Is CBD Hemp Oil Legal in the United States?

cbd hemp legal us

Hemp is a cannabis plant, which leaves many to question the legality of CBD hemp oil in the United States.

To clarify, CBD oil is legal in the United States when derived from hemp. Yet, other sources will tell you differently. Why is this so? 

Hemp and marijuana are often considered to be the same plant. For decades, hemp has been grouped in marijuana legislation and the stigma of marijuana has also been applied to hemp. 

However, hemp is a plant separate from marijuana; the two differ in composition, application and cultivation. Most significantly, marijuana is intoxicating, and hemp is not. (Learn more about the differences between hemp and marijuana here.) 

Despite the differences between hemp and marijuana, lawmakers throughout the years have considered the plants to be the same. This is evident in the lack of differentiation between hemp and marijuana in legislation. Let’s take a look at the timeline of hemp legislation in the United States. 


Timeline: Hemp Legislation in the United States 

In the 1800s and early 1900s, hemp farming in the United States flourished. In some states, hemp farming was ordered by law and hemp was considered legal tender. 

In the late 1930s, the popularity of hemp began to decline in response to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Under this act, hemp was grouped with marijuana and the sales of hemp were heavily taxed. During this period, many hemp businesses shut down. 

The hemp industry took another blow in the 1970s when the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 was passed. Under the CSA, which is still in effect today, marijuana is listed as a schedule I substance. According to the act, schedule I substances have no therapeutic potential and pose a high risk for dependence. Under the CSA, hemp is not listed; however, as a cannabis plant, many interpret hemp to be the same as marijuana: a schedule I substance. 

With this information alone, it would appear that hemp is federally illegal. However, this is not the case. Recent legislation titled the 2014 Farm Bill has clarified hemp is indeed legal. 


2014 Farm Bill 

The 2014 Farm Bill includes language that speaks specifically to hemp. Under this legislation, hemp and derivatives of the stalks and seed are legal as long as the final product contains less than 0.3% THC. As a reminder, THC is the intoxicating compound that produces the euphoric high marijuana is known for. The legal amount of THC is negligible and will not get you high. 

Before the 2014 Farm Bill, CBD hemp oil could be imported but could not be sourced domestically. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes universities and state departments of agriculture to grow hemp in states where the growth of hemp is legal. This has allowed domestic farmers to take advantage of the hemp industry and manufacturers to source within the United States. 

CBD hemp oil manufacturers operate legally under the 2014 Farm Bill as long as the CBD oil is sourced properly. CBD oil must be sourced from hemp grown internationally or in states where hemp farming is legal. The CBD oil must be derived from hemp (not marijuana) and contain less than 0.3% THC. 

You can determine the levels of THC in a product by checking the manufacturer’s certificate of analysis (COA). Every reputable source will provide a COA, if not on their website then by request. 


The Future of Hemp Legislation 

The 2014 Farm Bill clarifies the legality of hemp; yet, the legality of hemp is still misinterpreted. This is largely due to the presence of cannabis on the list of controlled substances. Therefore, new legislation has been put on the table to end all confusion. 

In April 2018, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), introduced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. The proposed legislation would legalize hemp as an “agricultural commodity” and remove hemp from the Controlled Substances List. 

The legislation defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” 

This language ensures all derivatives of the hemp plant, including CBD hemp oil, are clearly defined as legal. 

If passed, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would also: 

  • Give states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp 
  • Allow hemp researchers to apply for federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture 
  • Remove restrictions on items such as banking access and water rights 
  • Make USDA research funding available to farmers 
  • Allow farmers to apply for crop insurance 

Currently, we are waiting for the House/Senate conference committee to meet and resolve the differences between the Senate Farm Bill (which includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018) and the House Farm Bill (which includes no hemp language.) We can encourage our lawmakers to support the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 by contacting them here. 

Throughout the years, hemp legislation has been influenced by hemp’s relation to marijuana. While progress has been made, there is still more work to be done. As of now, CBD hemp oil is legal under the 2014 Farm Bill as long as it is sourced properly and contains less than 0.3% THC. 

Do you have any additional questions on the legality of CBD hemp oil in the United States? Leave a comment below!

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