Is CBD Legal In the US?

Since the discovery of CBD (Cannabidiol) and the rise in awareness of its numerous medical benefits, the demand in acquiring CBD Oil has steadily been increasing in the US even globally. As we all know, CBD is associated with the treatment of a variety of health conditions, for instance, anxiety, depression and epilepsy.

The big question we have to ask ourselves, however, is this: is CBD legal or illegal in the United States of America?

Many Americans have been left in the dark not knowing how or where it can be obtained. There have been a lot of contradictory and confusing legal statements on whether it’s acceptable to be used in the US. The result is that this situation has become a nightmare to the people who would like to obtain CBD for medical use. This article will help clear the air about the legality of CBD in the US.

Clearing the Air

Federal and State laws in the US have been holding contradicting views on the use of CBD, and this has confused consumers. Almost half of the states have legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and approximately seventeen states allow products which have a high level of the CBD and a very minimal percentage of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) to be sold. Interestingly, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is still in doubt about both these products. This has left people in a dilemma on how they should approach CBD-based products, despite them being available in clinics and online markets.

The CSA (Controlled Substance Act) also offers its own view. The CSA is a federal law in the US which is in charge of the regulation of psychoactive drugs in all stages of production and classifies them from Schedules  I to V, depending on the intensity of the drug. According to the CSA, drugs in Schedule I are outright illegal and have an extremely high potential for abuse. This includes marijuana and its constituents.

Schedule II comprises of those substances that lead to total dependency and psychological effects, even though they can be used medicinally. This includes drugs like opium. Consequently, substances in Schedules III to V are presently being used for medicinal purposes in the United States.

The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is the agency that is responsible for reviewing drug substances and placing them into the CSA depending on their abuse potential. The DEA considers CBD to be illegal because to them, it belongs to the Cannabis and Cannabinoids family, and therefore it falls under Schedule I substances. However, they have left room for further research to be conducted on the medical use of CBD.

Limited Access for Research

Schedule I drugs, therefore, can only be acquired lawfully for research programs. The researchers planning to use Schedule I substances must also obtain a Schedule I license according to the CSA. The same rule also applies to those manufacturing and distributing (importing and exporting) Schedule I substances. In other words, Schedule I drugs cannot be provided outside research programs.

This is why medics in states which have allowed cannabis to be used medicinally can only recommend patients who have health conditions that require cannabis for treatment, but they still do not give them prescriptions. The laws of such states permit manufacturing and distribution of cannabis to qualified patients recommended by physicians, but it is still not clear just how legal such activities are.

The Legal Vortex

On December of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration came out with a ruling that CBD is just as illegal as other marijuana products. This backed up a rule that was proposed in 2011 restricting entry of marijuana into the US, claiming to be in parity with drug control regulations internationally. Even though the DEA rendered CBD oil to be illegal, still there were temporary safeguards in place protecting patients across several states against federal prosecution when found in possession of the oil.

This was due to an amendment made by the chief piece of legislation to protect patients from being prosecuted by federal officials for using CBD products in the 28 states in which use of medical cannabis is legal. The same applies to the District of Columbia. Sequentially, 16 more states passed laws that allowed usage of CBD-only products which are strictly non–psychoactive. The introduction of the Rohrabacher – Farr amendment passed in 2014 played a major role in preventing the Justice Department from preventing the putting in place of medical cannabis laws in the states.

With all said and done, there has always been one chance for those fighting for CBD’s legalization by trying to challenge the Federal Government. The fact is that the CSA defines marijuana as a product that is derived from the cannabis plant but excluding products derived from its mature stalks, especially from hemp. This has motivated people to campaign for the legalization of extracts derived from hemp. However, the law remains clear on THC products being illegal as they are grouped under Schedule I.

The DOJ (Department of Justice) passed a memorandum in 2013 to guide US Attorneys on prosecutorial discretion. The document emphasized that prosecuting individuals and entities acting in line with state cannabis laws is not a federal priority. The memo also implied that the manufacture and cultivation of industrial hemp do not align with the Farm Bill of 2014.

However, recently the DEA took a different stand than before concerning CBD. It acknowledged the legality of CBD if it comes from certain parts of cannabis plants that are legal, for instance, the mature stalk. Some parts of the cannabis plant, the mature stalk being a perfect example, are excluded from the definition of marijuana as per the CSA. This clarifies that CBD can be legal depending on its source.

According to the DEA, the new drug code that has been established excludes products and materials that are not included in the original definition of marijuana as per the CSA. A product that is made from parts of cannabis not included in the CSA’s marijuana definition will also not be included in the latest drug code (7350) and neither will it be in the marijuana drug code (7360).

This came out to be really good news since for the first time after a long period of controversies, the federal government clearly stated the legality of CBD, declaring it not to be an illegal substance in itself. Moreover, the DEA agreed that CBD extracted from lawfully grown industrial hemp plant under the 2014 US Farm Bill should be considered legal. That goes without objection since industrial hemp in itself is not included in the CSA‘s definition of marijuana and is therefore considered legal at a Federal level.

Sources of CBD Oil

Moving on, the question on whether CBD Oil is legal in certain states is a bit technical because in most cases the legality depends on where it is extracted. This is so because Cannabidiol comes from two major sources:

  • Medical marijuana plants
  • Hemp plants that are industrially grown

In the first case, CBD Oil is obtained from marijuana plants which are proven to be of medicinal value. These plants are grown in such a way that they are high in CBD but their THC levels are minimal. Then they can be sold to approved clinics/ dispensaries and prescribed by specific physicians for the treatment of specific conditions which require CBD. Medical marijuana is obviously expected to be high in CBD amounts since it is grown for treatment purposes, but in some rare occasions, the THC content can be outrageously high and almost similar to the CBD level. This places it under the current restrictions considering that it’s presently not legal in all the states. Therefore people in particular states are disadvantaged and are compelled to relocate to other states where they can acquire CBD Oil legally.

The second form of CBD is obtained from hemp plants which are grown industrially. On the contrary, this source of CBD is considered legal even by the FDA, with claims that hemp oil is a dietary supplement and not medicinal in nature. This includes CBD which is a derivative of hemp oil. In this regard, people in the United States can freely purchase this type of Cannabidiol. The fact that it doesn’t contain THC, which is a psychoactive substance, also helps in its legality. This makes it clear that citizens in the US can purchase CBD that has been sourced from industrial hemp. However, when it comes to the one produced from medical marijuana, the state which you live in will greatly determine whether you are legally allowed to use it or not. The fact that CBD has no harmful side effects gives it an upper hand in staying legal for now and even in the foreseeable future.


In conclusion, all these arguments point to the fact that CBD is as good as legal as long as it does not contain THC. Other parts of the law only legalize CBD products which have less than 3% THC. CBD in itself has got no harmful substances and since it has been proved that it is obtained from parts of cannabis that are not psychoactive, this makes it valid. However, as a consumer, you need to be well-informed before settling on its use. As much as it is considered legal, some countries still have restrictions and others only allow qualified patients with prescriptions from physicians to be eligible for its use.

Thanks so much for reading!


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