Is CBD Oil Federally Legal? The Definitive Answer

4 Minute Read

If you’d like to make cannabidiol (CBD) a part of your daily routine, you must find out first and foremost: Is it legal?

This can be a tricky subject since some strains of cannabis are legal, and some that aren’t.

Then of course there are the states that have legalized the strains that aren’t legal on a federal level. Confusing, right?

In this article we will set the record straight about the legality of cannabis, particularly centering around CBD.

Is CBD Legal on a Federal Level?

Yes, CBD oil is federally legal! So now that we have gotten that out of the way, it is important to understand the nuanced legality around this subject because there is much more to it than meets the eye.

So to understand the laws surrounding CBD, we must thoroughly understand where it comes from, and how it differs from THC, which is federally illegal in high amounts.

A dropper of CBD oil

What is CBD and where does it come from?

CBD is a cannabinoid compound that comes from hemp and marijuana, varieties of the cannabis plant.

Unlike another cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD cannot produce psychoactive effects. This means it will not produce a “high”.

The CBD that we purchase these days more often comes from hemp. Industrial hemp has been around for thousands of years. It has been used for hoards of products like:

    • Rope
    • Textiles
    • Food
    • Paper
    • Clothing
    • Shoes
    • Bioplastics
    • Building materials
    • Biofuel 

      With the discovery of CBD and other cannabinoids, hemp production shifted toward the breeding of these special varieties containing them.

      Hemp plants are now bred to be high in CBD and low in THC, while marijuana plants typically are propagated to be high in THC and low in CBD.

      Though hemp and marijuana plants are both varieties of cannabis, one is federally legal and the other isn’t. This all has to do with the amount of THC.

      The relatively recent legalization of CBD was done through the legalization of its source: hemp.

      One reason this process has been held back so long is due to the negative connotations of hemp being confused with the stigma of the marijuana plant.

      Hemp has been illegal and misunderstood for a long time. But times have changed. 

      History of the Legalization of Hemp and CBD

      Here is a brief history of how the legalization of hemp (and CBD) has come around: 
        • 1937: The Marihuana Tax Act prohibited the use of all cannabis on a federal level in the United States. This made the possession or transfer of marijuana illegal, excluding medical and industrial uses. 

          • 1942: CBD was first successfully isolated by Roger Adams, a man who also helped with the discovery of THC.

          • 1970: In 1970, the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) was passed. It banned all cannabis substances whether through buying, selling, possessing, or consuming. This included all forms of cannabis including extracts, oils, and isomers. Hemp had not been properly defined at this time. There was no differentiation between the psychoactive marijuana full of THC and industrial hemp used to make things like clothes, paper, and building material. Imagine industrial hemp and heroin both being classified as Schedule I substances!

          • 1996: Medical marijuana was first made legal in California. This now allowed researchers to expand their studies into cannabinoid medical uses, including CBD. This is when the stigma began to shift!

          • 2014: The Agriculture Act, or Farm Bill, of 2014 passed the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill began the cultivation of “industrial hemp” through Hemp Pilot Programs. 

          The purpose of this was for research and agriculture. These programs were to meet the requirements of their state department of agriculture. Furthermore, this legislation separated hemp from marijuana, defining it as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”


          • 2018:  The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or Farm Bill, declassified hemp as an illicit substance. It exempted any cannabinoid that is derived from hemp excluding THC. CBD falls under this category and was at this point considered federally legal.

                Scott Gottlieb, the FDA Commissioner who signed the Farm Bill issued this statement on the 

                FDA’s website: “This new law changes certain federal authorities relating to the production and marketing of hemp, defined as cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.), and derivatives of cannabis with extremely low (less than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis) concentrations of the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


                These changes include removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it will no longer be an illegal substance under federal law.

                Just as important for the FDA and our commitment to protect and promote public health is what the law didn’t change: Congress explicitly preserved the agency’s current authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act.

                In doing so, Congress recognized the agency’s important public health role concerning all the products it regulates.

                This allows the FDA to continue enforcing the law to protect patients and the public while also providing potential regulatory pathways for products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.

                We’re aware of the growing public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD).

                This increasing public interest in these products makes it even more important with the passage of this law for the FDA to clarify its regulatory authority over these products.

                In short, we treat products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds as we do any other FDA-regulated products — meaning they’re subject to the same authorities and requirements as FDA-regulated products containing any other substance.

                This is true regardless of the source of the substance, including whether the substance is derived from a plant that is classified as hemp under the Agriculture Improvement Act.”

                The Farm Bill allows us to lawfully purchase and use hemp and its derivatives in all 50 states.

                Hemp products are all considered legal as long as they contain 0.3% THC or less. Keep in mind that marijuana is still considered a Schedule I substance and is still enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

                But the federal and state laws can, and often do, differ. Some states have legalized both medical and/or recreational marijuana.

                State Laws

                States make their own rules and can override federal law. States are allowed the upper hand when it comes to allowing and restricting the production and sale of hemp and its derivatives like CBD.

                These laws all vary state-to-state. In some states, it is completely legal, and in some states, there are restrictions on the legality of CBD.

                We strongly recommend that you research the state laws where you live. Though CBD products are legal on a federal level, there may still be some restrictions in your area that you need to be aware of.

                a cannabis leaf close up

                Federally Legal Hemp Products

                So what does that mean for us consumers? After you’ve researched your state laws and are aware of what is and isn’t allowed where you live, you can start shopping around.

                To determine what is right for you, you can start to familiarize yourself with these cannabinoids commonly found in hemp products:

                - Cannabidiol (CBD): As we’ve stated earlier, CBD is found in high amounts in the hemp plant. It is the most common cannabinoid found in hemp. It is often extracted from the plant and then mixed with a carrier oil to produce CBD oil. Other forms include isolates and wax. Learn how CBD works.

                  - Cannabigerol (CBG): CBG is the precursor to cannabinoids like THC and CBD, coining it the term “the mother of all cannabinoids.” It is found in small amounts in hemp and is still not well known. More research is needed on this exciting cannabinoid. CBG has shown a lot of promise in the field of medicine, which is causing growers to breed more varieties that have higher levels of it. 

                  - Cannabinol (CBN): Another compound found in hemp, CBN is said to have sedative effects. It is created when THC is heated and broken down, making it one of the rarest cannabinoids in hemp. Although it is a byproduct of THC, it is not strong enough to produce a THC-like high.

                  - Cannabichromene (CBC): CBC may not be as popular as other cannabinoids, but it shows great promise in pain treatment. CBC is found in substantial amounts in the hemp flower. Since it has possible anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, more research is needed on this subject.

                  Be certain that the product you are buying has no more than 0.3% THC to be considered federally legal!

                  Buying a CBD oil containing either one (or all) of these cannabinoids can be a transformative experience.

                  They can be combined with terpenes, compounds that give hemp its flavor and aroma.

                  Depending on what you add cannabinoids and terpenes are added together, this can create different experiences.

                  When combined in a full-spectrum product, this can create what is known as the entourage effect.

                  The entourage effect is said to happen when the spectrum of components in the plant is combined.

                  These components are said to work synergistically together, thus magnifying the potential effects.

                  Here are a few of our favorite, full-spectrum (and federally legal) CBD oils:
                  Balance: This oil was made to help balance your mood and support you throughout your busy day. We recommend this one for all you busy moms out there. 
                  Ease: This one is great when you need a little me-time. Relax, release, and restore.
                  Nightcap: Take this CBD/CBN oil an hour before bed and--- ZZZzzz.

                        An Industry in Its Infancy

                        Because of the newness of the hemp and CBD industry, there are a lot of unregulated products booming on the market.

                        The FDA has not been able to keep up with all of the products flooding online stores, dispensaries, and health and wellness companies.

                        For this reason, it is important to be mindful and vigilant when selecting the right CBD oil for you.

                        Here are a few things to look out for when shopping for CBD or other cannabinoid products:

                        • Potential pollutants: Unregulated products can be contaminated with physical, microbial, and chemical pollutants. They may also misrepresent what is in the product.

                          If you expect a low potency and get a high one, it could result in a negative health spiral.
                          For this reason, third-party testing of your CBD is highly recommended.

                          Not only will testing signify to consumers that the product is safe from these contaminants, but it also allows you to know the exact content of cannabinoids and terpenes in your product.

                          And knowing what you are getting allows you to depend on your product and dose yourself accordingly.
                          Additionally, pay attention to the amount of mg of CBD because it can vary from product-to-product.

                        • Food and dietary supplements: Under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C), it is illegal to market CBD products as dietary supplements, or add CBD as an ingredient to food or dietary supplements.

                          It doesn’t matter if the CBD is federally legal.
                          The reason for this is that the scientific data is lacking whether CBD is safe to add cannabinoids to food and at what amounts.

                          Health officials say that CBD may have long-term health effects that might not show symptoms for years. For this reason, CBD has not been added to the “generally recognized as safe” list of food additives. More research is needed on the subject. 

                          • Unsubstantiated claims: Many CBD products out there make a lot of unsubstantiated therapeutic claims.This includes claims that their product can prevent, diagnose, mitigate, or cure serious diseases, but have not been approved as a new drug.

                            There have been some CBD products claiming to cure cancer and treat Alzheimer’s disease. When people suffering from these medical conditions forego their treatment and replace it with the product, they could endanger their recovery or even die as a result.

                            As of right now, there is only one FDA-approved drug that contains CBD in it: Epidiolex. This drug is used for the treatment of seizures that result from two forms of epilepsy.

                            Because the drug first underwent clinical studies that were sufficient in proving its effectiveness, the FDA approved it.

                            FDA approval is needed first before any claims can be made. If the product is for your medical use, beware of any products that claim something they cannot effectively prove. 

                            The Definitive Answer

                            So, is CBD legal? Yes, CBD is federally legal. But as the production and use of CBD continue to rise, it is important to know the ins and outs of its legality.

                            Since it is such a new product on the market, there are a lot of growing pains associated with it.

                            We highly recommended checking the legal status in your area before purchasing.

                            Additionally, look out for products that sell untested CBD (ours are third-party tested), make unsubstantiated claims, and are in food or diet supplement form.

                            Disclaimer: We want to state that this content is for informational purposes only. It is not provided to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or ailment. It is also not meant to provide medical or legal advice. The contents of this website, and the posting and viewing of the information on this website, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, medical or legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.

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