Is CBD Oil Legal? Yes, Except When It Isn’t

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 and officially legalized hemp and its extracts at the federal level. While this finally provided some legal clarity at the federal level, there are still 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 CBD oil 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 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, 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.

Furthermore, the situation is not that different in other states. Confusion about the legality of CBD oil 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.

For example, 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.

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 all 50 states based on the federal Farm Bill as long as it’s derived from hemp. That is to say, hemp-derived means that it has less than 0.3% THC.

Likewise, 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. For instance, as of April 2018, those states were Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

In an additional 38 states, as of April 2018, 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%.

Furthermore, just four states—Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—do not allow use of any CBD oil, even with a prescription.

In short, with the evolving understanding of CBD oil, and with the increasing availability of these product nationwide, the risk to consumers is relatively small. However, we highly recommend that you consult with an attorney in your state who knows both federal, state and local laws if you have legal concerns about using CBD oil.


Brian Peterson

Brian Peterson has been a CBD consumer advocate and educator since 2015. He is the founder and managing editor of the website. He's also the lead administrator of the CBD Oil Users Group, the largest CBD group on Facebook. His passion is educating consumers so that they can make their own decisions when purchasing and using CBD products.

  1. Wish it was legal in Australia.:-(

  2. Very informative. Thank you.

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