The legality of CBD (cannabidiol) in the United States often confuses people because CBD is derived from the marijuana plant. CBD manufactured from hemp is legal in 50 states. The confusion arises from CBD manufactured from marijuana.

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The confusing nature of the laws surrounding the substance will scare many people from purchasing it. However, with some basic explanation of the rules and regulations, there should be nothing to fear. This article will offer some basic explanations for informational purposes, but please review the laws in your state before purchasing CBD.

Hemp CBD vs. Marijuana CBD

One of the easiest ways consumers can know the legality of CBD is by the source of the CBD. If produced from hemp, then it is legal in 50 states without a prescription. Hemp, by definition, has less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it. The small amount of THC in hemp means it has no psychoactive effects, which makes it legal in all 50 states. Scientists have even discovered a way to produce CBD with 0% THC. This type of CBD has medicinal uses and not recreational uses. In other words, it will not cause you to have a “high” as it contains no THC.

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However, scientists have discovered methods to produce CBD from traditional marijuana plants. These plants contain up to 30% THC and do have psychoactive effects that make them illegal in most states. CBD derived from hemp is legal only in states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use with a prescription, states with legal recreational marijuana, and states with specific laws regarding CBD. The states that have legalized recreational marijuana (at the time of writing) are Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Is hemp CBD legal?

CBD made from industrial hemp CBD is legal in all 50 states. However, 17 states have laws that specifically regulate CBD. The laws regulate the maximum levels of THC (usually 0.3%), the minimum levels of CBD, and the medical conditions that can receive a CBD prescription.

Untreatable seizures are one of the main reasons the 17 states allow doctors to prescribe CBD oil. Other reasons include Chron’s disease, some forms of cancer, Type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), sickle cell anemia, and more. Not all states allow prescriptions for all conditions and the laws are always changing. Check your state laws before purchasing CBD oil.

The 17 states are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Each state has their own laws specifically regulating CBD.

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29 states, eight of which include the recreationally legal states, have laws that recognize the legal use of hemp CBD for any medical purpose. Those states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

Doctors in these states can prescribe a patient CBD for any medical condition. However, in the eight states with legal marijuana, going to a doctor is an unnecessary step. Those that need medicinal CBD can simply go to a dispensary and purchase CBD oil with a small amount of THC.

Gray Area CBD States

You might notice that the list above only mentions 46 states (17+29) despite saying that CBD is legal in all 50 states. CBD is in a gray area legally in Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Patients use CBD products in those states and businesses sell products in those states.

However, the laws in the four states listed above are vague and not clear as the state has never brought charges for a crime involving CBD, which would offer case law on the matter. The main issue is that the states ban all marijuana products, which many interpret as meaning any product with over 0.3% THC.

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Attorney Generals in those states have taken a different interpretation to the generally accepted definition of the word “marijuana.” For example, the Attorney General of Kansas, Derek Schmitt, recently stated that he considers any type of cannabidiol a controlled substance and therefore illegal in Kansas. However, only one county in Kansas has actually enforced the law according to Schmitt. The only action involved raiding a storefront selling CBD oil. The other states require products containing CBD to have FDA approval. This requirement effectively bans almost all CBD products as most do not have FDA approval.

The following is not legal advice and is strictly informational, law enforcement in the four states generally focuses on retailers selling products within the state rather than consumers with personal amounts. If you live in one of the four states where CBD is banned, then you possess CBD at the risk of criminal penalties from the state.

The laws in these four states are changing rather quickly. This list used to contain six states in 2017, but Oklahoma and Wyoming recently updated their marijuana laws. The update excluded CBD from the definition of marijuana. None of the four states currently have any legislation in the 2018 pipeline, but things quickly change. 2018 is an election year, which means great potential exists for a change in the political landscape. A change in political landscape might lead to a change in the strict marijuana laws in the four states listed above.

Final Thoughts and Predictions

The coming years look great for full legalization of CBD in all 50 states despite the constantly changing political climate. Unfortunately, the laws in most states are still relatively strict while still allowing CBD. However, a large amount of progress towards legalization has occurred over the past five years. The full legalization of CBD is headed in the right direction.

Michigan, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey will likely legalize recreational marijuana in 2019, which will also legalize recreational CBD by definition. The largest state – California – recently legalized recreational marijuana, which might influence the federal government to take action as well.

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