Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most popular chemical compounds derived from the cannabis plant. Since cannabis use has long been federally illegal, the legal status of cannabis-derived products such as CBD has been somewhat of a grey area. Furthermore, each state has its own cannabis laws, and CBD and marijuana is not the same thing despite their close association. Thus, navigating who can and cannot legally use CBD is tricky. To better understand the legality of CBD, it is first worth distinguishing cannabis, hemp, marijuana, and CBD. Cannabis is a plant with primarily two classifications: indica and sativa. Marijuana is derived from both cannabis indica and cannabis sativa plants, where hemp is derived from just cannabis sativa. Marijuana contains both tethrydrocannabinol (THC—the chemical compound that induces a “high”) and CBD, where hemp contains mostly CBD. In 1970, all forms of cannabis were federally banned under the Controlled Substances Act. The U.S. government, therefore, failed to distinguish marijuana and hemp, despite hemp’s benefits and lack of psychoactive properties. However, legal and public consciousness surrounding hemp began to change, and the Agricultural Act of 2014 (often referred to as the “Farm Bill”) finally authorized state Departments of Agriculture and educational institutions to grow hemp for research purposes. The 2018 Farm Bill expanded upon this progress even more, federally legalizing hemp and hemp-derived products like CBD oil.
So now that hemp is legal under federal law, does that mean that products derived from hemp like CBD and CBD oil are legal too? Now that the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of schedule 1 substances, yes: CBD is legal as long as it is derived from hemp. Though they are tightly regulated by the FDA, products such as oils, edibles, and ointments that contain hemp-derived CBD are all federally legal. That said, CBD can also be derived from marijuana, which is still federally illegal. Furthermore, each state is different regarding the legality of cannabis cultivation and cannabis-related products. Some states have legalized all forms of cannabis use, where others have completely banned cannabis. Most, however, fall somewhere in between. There are currently ten states where both medicinal and recreational marijuana is completely legal, which are California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. States that restrict all forms of cannabis use (both THC and CBD) include Nebraska, Idaho, and South Dakota. The majority of states, however, do permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes but do not allow any form of recreational use. States that restrict recreational use but allow for medicinal cannabis include Arizona, Montana, Utah, New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, among others.
When consuming CBD and other cannabis products, it is important to be mindful of where one’s CBD is coming from as well as the state laws on cannabis where it is being consumed. Additionally, many states are moving towards complete legalization of cannabis, which means that many state cannabis laws are likely to change in the near future.