some of its widely discussed benefits on humans.
CBD is commonly used for:
- Chronic pain management
- Sleep disorders
- Chronic stress
- Poor immune function
- Better cognitive health
- Optimal skin health
The evidence piling up over the years has made it difficult to deny the benefits of phytocannabinoids — especially CBD. As the legal market is growing, more funds are funneled into research on cannabis.
According to the World Health Organization, CBD exhibits no effect indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. To date, there’s no record of public health-related problems linked to the use of pure CBD products.
Nevertheless, the legal status of CBD in the US isn’t that obvious.
Let’s shed more light on this issue.
Controversies Around the Legality of CBD Oil
Regulators face one major problem with the cannabis plant — although all of the compounds have powerful medicinal properties, some of them make users high (e.g. THC).
Historically, regulators around the world completely ignored the aforementioned benefits only to make its intoxicating compounds illegal. After decades of consistent advocacy and lobbying, the legal status of cannabis is finally being reevaluated country by country.
In the United States, the current status of CBD is contradictory when it comes to federal vs. state laws. Some states have legalized cannabis to full extent, others have created medical marijuana programs — but in the light of the federal law, the plant is still a controlled drug.
For example, even if you try to fly between two legal states with a small amount of weed and get caught at the airport, you’ll be charged with a federal offense for drug trafficking.
Hopefully, this contradiction will soon be a sad memory of the past once the MORE bill makes it through the senate.
Anyways, when someone says that marijuana is legal in their state, they mean exactly what they say.
But when the same statement is made about CBD — this can mean several different things.
Cannabis Products Can Be Sourced From Different Plants
Cannabis is an umbrella term to describe the plants in the Cannabis sativa L. family. The two main kinds of cannabis are hemp and marijuana.
Understanding the differences between these two plants is the paramount factor when determining whether a particular CBD product is legal or illegal.
Despite being the exact same species, hemp and marijuana produce completely different effects due to their unique cannabinoid profiles.
Here’s what you need to know about both plants.
Hemp is the type of Cannabis sativa that comes with only trace amounts of THC — usually below 0.3% by dry weight. This is currently the only condition for a particular cultivar to be classified as hemp.
If a cannabis strain produces 0.4% THC, it’s marijuana.
As mentioned, hemp falls under different legal confines than marijuana. It’s been legal for a long time in the United States, but only after receiving approval from federal agencies.
Everything changed when the 2018 Farm Bill went into effect. The Farm Bill lifted the ban on hemp, removing it from the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug.
Now hemp can be cultivated just as easily as any common crop throughout the United States.
The collateral benefit of this evolution was that supplement companies gained access to hemp as a source of nutritional supplements — which is now subject to the Food and Drug Administration.
The majority of CBD products like CBD oil, CBD capsules, gummies or E-liquids are made with hemp-derived CBD in order to maintain their legal status.
Marijuana is what most people think of when they hear “cannabis.” This name refers to the female plants of Cannabis sativa that produce moderate to high levels of THC — the main psychoactive cannabinoid. THC is what makes users feel high.
Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug in the United States — putting it in the same category as heroin and fentanyl — two of the most lethal drugs in the country.
Don’t get us wrong, marijuana isn’t a deadly drug. It’s not even a gateway drug. In fact, recent studies show that it can be an “exit drug” — but lawmakers have refused to acknowledge it on the federal level for over 80 years.
Of course, some states have legalized marijuana within their borders, but if the federal government ever wanted to charge someone with a federal offense for using marijuana, it has the right to do so.
Key Differences Between Hemp vs. Marijuana
|Plant family||Cannabis sativa L.||Cannabis sativa L.|
|Legal Definition||Cannabis sativa plants containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight||Cannabis sativa plants with more than 0.3% THC by dry weight|
|Is It Psychoactive?||No||Yes|
|Federal Legal Status||Legal||Illegal (Schedule I drug)|
|State Legal Status||Legal in most states||Recreational use accepted in 11 states / Medical use accepted in 33 states|
Legal Status of CBD Oil by State
When the federal government in the United States introduces a new bill, the states have the ability to accept this document or adjust their own state legislature to challenge it.
In fact, the realm of cannabis laws is the best example of states exercising their right to question federal laws.
Upon the release of the new Farm Bill, some states have chosen to accept this change, allowing their citizens to access CBD products from hemp. Others resisted, introducing their own laws that criminalized possessing the non-psychoactive hemp plants.
Fortunately, it only took these states a few months to realize how misguided their approach was, and as a result, they reverted those policies.
In the past, you could find a list of legal and illegal states for hemp-derived CBD products — but now, we have a different situation.
Let’s discuss the possible legal issues with CBD despite the lack of an outright ban.
1. Fully Legal States
These states honor the changes implemented by the 2018 Farm Bill with no exception. In these states, you can purchase, possess, and consume hemp-derived products including CBD oils, capsules, and concentrates.
You can find CBD at your local dispensary, specialty stores, and sometimes in supermarkets. However, the majority of CBD products are sold online these days.
There’s also no limit to how you can use CBD in these states.
2. Conditionally-Legal States
In these states, you can still buy your CBD — but there are some loopholes to it.
States such as Minnesota and North Dakota will require you to have a doctor’s recommendation or a medical cannabis card to buy CBD oil from hemp.
These regions are also known for the lower availability of CBD products. If you want to buy CBD locally in these states, it’s better to search for it online
Legality of Hemp-Derived Products State-By-State
- The District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Where Is Marijuana-Derived CBD Oil Legal?
- Washington, D.C.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
Legal Status of CBD Oil: What Does the Future Hold?
You can now legally buy CBD in all 50 states — to a varying extent. Most citizens can buy it as a supplement in-store or online, although some states may require them to meet certain requirements first.
These requirements include getting a recommendation from a doctor or applying for a medical cannabis card.
That’s why the best way to get your legal CBD products is to buy them online and have them sent to your home, office, or mailbox instead. Online stores give you access to a much broader selection of hemp-derived CBD extracts in various forms, unlike their local counterparts.
Moving forward, we expect the regulations to continue to change across the state as well as on the federal level, as more people become aware of the health benefits of cannabis plants — both hemp and marijuana.
As the legal landscape is changing, the hemp CBD market is now regulated by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), who have yet to make an official statement regarding the use of CBD — and whether or not they support it.
We hope that this article has cleared up any confusion surrounding the legal status of CBD in the United States. Stay tuned, we’ll surely keep you updated about the new milestones on our way to legal cannabis!