Updated on January 22nd, 2019
Can you buy CBD oil legally in all 50 states? This, unfortunately, is not a yes or no question, given the myriad patchwork of laws that each state has, along with blanketing federal regulations on top of them all.
A recent case of an Indiana man illustrated the complexity of it all. A citizen there was facing the prospect of being penalized for possession of marijuana, and he was in court to see if he’d get jail time and up to a thousand dollars in fines.
The thing is, what he possessed was CBD oil, not weed. CBD oil is a particular substance that the Indiana legislature had legalized the previous month. Given that law, the judge and prosecutor got together and decided the case should be dismissed.
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s a compound that’s found in cannabis, and something that’s generated a lot of attention in recent years given its obvious therapeutic properties.
Advocates for cannabis have praised this cannabinoid for the potential it holds in fighting off anxiety, combating seizures, and helping out with numerous other ailments.
Even publications as reputable as The Washington Post have noted the potential for delivering both physical and mental benefits.
Yet, CBD products aren’t yet legal in every state. Why was the gentleman in Indiana arrested and charged? Why were state and local police raiding retailers selling CBD products? Even better, why would the legislature of Indiana deliberate move to legalize CBD?
You may have heard that if the CBD product has less than 0.3 percent THC (the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana), then federal law would classify it as hemp, which is legal to both process and distribute. The gentleman in Indiana who was arrested for his CBD oil arranged for his product to be lab tested, and it registered zero THC.
The thing is, the 0.3 percent THC hemp argument is driven by supporters of the cannabis industry, who aren’t lawyers or politicians.
Still, that doesn’t stop them from also citing the 2014 Farm Bill as further proof that CBD products sourced from industrial hemp are also legal.
However, the actual legislation created only very specific channels of hemp cultivation, making it legal to grow some hemp for academic research or through a state pilot program.
State laws can expand on these avenues on a state by state basis involving state departments of agriculture or institutions of higher learning when doing research.
To be sure, quite a few CBD producers actually source their hemp from specific cultivators who are operating within the bounds of the Farm Bill.
However, given the volume of these products on the market versus the size of the research hemp supply, it’s not likely that all CBD products are sourced from research avenues.
This is where the drastic variance in state laws regarding hemp and CBD vary quite a bit. 46 states, at the time of writing, have varying levels of legality, but they change a lot from state to state. Colorado legalized the adult-use of marijuana in 2012 and has a strong industrial hemp program active.
It’s even the home state of the first certified hemp seed as American-bred. However, in the state of Massachusetts, you’re able to grow your own marijuana at home, but The Boston Globe reports it remains a crime to grow any hemp unless you have a state license.
According to thesoutherninstitute.com there is movement in Congress, even among senior leadership, to legalize hemp even at the federal level.
Until then, however, the DEA states a position of CBD being decidedly illegal. Those who are caught running afoul of federal drug laws, regardless of what state they live in, can risk being arrested and prosecuted.
However, it is emphasized that the DEA focuses more on growers, dealers, and distributors, as the agency doesn’t pursue individual citizens personally benefiting from CBD oil.
A DEA spokesperson has gone on public record in a news interview as saying that while a mother treating her child for epileptic seizures with CBD oil might be technically breaking the law, DEA agents aren’t going to come breaking her door down.
The use of federal resources in such matters would be considered quite wasteful, nor would any sane federal district attorney likely press charges or prosecute such a case. It’s largely along these lines of thought that let many states pass laws legalizing various things without repercussion, even if their laws run contradictory to federal legislation.
Much of the confusion comes from a lack of understanding about how marijuana and hemp relate to each other. Both are members of the larger cannabis family, and so they share many characteristics.
The big difference that matters is how much THC they have. Tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive agent, and marijuana might have up to 30 percent of it.
However, hemp won’t be more than the previously mentioned 0.3 percent. That’s why marijuana can get a person high, but with hemp, it’s physically impossible. That’s why many laws have no problem with hemp.
In fact, CBD products based from hemp are technically legal in all 50 states in all circumstances, if the sourcing is legitimate.
However, CBD products derived from marijuana are very questionable and in a state of flux, and if the sourcing is unknown, things get very murky.
As such, you should be careful in what you buy and who you buy it from. Ordering across state lines can also get even trickier, as you might deal with two different sets of state laws, as well as federal oversight of interstate commerce.
Is it possible to legally buy CBD oil in all 50 states? At the time of writing, the answer was definitively not for South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Idaho. That doesn’t mean you’re totally free and clear in the other 46 states, as the level of legality varied, with a diverse set of restrictions, rules, and regulations changing wildly from state to state.
Given the societal push behind the CBD movement, laws are more likely to be relaxed than restricted, but it’s always a good idea to check to see where your state is at legislatively and politically at the time you are thinking about buying CBD oil.