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Cannabidiol products are a popular part of current health and well-being trends, but is CBD even legal? Learn more about state and federal CBD laws in this FindLaw article. Is CBD Oil Legal? Legal Status of CBD in 50 States in 2022 Cannabis has had a rocky history in the United States. Starting in the 1920s, various states banned the use of the herb, which THC and CBD both come from cannabis, but they have different effects on the body and mind, and they aren’t always legal. Learn more.

Is Cannabis Oil Legal?

Although cultures around the world have used cannabis for centuries, Americans are just now beginning to understand what cannabis and the chemical compounds in it do to the human body. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, in particular, has become wildly popular for its alleged health benefits, but is CBD oil legal?

America’s relationship with cannabis is complicated. According to federal law, cannabis — including CBD — is still predominantly illegal, although there are exceptions. Even with the continuing federal prohibition of cannabis, most U.S. states have enacted their own cannabis-related laws. As such, CBD oils reside in a legal grey area.

When Is CBD Oil Illegal?

It depends. In terms of federal law, the legality of CBD oil depends largely on where the CBD came from and where it is being used, so it is important to understand some cannabis fundamentals.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

Both industrial hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis family, but they are treated differently under federal law. Industrial hemp, as defined by the federal government, is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight. Marijuana is defined as any cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC by weight.

If CBD oil comes from hemp, it is federally legal. If CBD oil comes from marijuana, it is federally illegal. State laws, however, vary widely.

Every U.S. state allows for the use of cannabis in some form, but each state’s laws are different. For example, Washington state law allows residents to legally consume CBD oil for recreational purposes, whereas South Dakota state law categorizes CBD as a Schedule IV controlled substance and allows citizens to use CBD only in forms that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, e.g., Epidiolex.

What Is CBD Oil?

Cannabis is filled with chemicals. Arguably the most well known of these chemicals is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whereas THC is largely responsible for cannabis’ “high,” CBD does not result in a high. Supplement manufacturers are making CBD into many forms, including oils, tinctures, pills, and lotions. Some supposed benefits of using CBD include:

  • Pain relief
  • Reduction of anxiety and depression
  • Treatment of cancer-related symptoms
  • Acne treatment
  • Neuroprotective properties
  • Heart health
  • Antipsychotic effects

It is important to discuss the use of CBD oils or products with a medical professional. Noted side effects include diarrhea, changes in appetite and weight, and fatigue. Additionally, because so many factors influence CBD oil’s legality, it is worth your time to become familiar with your state’s cannabis laws. And if you are accused of illegally possessing cannabis, contact an experienced defense lawyer near you.

Is CBD Oil Legal? Legal Status of CBD in 50 States in 2022

Cannabis has had a rocky history in the United States. Starting in the 1920s, various states banned the use of the herb, which eventually leads to the federal government banning the plant’s use under any circumstances for several decades.

Only in the 1970s did regulators consider the medical applications of the plant and began rolling out medical programs around the country. CBD wouldn’t be recognized as a medicinal agent for quite some time, and regulators saw all forms of the cannabis plant as a drug — including hemp.

Now, as we inch our way towards a new decade, the landscape is much different.

The federal government recently passed a bill that differentiated two forms of the cannabis plant — hemp and marijuana — arguing that the hemp variety can’t produce the psychoactive high inherent to marijuana. They crossed hemp off the list of restricted substances, giving people open access to the plant for the first time in over 80 years.

But the landscape is continually changing. Each state has its own laws to work out in response to this federal change — and some are much slower than others.

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes some sources of CBD legal while others remain a Schedule I controlled substance.

Let’s get started with an overview of what CBD is.

What Is CBD and Is It Legal?

CBD is short for cannabidiol — it’s just one of over 400 other compounds in the cannabis plant and arguably the most relevant for medical use.

Cannabinoids are a unique class of compounds not exclusive to the cannabis plant. You can also find them in plants like Echinaceae or Helichrysum, but none as abundant as Cannabis.

Cannabinoids are classified by their ability to interact with a specialized system of receptors and hormones in the body aptly named the endocannabinoid system. End– meaning “inside the body”. Conversely, cannabinoids that come from plants such as cannabis are called phyto-cannabinoids.

The endocannabinoid system is a regulatory system — meaning it indirectly controls a variety of processes in the human body by either turning them up or dialing them back down. This is why compounds like CBD have such a long list of benefits and uses.

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The Endocannabinoid System Regulates the Following Processes:

  • Appetite
  • Energy metabolism
  • Stress
  • Immune function
  • Reproduction
  • Sleep
  • Pain transmission
  • Temperature regulation
  • Cognition

What Is CBD Used For?

Working through the endocannabinoid system, CBD offers a wide variety of benefits to the human body. It’s used to regulate the stress response, promote sleep, regulate metabolism, and even reduce the transmission of pain signals headed to the brain.

The reason CBD has so many uses comes down to its ability to interact with this centrally-regulating endocannabinoid system. This has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the body, assisting in the regulation of other organ systems all around the body.

Science has come a long way in recent decades to track the benefits of the cannabis plant and its chief cannabinoids — CBD and THC (the main psychoactive cannabinoid).

The most popular uses of CBD include:
  • Managing chronic pain
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Alleviating high-stress levels
  • Boosting immune function
  • Protecting cognitive health
  • Promoting optimal skin health

Over the years, it’s become harder to deny the benefits of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, especially CBD. Thousands of scientific studies have been published highlighting either the benefits of CBD for a specific condition or defining its safety.

Even the World Health Organization recently stated that “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

In light of these reports, the world has started opening up to the use of CBD as a health supplement. But with some caveats related to the psychoactive compounds in the cannabis plant — namely THC.

Let’s explore this important distinction in more detail.

A Brief History of Cannabis’ Legal Battle

The marijuana plant has had a long and challenging history regarding legal status in the United States, as well as the rest of the world. To this day, it remains banned in most countries.

As times change and more people begin to understand the usefulness of this plant, laws are slowly starting to revisit the status of marijuana country by country.

Marijuana’s long and tortuous legal battle began in the mid-1930s in the United States. The United States government began campaigns against its use. They associated it with insanity, aggression, and criminal activity through propaganda films like Reefer Madness (released 1936).

Before this, marijuana was sold freely in pharmacies across the world.

The 1936 Geneva Trafficking Convention was a treaty aimed at a worldwide ban involving the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of cannabis products. This treaty also included coca and opium. Although some countries chose to disregard this project, it’s what led to the regulation of marijuana in much of Europe, as well as Canada and Australia.

In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed in the United States, which banned marijuana from all forms of use, including medical.

It wasn’t until recent years that marijuana regulation was revisited. The first changes were to support medicinal use and research. In 2014, then-President Barrack Obama passed the Agricultural Act of 2014. Section 7606 of the Act outlined the legal classification of hemp and allowed the use of industrial hemp for research purposes.

This was followed by changes that included recreational use of all Cannabis products in certain states like Colorado in early 2014. This included both CBD and THC-containing extracts.

Controversy Over the Legal Status of CBD

There’s a big problem regulator face with the cannabis plant — some of the compounds it produces are powerfully medicinal, while others make users high.

Historically, regulators around the world simply axed the benefits of the cannabis plant to keep the intoxicating parts illegal — but times have changed. People want access to the numerous health benefits of cannabinoids like CBD. After decades of lobbying and protesting, the legal status of cannabis is finally being reevaluated around the world.

In the United States, the change is slow and frustratingly complicated. Cannabis laws are different on a federal level to a state level and can differ significantly from one state to the next. Some states allow the use of CBD with medical approval only, others are completely legal for any reason — you can even buy products at corner stores, gas stations, and even vending machines. It’s not always limited to dispensaries.

While the laws on CBD’s legalities are loosening federally, in a select few states you can still be arrested and thrown in jail for having a bottle of CBD oil on you.

Because the laws continue to evolve around cannabis, it’s critically important that you pay attention to the local laws in your specific state and check for updates regularly.

Not All Cannabis Products Are Created Equal

There are two main kinds of cannabis — marijuana, and hemp. This is an important distinction to make because it’s the most important factor when determining whether a particular product is legal or illegal.

Although both types of cannabis are the exact same species (Cannabis sativa), they produce radically different cannabinoid profiles.

Let’s cover each form of cannabis in more detail.

1. Marijuana

The first type of cannabis — marijuana — is what most people think of when they hear the word “cannabis.” These plants are a form of Cannabis sativa that produces mid to high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive compound in the plant. The THC is what makes users high.

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Marijuana plants are considered a Schedule I drug in the United States — putting it in the same classification as heroin and fentanyl — two of the most dangerous drugs in America.

Don’t be misled; marijuana is not a deadly drug — but the laws haven’t changed on a federal level in 80 years.

There are some exceptions on a state level, but if the federal government ever wanted to convict someone for using marijuana, it could.

2. Hemp

Hemp is another type of Cannabis sativa that produces less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. This is the sole classification for a particular cannabis plant to be considered hemp. If a particular strain produces even 0.4% THC, it’s marijuana.

Hemp isn’t held to the same legal confines as marijuana. It’s been legal for a long time in the United States, but only through rigorous license applications and approval from US regulators.

Everything changed with the release of the 2018 Farm Bill, which lifted the ban on hemp and removed it from the controlled substances act as a schedule I drug.

Now hemp can be grown just as easily as crops such as corn or wheat throughout the United States. Most states honor this change and allow farmers in the state to cultivate hemp plants — some have been resisting.

As a byproduct of this evolution, supplement companies now have access to hemp as a source of nutritional products — which now falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate as a nutritional supplement.

The FDA has yet to make any strong stance for or against the sale of hemp-derived products in the United States, and the market has become a bit of a wild West in this regard.

Most CBD products like CBD oils, CBD capsules, edible gummies, or CBD E-liquids are made using hemp-derived CBD in order to sell these products legally.

The Major Differences Between Marijuana & Hemp

Hemp Marijuana
Species Cannabis sativa L. Cannabis sativa L.
Legal Definition Cannabis sativa plants with less than 0.3% THC by dried weight Cannabis sativa plants with more than 0.3% THC by dried weight
Psychoactivity Completely non-psychoactive (doesn’t produce a high) May have psychoactive effects (may produce a high)
Federal Legal Status No drug scheduling (completely legal) Schedule I drug (completely illegal)
State Legal Status Legal in most states, with some exceptions Legal in select states recreationally and most states with medical approval. Some states, it remains completely illegal.

The Legality of CBD Products by State

When the federal government in the United States comes out with a change to certain laws — the states have the ability to honor this change or produce their own state legislature to challenge the laws.

There’s no better example of states exercising their right to challenge federal laws than in the realm of cannabis laws.

After the farm bill was released, some states chose to honor this change, allowing their citizens to access hemp-derived CBD products. Others resisted, enacting laws that made possession of the non-psychoactive hemp plants illegal.

Over the past few months, many of these states have since reverted. Below is an up-to-date list of American states divided into two main categories — legal and conditionally legal states.

In the past, we had a list for illegal states, which included North Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho, and Iowa — but these states have since changed their laws to allow CBD either medicinally or over the counter as a health supplement.

There are no longer any states outright banning the use of CBD.

1. Legal States

These states honor the changes in the 2018 Farm Bill completely — in these states, you’re free to purchase, possess, and use hemp-derived products including CBD oils and capsules.

You’ll find CBD at your local dispensary, supermarkets, online, and sometimes even at local gas stations. There are no restrictions to CBD use in these states.

Most American CBD companies operate out of these states, especially in places that adapted their laws ahead of the curve — like Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and California.

2. Conditionally-Legal States

These states allow citizens to buy hemp-derived products, but there are some caveats.

In some states, such as North Dakota or Minnesota, you’ll need a doctor’s approval and a licensed medical card in order to buy cannabis products, including CBD.

In other states, like Michigan or Nebraska, CBD is both legal and illegal. The legislature in these states has yet to work out the details of the recent 2018 Farm Bill changes — making it unlikely to be able to buy CBD in these states anywhere but online.

We consider these states a legal grey area, which is more common than you’d think. It can take a long time for local governments to adapt to changes on a federal level. Right now, we’re caught in the transition period for these states.

In all conditionally legal states, you can expect it to be a little harder to find hemp-derived CBD products locally.

Legal Status of Hemp-Derived Products State-By-State

Legal States:
Conditionally-Legal States:

What Does the Future Look Like For CBD Products In the United States?

CBD is now available in all 50 states of America — to varying degrees. Most citizens can access the supplement in-store legally but may be hard-pressed to find it in some of the stricter states requiring medical cards.

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The best bet is to source CBD products online and have them sent to your home, office, or PO box instead.

Moving forward, we expect the laws to continue to change across federal and state legislature as more people demand access to this safe and effective supplement.

Already the landscape is changing, as the regulation of legal nutritional products now falls into the regulation of the FDA — which have yet to make any official statements for or against the sale and use of CBD as a nutritional supplement. People suspect an FDA crackdown coming to companies operating in the CBD space.

Stay tuned, we’ll be sure to keep you posted as the landscape continues to change.

Livvy Ashton

Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

You’re probably hearing a lot about cannabis and marijuana products as they become legal in more and more states. Two natural compounds are getting the most attention: CBD and THC.

Cannabis is a plant that makes a thick substance full of compounds called cannabinoids. There are more than 100 of these chemicals in cannabis. They cause drug-like reactions in your body.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis products.

THC and CBD are in both marijuana and hemp. Marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, while hemp has a lot of CBD.

Chemical Structure

CBD and THC have the same chemical formula — 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The difference lies in the way the atoms are arranged. That gives CBD and THC different chemical properties, and they affect your body differently.

Both CBD and THC work with receptors that release neurotransmitters in your brain. They can affect things like pain, mood, sleep, and memory.

How CBD and THC Affect the Body

THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. It’s what makes people feel “high.”

We have two types of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. THC binds with receptors — mostly in the brain — that control pain, mood, and other feelings. That’s why THC can make you feel euphoric and give you that so-called high.

CBD doesn’t cause that high. Instead, it’s thought to work with other elements in the body linked to feelings of well-being.

Medical Benefits

People take CBD products to help with everything from arthritis and Crohn’s disease to diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Some say it helps with anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. So far, there’s little evidence that CBD helps with any of these.

The FDA has approved one CBD-based drug. Epidiolex is a treatment for several severe forms of rare childhood epilepsy.

CBD is a hot topic for researchers. The National Institutes of Health clinical trials database shows more than 160 trials involving CBD that are either active or recruiting.

Some states authorize the use of THC as part of medical marijuana, THC may help ease things like:

Side Effects

  • Problems with concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Balance
  • Memory loss

Side effects from CBD can include:

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Tiredness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Crankiness
  • Drowsiness

CBD can also change the way some medicines work. Talk with your doctor about it.

What’s Legal?

Laws are changing all the time on cannabis. Many states allow medical marijuana, containing THC, for several uses, but it is still illegal under federal law. Some states have made recreational marijuana with THC legal for personal use. But it’s also illegal under U.S. law.

As part of the Farm Bill in December 2018, Congress legalized hemp. But there are still rules about where and how you can sell products that contain CBD. You can’t sell some across state lines, for example. All CBD products are illegal if they’re sold with the promise of medical benefits.

Check your state’s laws before buying products with CBD or THC.

Show Sources

National Cancer Institute: “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ) — Patient Version.”

Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience: “Cannabis, cannabinoids, and health.”

Echo Connection: “4 Differences Between CBD and THC,” “What Are the Differences Between CBD and THC?”

American Council on Science and Health: “CBD And THC – The Only Difference Is One Chemical Bond.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Answers to the top questions about cannabis extract,” “Medical marijuana.”

FDA: “FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine ClinicalTrials.gov: “CBD.”

UW Health: “Do You Vomit When You Smoke Pot? Here’s Why.”

Alcohol and Drug Foundation: “Medical cannabis.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Marijuana and Cannabinoids.”

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