Is CBD Legal in Your State?

With an overwhelming amount of information on CBD products available, it seems like every question you have can be answered – except one: Is CBD legal? 

The government approved the use of CBD in 2018, so federally speaking, it’s legal as long as it’s made from hemp. However, it’s approved use still depends on where in the United States you live because not every state has legalized the use of CBD. 

At the time of this writing, only the states below have made CBD totally illegal: 

  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • South Dakota

The rest of the 47 states have legalized it, but many of them come with certain restrictions. In this guide, we’ll go over the basics surrounding the legality of CBD (both at a state and federal level) and what you need to know before purchasing it. 

How CBD Became (Sort Of) Legal 

Currently, the federal government legally recognizes two forms of the cannabis plant: marijuana and hemp. Because hemp contains high levels of CBD (or cannabidiol) and low levels of THC (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), it was legalized by the government in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Prior to President Donald Trump, signing the act, cannabis had been illegal since 1937.

Marijuana is made up of the opposite components, containing higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD, which is why it hasn’t been legalized by the government. So the Agriculture Improvement Act didn’t legalize all CBD. It only legalized CBD that was made from hemp and contained a maximum of 0.3% of THC.

That means that any CBD derived from marijuana is still considered illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies all marijuana substances as a Schedule 1 drug, believing it has no medical use and a high abuse potential. 

While the federal government has opened new doors for CBD use and the cannabis industry, it by no means legalized the substance entirely. Not only do state and even county laws play a major role in CBD’s legality, there are also rules and regulations enforced by different health departments to keep in mind.

In fact, when the Agriculture Improvement Act went into effect, it did so by legitimizing CBD has an agricultural crop. By doing so, the power of regulating all hemp-made food and drug products was given to the United States Food and Drug Administration (or FDA). 

CBD FDA Rules and Regulations

The only FDA-approved drug containing CBD on the market right now is Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures experienced by patients ages two and older who suffer from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Outside of that, there are no other drugs that the FDA approves. In fact, the FDA has sent official warnings to firms that market CBD as a treatment for diseases or any other form of therapeutic use to stop selling those products. 

Even though the FDA has stated that it recognizes the potential benefits of CBD, the organization maintains that selling unapproved CBD products is a violation of the law. On top of that, the FDA is currently drafting new regulations for CBD that are expected to be done in 2020.

So what does that mean for you as a consumer? Is it illegal for you to purchase and use CBD products? Unless you’re selling CBD, you probably won’t get shaken down by the FDA. When it comes to buying it, it’s your state and county laws that determine what you’re responsible for. 

Understanding State Laws on CBD

As stated before, just because the federal government legalized CBD doesn’t mean all 50 states have. Three states have banned it completely, and most CBD-approved states still have restrictions. Only in New Jersey, New Mexico, and North Dakota is CBD entirely legalized without any restrictions. And only 11 states–Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and Massachusetts—have legalized marijuana, which means they also have the fewest restrictions on CBD.

Some of those restrictions have to do with how CBD is consumed. In Alaska, Washington, and California, for example, CBD can only be sold in combination with food and beverages in licensed cannabis stores. Kentucky doesn't allow CBD tea, Vermont won’t allow it to be combined with meat or dairy, and Maine will only allow it if the CBD was extracted from a licensed hemp grower in Maine. 

The moral of the story here, CBD users, is to educate yourself on your state’s laws. Beyond that, you need to educate yourself on your county’s CBD laws as well. 

Understanding CBD County Laws 

Even if your state allows CBD to be sold, local health agencies could impact when and where the substance is allowed to be purchased. Your county’s health department could prohibit CBD being sold in food and beverage products in certain establishments even if the state you're living in allows it. 

Just last year, New York City’s health department started cracking down on restaurants that were using CBD as an additive to different foods and beverages like cupcakes, lattes, and even empanadas. The New York City Department of Health issued dozens of CBD embargoes that, if violated, could result in fines up to $650. 

So no matter what your state CBD laws are, it’s equally as important to understand your county and city’s stance on CBD. 

What That Means for You

At this time (and since 2019), it is legal to possess and consume CBD in all states except for Idaho, South Dakota, and Iowa. However, it’s still federally legal to buy CBD online from anywhere in the United States, so long as it’s derived from hemp and contains less than 0.3% of THC. 

As with any new substance you’re considering consuming, it’s important to do your own research. Read up on your state and county laws. Check into any recent CBD restrictions from your city’s health department. And if you really want to dot your i’s and cross your it’s, consult with a lawyer who’s familiar with cannabis laws. 

Even though cannabis has a long history of use, its time in the modern marketplace is still fairly new. So as long as you keep yourself educated with the latest findings and laws, you should be safe to use CBD legally. 

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