Is Hemp Legal? Is CBD Legal? | Your Guide to Federal and State Hemp Laws

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Is hemp legal? Is CBD legal?

Yes, hemp and CBD are federally legal. Laws are often confusing, but in this case it’s actually pretty clear. The expert researchers at Thomson Reuters agree, “that hemp and its derivatives (including CBD), are now unambiguously legal at the federal level.”

Every five years, US Congress passes legislation that determines federal agriculture policy. The 2014 Farm Bill permitted farmers to grow hemp under state pilot programs. Some states had enacted their own legislation even earlier. Oregon legalized hemp production in 2009.

The Past ...

Hemp production was restricted through economic sanctions imposed by the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. The 1970 Controlled Substances Act made it official, and hemp production remained illegal until 2014. But throughout prohibition, the cannabis industry flourished in one region of the U.S. In the Emerald Triangle of Southern Oregon, the climate was just too good to stop. ‘Southern Oregon’ has become to the cannabis connoisseur what ‘Napa Valley’ means to an aficionado of cabernet sauvignon.

The Future ...

In 2018, the famed Emerald Triangle of Southern Oregon was stamped the preeminent place to grow CBD hemp. Economist Michael Nepveux observes that a major challenge facing the hemp industry today is the lack of a supply chain, with specific regard to accessing reliable seeds and genetics. But in Southern Oregon, the supply chain had persisted. For decades, the industry innovated and adapted to the prevailing laws that happened to dominate an era. So not only is Southern Oregon where you can find the best CBD hemp, but it’s also where you can find the best farmers and scientists in the industry!

In the Emerald Triangle of Southern Oregon, folks have been dreaming, risking, and pioneering the hemp industry long before you could buy a pre-roll on the internet.

2018 Federal Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill Legalized Hemp and CBD at the federal level, allowing individual states to develop their own hemp laws and programs. The 2018 Farm Bill:

  • Defined “hemp” to mean all parts of the plant with less than 0.3% THC. (Tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive component of marijuana; it’s what get’s you high.) Importantly, this drew a very clear distinction between hemp and marijuana. Before this bill, the federal government didn’t recognize any legal difference between the two.
  • Removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. This includes CBD derived from hemp (and also other cannabinoids, such as CBG and CBN.) Now the lawmakers could agree that hemp isn’t the same as good-ol’ Cannabis saliva L., or “pot.”<
  • Outright legalized the production of hemp when grown in compliance with a state hemp program.

Directive Handed Down to the USDA

The 2018 Farm Bill also listed hemp as a covered commodity crop and gave jurisdiction to the US Department of Agriculture. The USDA has been directed to:

  • Study academic and agriculture research to determine economic viability of domestic hemp market
  • Create a shared regulatory framework for the states and federal government

So hemp and CBD are really legal?!

The Farm Bill directed the USDA to ensure that hemp can be grown, processed, and distributed like most other commodity crops. This initiated a surge of cannabis-friendly banking, insurance, and investment options. The US Drug Enforcement Agency still controls the enforcement of marijuana.

Despite Federal Legalization, Hemp Laws Vary from State to State

Currently, about two-thirds of the states have a hemp program or have passed laws to create one. The other third don’t have any kind of hemp program. Thomson Reuters says, “State hemp laws are a quickly evolving patchwork.” A few states haven’t even modified the language in their controlled substances acts to be in line with federal policy. Still, it seems likely that the hold-out state lawmakers won’t last against the mounting demands of their constituents, not to mention the increasing economic and social incentives for hemp.

States Must Permit Interstate Commerce of Hemp

States may regulate their own hemp production more strictly than the federal government does. But still, states may not interfere with the interstate commerce of hemp.

“No state or Indian Tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products … through the State or territory of the Indian Tribe, as applicable.” Section 10114, 2018 Farm Bill

To provide a little perspective on exactly how much hemp is being trucked along our federal highways: in 2018, U.S. farmers planted about 80,000 acres of hemp, and sales from the domestic hemp market were estimated at $1 billion.

The Challenges Facing the Hemp Industry

The existing regulatory framework broadly legalizes hemp and CBD, but it ignores many practical details. As a result, there remains a lot of confusion in this emerging market. Issues like product testing, labeling requirements, enforcement for violations, etc. are currently under consideration by the USDA. But the legislative wheel turn slowly. Secretary Perdue testified before the House Agricultural Committee that the USDA doesn’t expect to implement any further clarifications until the 2020 planting season is well underway.

Meanwhile, the FDA claims that their biggest concern is the marketing of CBD products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims.

CBD Approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration

In June 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex oral solution for the treatment of two rare and severe kinds of seizures. The active ingredient is cannabidiol, or CBD. Amazingly, this is the first time the FDA has approved any drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome. The FDA prefaces their press statement with this reminder:

CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). FDA News Release, June 25, 2018

A Few Things to Remember about Federal and State Laws...

Hemp is legal, and CBD is legal. There are a few states that remain unfriendly towards CBD products, but they will probably adjust their attitudes with mounting pressure coming from all fields--medical, social, political ...

CBD research has only been legal for about five years. It’s unlikely that the FDA will reach a conclusion about the efficacy of CBD anytime soon. As you shop for products online, be wary of any brand that makes direct claims about CBD. If they play fast and loose with labeling, what other short-cuts are they taking in the sourcing and processing of their hemp? Just because CBD is legal, not all CBD products on the market are legal!

Before you buy any hemp or CBD product, find out a little about the company that’s selling it. Where does the hemp come from, and how is it grown? Are they using accredited laboratories to test their products and ensure safety and consistency? 

Learn as much as you can about the food and medicine you choose. Because folks, it might be a while before the government gets control of this wild market.

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More Resources: -- interactive map explaining hemp laws state-by-state

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