First, let’s look at the definition of marijuana with an “H” (marihuana), which is indeed scheduled. This comprises all parts of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, excluding non-viable seeds stock and fiber, but including the resins and the remainder of the plant. CBD, of course, is present within the marijuana plant. If you derive CBD from the marijuana plant, it would in fact be controlled, because it came from a controlled substance. This is known as the “source rule” — the source of the material dictates its legality. But what if CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids are derived from a legal source, such as the 25 other plant species that contain levels of cannabinoids or industrial hemp?
The only cannabinoid mentioned in the CSA is tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. While it is specifically scheduled, courts have disagreed on whether THC needs to be synthetically or naturally derived to fall within the definition of tetrahydrocannabinol under the CSA. Six years ago, industrial hemp was for the first time ever defined separately from marijuana as holding less than 0.3 Δ9-THC percent by dry weight. The 2014 Farm Bill specifically authorized the use of industrial hemp as a legal substance for purposes of market, scientific, and agricultural-based research. The CBD industry exploded because of the “market-based research exception” — one could only study the plant with a viable market in place for its products. This position was litigated in 2018 in HIA v. DEA III and the restrictions were removed by the 2018 Farm Bill.
Hemp-derived CBD oil
For something to be a controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), it must be specifically scheduled and assigned one of five scheduling criteria. Schedule I is the most restrictive, which indicates that this controlled substance has no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. Schedule V, the least restrictive, indicates a drug with currently accepted medical uses and treatments in the United States and a low potential for abuse. Schedule V drugs typically consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics, but not always. When one combs through the CSA, the word “cannabidiol” or “CBD” is nowhere to be found — not in the code of federal regulations or in the enacting legislation. One must look deeper to find out what is scheduled and what is not.
My job is to shed light. Most specifically on the great intricacies of cannabis law, policy, and regulation. The past several years have seen extensive debate about the legal status of cannabidiol (CBD). Is it legal? Was it ever a controlled substance? How is it regulated? Lawyers, industry professionals, and learned scholars debate this with so much vigor that it creates confusion, if not a misstatement of the facts. It hurts my ears and burns my eyes to hear or see an argument that identifies CBD as a controlled substance, because the law is quite clear in this regard.
The industrial hemp plant is no longer a controlled substance, including all of its derivatives, not the least of which is THC. Even THC from industrial hemp is no longer defined as a controlled substance (we’ll dive into this in more detail at a later time). The 2018 Farm Bill didn’t remove CBD from the Controlled Substances Act, but clarified that it was never on it. To be perfectly clear, if CBD is derived from a lawful substance, it is not and never has been a controlled substance. That’s a fact and the law.
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.
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?
When Is CBD Oil Illegal?
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.
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.
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: