The legal CBD market is expected to become a two-billion-dollar industry within the next three years, yet the legality of hemp CBD products is still wildly debated. While hemp cultivators can use Farm Bill Act of 2014 to fly under the radar, the truth is, according to the letter of the law, all CBD products are federally illegal. Fortunately, due to the confusion regarding the laws, only a few agencies are enforcing the rules.
Let's review the incredibly complex legal status of hemp CBD.
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CBD According to Federal Law
Even though CBD manufacturers seem to be proliferating like rabbits, regardless of where the extract came from, in the eyes of the federal government, it is still illegal, except for the ridiculously expensive Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical-produced CBD.
By definition, CBD is a cannabinoid extract produced from the flowers of the cannabis sativa plant. Congress declared all parts of the cannabis sativa plant as "marijuana" with the exception of the stalk and the seeds. Regardless of whether the plant is hemp, grown in a field, or cannabis, grown in a greenhouse, if the extract is produced with the flowers and leaves of the plant – it's illegal.
Unfortunately, the stalks and the seeds contain a shallow concentration of cannabinoids. The value is in the flowers and leaves.
The Farm Act isn't All-Inclusive
Many producers use the Farm Act of 2014 to justify their legal status. The bill provided states the ability to start pilot programs for industrial hemp cultivation. Specifically the Act allows for the production of hemp products like fibers, fuels, plastics, and extracts for research purposes. The law does not authorize the sale of hemp or hemp products, and it doesn't include any regulation for the distribution of products made from the plant that are safe for humans to consume.
This is why California is banning hemp-derived CBD products.
While GW Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for Epidiolex, a 99.6% pure CBD extract with a Schedule V designation, CBD from any other source is still considered a Schedule I drug. This is because CBD products are produced from the parts of the cannabis sativa plant US Congress has defined as marijuana.
So Why Is It Sold Online?
Truthfully, because no one is policing it at this time. Although the DEA and the FDA absolutely could crack down on the sale of CBD products, between the growing public acceptance and looming legalization, they admittedly have "bigger fish to fry," with the opioid epidemic and other deadly illicit drugs.
On a local level, CBD products are starting to gain attention in individual states. In entirely legal states, police don't glance twice at CBD products or lotions. Due to a lack of education, other states may not view them as benign.
For example, a woman in Jackson Hole, WY received felony charges and spent 36 hours in jail for possessing a CBD lotion she purchased at a grocery store in Taos, New Mexico. Although the charges were later dropped, the entire incident was more than a mere inconvenience for the woman who had to sell her car to make bail.
Ohio is also making headlines recently for their crackdown on CBD sales as well. After implementing their state medical marijuana program, they declared all other sources of CBD products illegal.
What's the Big Deal? It's Just CBD
We've learned enough about cannabidiol and the products, so most consumers know and understand CBD is non-psychoactive, non-habit forming, and comes with few side effects. So why is the government still so worried about the substance?
- Lack of regulations and testing. Because CBD products are not FDA approved, they fall into a class of unregulated dietary supplements which have very few standards. As several reports have shown, many CBD products don't contain the potency promised, or worse, they may provide more THC than an unsuspecting consumer might be ready for or is considered legal.
- Due to the lack of testing, you may be getting more than you bargain for as well. Hemp is a clean-up crop which absorbs pollutants from the ground and water, and because industrial hemp typically contains smaller concentrations of cannabinoids, it takes more plant matter to produce the extracts, thus increasing the risk of toxins in the product.
Safety Questions to Ask a CBD Provider Before You Order
- Where is your hemp sourced? If they are shady about telling you where their product comes from, take it as a sign. Look for products produced in legal states where testing is more common and more accessible to perform.
- How do you certify organic cultivation? Cultivators using high-end, organic practices and integrated pest management are going to be proud to tell you how wonderful they are. If they answer like they are hiding something – they likely are.
- Do you provide test results or a COA? A quality CBD producer will give a certificate of analysis for each batch so you can match the batch number on your product to the test results.
Although the products are not technically legal at the Federal level, the chances are good that no one is going to knock on your door when you order CBD pain cream or tinctures for stress. Taking advantage of the ambiguous laws surrounding the production, distribution, and use of CBD to improve your quality of life is not the crime of the century. Be mindful about where your products come from in the meantime, but rest assured, CBD will likely be legal for all in the very near future.