Guide to Laws and Regulations of CBD in the U.S.

Is CBD Legal in the United States?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a non intoxicating, non-psychoactive substance derived from the cannabis plant. CBD can be extracted from the hemp part of the cannabis plant (aka industrial hemp), or the marijuana part of the plant.

When derived from hemp, it is usually known as “Hemp CBD” or simply “Hemp Extract.” Unlike THC (marijuana), also derived from cannabis, Hemp CBD does NOT get you high. It is said to relieve pain and anxiety, and possibly has other health benefits, although the studies have not clearly confirmed this yet.

Although CBD seems to be everywhere right now, its legal status is murky. While Congress did legalize the production and sale of Hemp CBD in December 2018, it cannot be marketed for certain purposes. For example, it can’t be sold as an over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplement (such as CBD oil), or as an additive in foods, drinks, and makeup and cosmetics. These products especially run into trouble when they claim any therapeutic or health benefits, as the FDA has not yet verified the accuracy of such claims.

Is CBD legal in any form?

Currently, the only clearly legal CBD is the prescription drug Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures. CBD and other hemp derivatives that contain less than 0.3% THC are no longer “controlled substances” under federal law.1Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-334, (the 2018 Farm Bill) was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018 They are now regulated by the FDA, which must approve any CBD products or drugs before they are sold to the public.

If CBD is not legal without a prescription, how are all these businesses selling it?

Lax enforcement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency that regulates the manufacture, marketing, and sale of Hemp CBD, but it does not have enough resources to go after all the new CBD companies popping up. The FDA has sent “warning letters” to some companies, but does not appear to have taken further actions.

However, states also have their own authority to regulate CBD, and some, including Maine and New York, have cracked down on Hemp CBD businesses.

Also, companies are betting that the FDA will soon legalize it.

What about other hemp products?

The FDA says that it is legal to sell the following hemp derived ingredients: hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil. These do not naturally contain THC or CBD (or have only trace amounts).

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Photo credit: Photo by Caleb Simpson on Unsplash


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