One of the most frequently asked questions about CBD hemp oil, and perhaps the most complicated to answer, is “is it legal?” The answer is, “Yes, except when it isn’t.”
Unfortunately, there are plenty of grey areas and lots of contradicting information when it comes to the legality of CBD hemp oil. That has led to confusion for consumers and, in some cases, a few legal headaches for those selling it. Being familiar with the legalities of your particular situation is important to help you make a decision that’s right for you.
Who Says it’s Legal?
Both marijuana and CBD hemp oil come from cannabis plants, and that shared heritage is where much of the confusion is rooted. Law enforcement officials have struggled with the legality of CBD hemp oil products especially those being sold locally. In some cases, local law enforcement officials have arrested or confiscated the products of local merchants selling CBD, citing violations of their state marijuana possession laws.
For example, last year the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission held a series of raids on stores carrying CBD hemp oil products. But after further review of the state law, the Indiana State Police Department announced in August that it had determined that possession of CBD hemp oil is not a crime. A similar situation happened earlier this year in Rutherford County, Tennessee.
The situation is not that different in other states. Confusion about the legality of CBD oil can create different interpretations within differing justice departments.
A Tale of Two Plants
One very important factor helps states decide if the CBD oil is legal or not, and that is whether the oil is derived from hemp or from marijuana.
Although both plants are members of the cannabis family, the distinguishing characteristic between the two is how much THC they contain.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s euphoric high. While marijuana plants can have as much as 30% THC, hemp has an extremely low amount—just 0.3% THC or less—which means that it is impossible to get high from using it.
Despite the fact that hemp doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as marijuana, it has taken years of education and activism for it to gain acceptance into the mainstream. Today, hemp is used in products ranging from clothes and protein bars to concrete and auto parts.
The Agriculture Act of 2014, most often referred to as The Farm Bill, made it legal to grow hemp—but only in certain situations. Those stipulations include cultivating the plant for academic research or under a state pilot program, or in a state with a state department of agriculture or an academic facility that is doing research on hemp. Many have interpreted that bill to mean that CBD oil made from industrial hemp is completely legal, but opponents argue there’s little proof as to which CBD oil products are derived from research-grown hemp and which are not.
Where Does That Leave Me?
As a consumer, you likely just want to know if and where you can legally buy and use CBD hemp oil. Technically, CBD oil is legal in all 50 states based on the federal Farm Bill as long as it’s derived from hemp. Hemp-derived meaning that it has less than 0.3% THC.
In the eight states where marijuana and hemp are both legal, either for recreational or medicinal use, CBD oil can be used in either form. (Those states are currently Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.)
In an additional 38 states, as of this year, CBD oil is legal for medicinal use but only with a prescription. And, even among those states, the laws are different, dictating everything from the conditions that are allowed to be treated by CBD and the amount of THC concentration allowed in a product, ranging from 0.3% to 0.8%.
Just four states—Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—do not allow use of CBD oil, even with a prescription.
However, even though state laws have some flexibility, federal law continues to view CBD oil as illegal and the Drug Enforcement Administration says that anyone violating federal drug laws run the risk of arrest and prosecution. At the same time, they have made it clear that they are not going after individuals who are using CBD hemp oil.
CBD oil is facing many of the same challenges as marijuana; vendors in states that have legalized marijuana are still in violation of federal laws. However, with the evolving understanding of CBD oil, and with the increasing availability of these product nationwide, the risk to consumers is small.
If you have legal concerns about using CBD oil, we highly recommend that you consult with an attorney in your state who knows both federal, state and local laws.