These days, it seems like CBD is everywhere. You’ll see “CBD” in huge letters on a billboard you drive past; you’ll see online ads touting CBD products; you may even see some of those products on the shelves in your local drugstore. By all accounts, the newfound popularity of CBD is a wonderful thing, because CBD has so many benefits for people that suffer from a variety of conditions. For many people, CBD is the only thing that helps with their chronic pain, anxiety, or epilepsy. However, because of the fact that it is sourced from the cannabis plant, CBD legal status remains a little murky in a lot of places.
So, let’s try to settle the question: is CBD legal? What regulations, if any, does it have in your area? Do you need a license or prescription to buy CBD products? Is there a limit on what you can buy?
Tracing CBD legal status can be a bit of a challenge, because the laws tend to be dynamic and can change, sometimes surprisingly often. Nevertheless, we’ll attempt to give a bit of history and background to CBD legal status, and equip you with the tools to do further research yourself if necessary.
The cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years – possibly even before recorded history – because of the benefits it provides to sufferers of anxiety and chronic pain. Long before humankind had any idea of the mechanisms that made it so effective, people flocked to the plant for its medicinal properties. For centuries, no one considered this plant to be any more than an effective treatment for a wide variety of problems, and no one considered making it illegal.
The hemp plant enjoyed huge popularity in the United States since the very beginning. In fact, the Founding Fathers actually required farmers to grow hemp on their property, due to its vast array of important uses. It wasn’t until 1937 that hemp products were effectively outlawed in the United States with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act.
CBD was formally discovered by an American organic chemist named Roger Adams in 1940. It was him who isolated the CBD compound originally, although he neither knew exactly what it was nor any of the uses for it. It took until 1960 for scientists to fully describe the chemical structure of Cannabidiol – better known as CBD – as one of the non psychoactive compounds in the cannabis plant.
Despite the fact that it was neither psychoactive, nor habit forming, CBD’s connection to cannabis led to it being outlawed in all 50 states as early as the 1950s. The medical benefits of the compound didn’t begin receiving formal study until the 1970s. It was then that some of its many medicinal properties began to be discovered. Now, many people began to question why a compound with no potential for abuse, and with hundreds of benefits, remained illegal. Even so, CBD continued to be banned for many more years.
While it’s true that for decades, there were plenty of people demanding that CBD’s legal status be reconsidered, it wasn’t until the age of the Internet that CBD began to receive a really serious second look. Even people who were staunchly in support of the prohibition of all cannabis products began to be swayed by viral stories, shared on social media, of epileptic children who had seen massive improvements in their quality of life – all because of CBD. People from all sides of the political spectrum – many of whom had never before considered that cannabis and its relatives would have any viable medical benefits, let alone this many – began to campaign for the legalization of CBD.
Despite the fact that CBD is not even remotely a recreational drug, and should never have been categorized as such, its legal status remained in flux because of its connection to the cannabis plant. The laws were – and still can be – murky and confusing, because CBD was sometimes illegal under blanket “marijuana” laws. Even now, as more and more states pursue legalization of cannabis products, CBD’s status remains uncertain, depending on where it is sourced from and what state you happen to be in.
It was not until 2018 that things finally started to change for CBD. While marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 removed hemp from the federal list of Schedule I substances.
This means that, as of 2018, CBD is legal in all 50 states if, and only if, the following conditions are met:
If the CBD you’re buying meets all of the criteria mentioned above, then it is legal and you can purchase, use, and transport it – even across state lines – with no problem.
One of the more confusing aspects of CBD legality is that although it is no longer a controlled substance at a federal level, states have widely varied laws on cannabis-derived products. Also, the FDA still has the right to regulate anything that is a food or dietary supplement- which means edibles or anything being sold as a drug is subject to approval. In time, the FDA will have enough research and information to do so, but with the internet, the growth of the industry is outpacing the bureaucratic process. For more information, check out the FDA website.
Where the laws continue to be confusing is when the CBD products are derived from marijuana. This type of CBD, while technically the same exact compound as hemp-derived CBD, remains illegal at the federal level. However, on a state level, there are now (as of 2019) 10 states that have legalized all cannabis products, including CBD derived from marijuana.
If you are in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, you can legally obtain, and use, CBD derived from any source. However, you may not transport it across state lines if it is derived from marijuana.
While marijuana-derived CBD is still tightly controlled in every state not mentioned above, you can still obtain a prescription to use it medicinally in 47 of the 50 US states.
The states where you can obtain a medical prescription for CBD products are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. In most of these states, you will need to obtain a medical marijuana card before your doctor can prescribe you CBD.
In the states of Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota, CBD is still strictly prohibited when derived from marijuana. Even CBD derived from hemp is controversial in these states.
The information in this article is current as of 2019. However, CBD laws are subject to change and the local CBD legal status can still be very confusing. If you are unsure if a product can be legally obtained in your area, seek out legislative information for your state, as well as your local government.