One of the most frequently asked questions about CBD oil that you can purchase online or in local stores, and perhaps the most complicated to answer, is “is CBD oil 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 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?
In December 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law. It officially legalized hemp and its extracts at the federal level. While this finally provided some legal clarity at the federal level, there are still some inconsistencies with how hemp-derived CBD oil is treated by law enforcement officials at the state and local level.
For example, both marijuana and hemp-derived products come from cannabis plants, and that shared heritage is where much of the confusion is rooted. In short, law enforcement officials have struggled with the legality of CBD 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, in 2017 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 hemp-derived CBD oil is not a crime. A similar situation happened in 2018 in Rutherford County, Tennessee.
The situation is not that different in other states. Confusion about the legality of hemp-derived products can create different interpretations within differing state and local 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. In other words, although both plants are members of the cannabis family, the distinguishing characteristic between the two is how much THC they contain.
THC (short for 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.
However, 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.
So Is CBD Oil Legal For Me To Consume?
As a consumer, you likely just want to know if and where you can legally buy and use CBD oil. Technically, CBD oil is legal in the United States based on the federal Farm Bill as long as it’s derived from hemp. That is to say, it has less than 0.3% THC.
However, consumers should be aware that state and local laws can run counter to the federal law. With the evolving understanding of CBD and the increasing availability of these products, the risk to consumers is relatively small. If you have legal concens, we recommend that you consult with a local attorney who is familiar with cannabis laws for your state and municipality.
The State Medical Marijuana Laws page on the National Conference of State Legislatures website can also be a helpful resource.