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Is CBD Legal in All 50 States?

Cannabidiol is an organic compound found in the cannabis plant that has gained attention for its therapeutic benefits. Modern research has confirmed what herbalists have known for millennia, and cannabis-derived health products are in high demand by those looking for alternative health products. Despite its contributions to human health, cannabis is still a controlled substance. The following article explores whether CBD is legal in all 50 states as of May 2020.

Because many of these laws are in the process of being changed, it is important to double-check up-to-date local laws before purchasing CBD products.

CBD in a bottle CBD Law 101: CBD vs. THC

So, why was CBD, a plant that benefits human health, made illegal? This is because of another closely-related cannabinoid: tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the intoxicating compound found primarily in the buds and leaves of the cannabis plant.

While both CBD and THC have been studied for their therapeutic benefits, CBD does not contain any intoxicating properties that produce a high. Therefore, THC is typically more tightly controlled.

CBD Law 102: The 2018 Farm Bill

Considering the potential benefits of the cannabis and hemp industries, the U.S. began relaxing some restraints that controlled cannabis cultivation and use. The first step was the 2014 Farm Bill which established the groundwork for the modern hemp industry. 1, 2

In 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, which made hemp legal by federal law. This placed hemp in the category of agricultural commodities, rather than controlled substances. The Senate also introduced Further the Hemp Farming Act as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. This removed DEA authority over hemp and gave individual states the authority to preside over hemp cultivation. 3

It should be noted that The Hemp Farming Act is considered the greatest step toward changing perspective on the hemp industry.

Hemp in a field Hemp vs. Marijuana

At this point, you may have noticed the variations in terms when referring to a single plant. This is understandably confusing. However, there is an explanation for these difficulties in nomenclature: both hemp and marijuana are derived from the same plant.

Cannabis is the name of the plant family that contains three distinct species. These are Cannabis sativa , Cannabis indica , and Cannabis ruderalis . The term industrial hemp describes the variety of Cannabis sativa that is cultivated for practical or therapeutic benefits without intoxicating effects. These typically contain less than 1% THC.

The term marijuana (but also cannabis, weed, and many other terms) refers to plants that are cultivated for their THC content. They usually contain 5% to 10% THC, but some strains contain much higher concentrations.

If your home state does not permit marijuana even for medicinal purposes, the concentration of THC in a product will determine its legality. Usually, this means the CBD must come from industrial hemp. Currently, hemp-derived CBD is legal at the national level if it contains less than 0.3% THC. 4 This may vary between states, however.

For instance, in Delaware, the THC limit is as high as 5% for CBD oils and hemp products.

Is CBD Legal in All 50 States?

Under the new laws described above, hemp-derived CBD is legal at a federal level. Nevertheless, some states have tighter restrictions for CBD cultivation and distribution. In other states, marijuana use is legal for medical and recreational use, which often also means looser restrictions on CBD products. 5, 6

There are ten states that have lifted all bans on marijuana. In these states, you can purchase CBD oils derived from either industrial hemp or from the marijuana plant itself. These include:

    • Alaska

    • California

    • Colorado

    • Illinois

    • Maine

    • Massachusetts

    • Michigan

    • Nevada

    • Oregon

    • Vermont

    • Washington

    • Washington D.C.

It is important to note that many of the states above prohibit or restrict CBD-infused foods and beverages.

The majority of other states allow hemp-sourced—but not marijuana-sourced CBD for any use.

There are four states with strict restrictions on all cannabis and tighter rules for industrial hemp. T he following states have severe restrictions on cannabis and derived products :

    • Idaho

    • Iowa

    • Nebraska

    • South Dakota

If you are in any of these states, it is important to confirm the current laws to maintain compliance. This may mean finding CBD products that contain 0.0% THC, rather than less than 0.3%. Alternatively, it may mean not purchasing CBD at all if it is illegal in the state, which is the case in South Dakota.

Final Thoughts

The laws are rapidly changing and very soon you may find a wider variety of CBD products available to you. Keep a close eye on the laws that pertain to CBD use in your area for new developments.

Photo credits: 271EAKMOTO/, AlexandrGrant/, MissNuchwaraTongrit/

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