CBD is likely available in a store near you, or sold from an online retailer in your state. In just a few years, research has brought to life the many supplemental benefits of using CBD for improved sleep, mood, reduction of pain, and much more. However, CBD has not been federally legalized, nor is it legal to sell according to many states’ governments.
Despite the legal acceptance of some or all forms of marijuana in a majority of states, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to classify CBD as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are defined by the DEA as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This classification is used for cannabis and all extracts of the plant, including CBD. Currently, the DEA provides no exceptions for CBD extracts that do not contain the psychoactive chemical THC.
However, there are other federal agencies that provide exceptions to this rule, some of which can be very contradictory. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Epidiolex, a drug containing CBD that is used to treat certain types of epilepsy. The DEA has classified Epidiolex as a Schedule 5 drug, despite its’ active ingredients including CBD.
The scheduling of CBD does not stop cannabis and hemp producers from extracting and selling CBD in many states. In states where marijuana is medically or recreationally decriminalized, CBD extracts are very common. The 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized interstate transport of hemp-derived products, has strengthened the case for CBD sales across the U.S. The 2018 Farm Bill did not put any restrictions on the sale or possession of hemp-derived products including CBD, as long as the products and marketing were consistent with all other federal legislation. However, what is “consistent” with the law is still largely up for debate.
The majority of U.S. states allow the sale of CBD and the use of marijuana containing THC for medical and/or recreational use. There is also a small group of states (including Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wyoming, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi) in which THC-containing products are still illegal, but CBD is legal for medical purposes. There are only three states (Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota) where cannabis products of any kind continue to be illegal to produce or sell. Some allow the sale of CBD as long as it comes from the hemp and not the marijuana plant.
This causes confusion because hemp and cannabis are the exact same species of the plant cannabis sativa. Cannabis has been bred in such a highly specialized manner that farmers can control the amount of THC in the plant, as well as other characteristics of the plant including scent, color, psychoactive effects, and much more. This is how hemp differs from marijuana, and how marijuana strains differ from each other. However, the plant is nearly indistinguishable physically.
Inconsistent legislation and juridical follow-through has muddied the waters when it comes to CBD. Despite the fight from the DEA to keep CBD under federal control, there is overwhelming support from states to bring this product to market. Further confusing the market, rules differ across the border. Researchers and advocates hope that the federal government will soon concede to the many medical and recreational benefits of CBD and legalize its commercial sale throughout the country.