Is CBD Legal?

CBD, short for cannabinoids, is found in every plant and living creature in some way, shape, or form, but most CBD that’s on the market has been extracted from hemp. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains very low THC and has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. 

Why is cannabis the go-to plant for CBD extraction? Because it’s loaded with these natural, healing 

compounds! From its roots to its stems, every part of hemp is used in the CBD extraction process. But wait, if cannabis is illegal in my state, is CBD also illegal? To answer that correctly, there’s a lot you need to know. We hope you have your thinking cap on because we’re about to dig into history and the US legal system to further understand the process that took place to free CBD from its previous restrictions.

History of Cannabis and CBD

Cannabis has quite an interesting history in the United States. A lot of political agendas have made the cannabis waters murky, but here are some of the main pieces to better figure out why cannabis is still illegal in some areas and how that’s affected the legality of CBD as well.

Using cannabis and CBD is nothing new, in fact, evidence of cannabis has been dated back thousands of years. From as far back as researchers can find, cannabis was used in healing ceremonies, religious ceremonies, and recreational activities ever since its discovery. Cannabis, also known as hemp or marijuana depending on the THC content, has been a medicinal staple for generations and was likely used as herbal medicine starting in Asia around 500 BC. Use didn’t end in Asia; cannabis quickly spread all across Europe, Africa, and the Americas, making it one of the go-to herbs for good health. In the 1600s, cannabis was a staple crop for American colonists. In areas such as Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, it was a required crop because it had so many uses.

Cannabis comes in two varieties: marijuana and hemp. The main difference between the two is the THC content, with marijuana being high in THC and hemp being how in THC. From what researchers have uncovered, hemp was far more prominent than marijuana back in the early days. Although it had medicinal properties, it was mainly grown to make rope and textiles. Africans and European colonies grew hemp for the same purposes because its strong, fibrous texture made it incredibly durable and versatile.

Fast forward to the 1830s. The health benefits of cannabis were finally reaching other parts of Europe; health benefits that were known already in Asia, Rome, and Italy, but had yet to be discovered in other parts of the world. Irish doctor Sir Willian Brooke O’Shaughnessy discovered a correlation between cannabis extracts and relief from stomach pain, and by the end of the 1800s, cannabis extracts were sold in pharmacies and clinics throughout the US and Europe. The main purpose of cannabis was to provide aid to those with stomach pain and nausea, but many users were using it for other ailments just as those in Asia, Rome, and Italy had been doing for centuries. Very few side-effects had been recorded with cannabis use, making it one of the go-to medicines.

Change in Legal Status of Cannabis CBD

People had been using CBD, which was discovered to be the healing cannabinoids in cannabis, for as far back as we can find without any stigma. So what exactly changed? Many Americans’ attitudes towards cannabis started to shift in the early 1900s most likely motivated by the current events at that time as more and more Mexican immigrants fled to the U.S. after the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Caucasian Americans held all the power and influence at the time and began feeling threatened by the infiltration of Mexicans.

“The prejudices and fears that greeted these peasant immigrants also extended to their traditional means of intoxication: smoking marijuana,” author Eric Schlosser wrote for The Atlantic in 1994. “Police officers in Texas claimed that marijuana incited violent crime, aroused a ‘lust for blood,’ and gave its users ‘superhuman strength.’ Rumors spread that Mexicans were distributing this ‘killer weed’ to unsuspecting American schoolchildren.”

With the fear that foreigners were going to corrupt adolescents with an unknown, dangerous drug, 29 states by 1931 had outlawed all plant species related to cannabis. This included marijuana and hemp. Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, turned the battle against marijuana into a war on drugs. Anslinger drafted The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 in what historians believe was based on racism, not for the health of the general public. Many scientists and medical professionals at the time claimed marijuana was not harmful and made efforts to persuade the public that the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was not implemented for the health of the people, but instead implemented to run out minorities who used the substance. Regardless of the pleas from the medical industry, the Act remained.

The Act did not directly criminalize the possession or usage of cannabis per se but imposed high taxes on the sale of cannabis. The Act included penalties and enforcement provisions to which cannabis handlers were subjected, including fines of up to $2,000 and five years in prison if anyone violated any provision. In short, the Act stated that every person who distributed marijuana, either selling or giving it away, must register with the Internal Revenue Service and pay a special occupational tax, which was high enough to cause major financial devastation for small hemp farmers. On top of the taxes, those selling and purchasing marijuana had to fill out countless forms recording who was selling cannabis, who was buying it, where the exchange was taking place, what was going sold, the cost of the transaction, and everything in between. The form then had to be given to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and kept on file by the seller in case of an ‘inspection’ a.k.a. an audit. All the costs and the restrictions put most hemp farmers out of business by the late 1930s.

Although growing and selling hemp in the US was practically illegal, it didn’t mean the US was hemp-free. After 1937 when most hemp farmers were run out of business, the US relied on other countries for its hemp needs, one of the largest importers being the Philippines who received its hemp from Japan.

Impact of WWII on Cannabis Production

During WWII, Japan cut hemp ties with the Philippines, which meant the US could no longer have access to the plant for its textile needs. The US was forced to start producing hemp itself to continue fulfilling the country’s quota, so in 1941, the government launched a pro-hemp campaign encouraging local farmers to grow as much hemp as possible to support war efforts. Farms flourished for five years, but the end of the war ended in 1946 meant the end of hemp farming as the need for clothing and textiles subsided.

The Marijuana Act of 1937 Abolished

Even with the explosion of hemp production during WWII, marijuana use was still heavily scrutinized and punished, especially for minorities who were four times more likely to be arrested. In the late 1960s, the federal government and states continued to increase punishment related to cannabis use until marijuana started to make its way into white, upper-middle-class homes. Many white men with affluence fought the Act, and it was declared unconstitutional in 1969. Before anyone could celebrate the victory, it was quickly replaced by the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 when Richard Nixon’s legislation classified marijuana—along with heroin and LSD, among others—as a Schedule I drug.

Fight to Legalize Cannabis and CBD

In the late 1970s, regulators began considering the medical applications of cannabis and started rolling out medical programs around the country to prove cannabis’ importance in the medical arena. Flash forward to 2018 after dozens of years fighting for the legalization of hemp, the Farm Bill of 2018 emerges.

The Farm Bill of 2018 came after the federal government finally acknowledged there is a difference between hemp and marijuana. Arguing that hemp can’t produce the psychoactive high that marijuana does, the federal government removed hemp from the Schedule 1 drug list and made it legal to grow in all 50 states. Although this was a big win for the world of CBD, there are still some restrictions, and this is where it gets sticky.

Legal Types of Cannabis CBD

The source of CBD is extremely important when it comes to the legality of the compound. If CBD is derived from marijuana, it is still considered a Schedule 1 drug. Why? Because marijuana CBD contains more than 0.3% THC, which is above the current legal limit of 0.3%. CBD that is derived from marijuana is only legal in states where recreational marijuana is legal such as California, Oregon, and Colorado. If you live in a state where recreational marijuana has not been legalized but medical marijuana has, you can purchase marijuana CBD at most dispensaries with a medical card.

CBD derived from hemp that comes from a licensed grower, adheres to all state guidelines, and doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC is removed from the Schedule 1 drug classification thus no longer listing it as a controlled substance. You think this would release CBD from any legal limitations as long as it hit the requirements above, but nothing is that easy.

State Legal Limitations of Cannabis CBD

There’s a conflict between federal requirements and state requirements when it comes to the acceptable levels of THC present in CBD, meaning purchasing CBD is going to take a little bit of research on your end.

In most states, as long as CBD meets the growing and harvesting qualifications and doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC, you’re in the clear. But in some states like Idaho, only CBD that contains 0% THC is allowed. That means in these states, only CBD products containing Broad Spectrum and Isolate CBD are legal, so it’s important to know what type of CBD is used in products if you live in a state where CBD must be THC-free. Before filling up your shopping cart, do a little research on your state’s requirements. 

The Fight to Legalize All Cannabis CBD

There have been numerous bills and petitions sent to Congress to try and legalize CBD on all fronts, which would make selling CBD that contains <0.3% THC legal everywhere. Unfortunately, the process for making this change has been pending for years as the bill to legalize cannabis and CBD continues to get pushed aside.

Until the government declares cannabis and CBD products legal across the country, you may still have to deal with the THC restrictions in your area. It’s unfortunate that purchasing CBD, a natural compound

that has been known to improve health, has so many loopholes, but that’s just the world we live in.

At Zelm Labs, all of our edible products come in a THC-free option so you can take advantage of all the amazing products we have to offer no matter what state you live in. Isolate CBD may not contain the terpenes or other cannabinoids that may increase healing benefits, but it still has been rumored to reduce inflammation, nausea, pain, headaches, and insomnia.

If you’d like to join the fight to legalize cannabis so you can have unrestricted access to CBD, there are dozens of petitions out there for you to sign. Join the cause as we fight to give people the access to healing they so rightly deserve.