Marijuana, Hemp, CBD Oil: What’s Legal and Where

Jan. 8, 2019 — As the legalized cannabis industry in the United States grows with nearly every election, consumers interested in these products have more and more options. But they might also have more questions, given the different sources of the products, the difference in federal and state laws, and the difference between those that make you high and those that don’t.

And November’s midterm elections, along with action by Congress late in 2018 to legalize hemp in the Farm Bill, brought even more changes to the landscape. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant with a negligible amount of the high-producing THC found in marijuiana.

Here is a scorecard of what’s legal and what’s not.

Marijuana & the States

Even though, thanks to the Farm Bill, hemp lost its status as a Schedule I drug – one that has no proven medical purpose and potential for abuse – marijuana did not. That means even though many states have legalized its use, the federal government still considers marijuana and CBD products derived from marijuana in almost any form to be illegal. But so far, federal law enforcement officials have not used their power to swoop in and shut down marijuana operations in states that have legalized it.

BD products are often marketed as anti-inflammatories and pain relievers that can also help with insomnia and anxiety. Some strains of CBD are popular with parents of children with severe epilepsy.

Within days of the Farm Bill becoming law, the FDA issued a statement saying any hemp-based CBD product that is marketed as having therapeutic benefits or as a dietary supplement is illegal to sell unless the FDA has reviewed and approved it. Opening the marketplace, it seems, also opened the products to regulatory oversight.

And the FDA would still have authority over hemp products used as food, says Todd Harrison, an attorney and chairman of the Venable LLP law firm’s FDA group in Washington, D.C.

And what about buying CBD products online, especially if you are in a state where CBD is not legal or is restricted? There are more unknowns than knowns.

”I think there is very little risk for consumers,” says Harrison, especially if it is a CBD product made from hemp. “If you are buying CBD from marijuana, there might be a risk.” But, he says, “I don’t think the states are going to take action against the consumer.”

Jonathan Miller, JD, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry group, says, “I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested for buying CBD online.” He has heard about store owners selling CBD products being cited.

What the New Law Means for Hemp

Industrial hemp has  potential for food, medicine, and even car parts. And it’s been called a potential boon for Kentucky farmers looking for an alternative to their tobacco crops.

Industrial hemp can be grown only under specific conditions, such as in state pilot programs.

Under the new law, state governments, not the federal government, would primarily regulate the hemp products.

Hemp “will [now] be an agricultural commodity,” like wheat or oranges, Miller says. “It does not impact marijuana-derived CBD.”

The provision in the new Farm Bill, he says, clarifies “the legality of hemp-derived CBD.”

Even with the Farm Bill provision, state or local governments can impose stricter limitations, Miller says. Right now, about 15 states have “pretty strong pro-hemp CBD statues. All the rest are vague or silent.”

“It is going to bring some level of clarity to this market,” NORML’s Armentano says.

It will carve out an exemption for traditional hemp plants, defined as having a maximum of 0.3% of THC, he says. “Those are no longer defined as controlled substances.”

While the language implies that compounds derived from those plants and put into products would also be exempt, it’s not explicit, Armentano says, so gray areas remain.

Slideshow: Medical Marijuana

medical marijuana plant
1/10What Is Medical Marijuana?Medical marijuana is any part of the marijuana plant that you use to treat health problems. People use it to get relief from their symptoms, not to try to get high.Most marijuana that’s sold legally as medicine has the same ingredients as the kind that people use for pleasure. But some medical marijuana is specially grown to have less of the chemicals that cause feelings of euphoria.
medical marijuana strains
2/10Ingredients in Medical MarijuanaMarijuana plants have multiple chemicals, known as cannabinoids. The two main ones are THC and CBD. THC gives some of the pleasurable effects that pot smokers are looking for, but it also has some effects that may treat medical problems.Some research suggests that CBD may be helpful for some health issues, but it doesn’t cause you to get high.
illustration of mid brain and dopamine molecule
3/10How Marijuana Works on the BrainPeople who smoke marijuana begin to feel its effects almost immediately, while those who eat it may not feel it for up to an hour.When you smoke pot, THC goes from your lungs to the bloodstream and causes your brain cells to release the chemical dopamine, leaving you feeling high.Experts know less about how CBD works. They think it may work sometimes with THC, and sometimes on its own, to have an effect on the brain.
marijuana caregiver
4/10Uses for Medical MarijuanaMedical marijuana can cut down on seizures in people with epilepsy. It may help ease pain, nausea, and loss of appetite in people who have cancer and HIV. There’s not a lot of research on these areas yet, though.Some studies show medical marijuana also may ease multiple sclerosis symptoms like muscle stiffness and spasms, pain, and frequent urination.
marijuana cigarette smoke
5/10Short-Term Side EffectsMedical marijuana can change your mood, making you feel happy, relaxed, sleepy, or anxious. It can also disrupt your short-term memory and decision-making ability. These side effects can last 1 to 3 hours.Large doses of medical marijuana can make some people have hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Research suggests that smoking marijuana can make breathing problems, like bronchitis, worse.
man coughing
6/10Long-Term Side EffectsRegular smokers of medical marijuana may get respiratory problems, such as a daily cough and a higher risk of lung infections.Studies also link routine use to mental illness, depression, anxiety, less motivation, and suicidal thoughts among young people. Marijuana use during pregnancy can raise the risk of health problems in babies. Marijuana use can result in addiction. 
woman holding red pill
7/10Drugs Made From MarijuanaThe FDA has approved three drugs that include ingredients also found in marijuana. Dronabinol has synthetic THC and is used to treat nausea from chemotherapy and extreme weight loss in people with AIDS.Nabilone is used for the same reasons, but it has a man-made chemical that’s similar to THC. Epidiolex is made from CDB and has been approved for treating patients with severe of hard to treat seizures.
cannibis edibles
8/10Forms of Medical MarijuanaUsers smoke medical marijuana in paper-rolled cigarettes or pipes. You can also brew it into a beverage, eat it in cooked foods, or take it in pill form. The effects of a marijuana pill can be strong and long-lasting. This makes it hard to predict how it will affect a person. It can also be inhaled through vaporizers. Cannabinoid receptors have also been found in skin.  Some use topical marijuana for pain and inflammation. More research is needed.
medical marijuana dispensary
9/10Where Medical Marijuana Is LegalCalifornia voters were the first to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996. It’s now legal in almost half of U.S. states.If you live in a state where it’s legal and your doctor has OK’d it, you can buy it from an authorized seller known as a dispensary. Some people may legally grow their own medical marijuana.
mother and child
10/10Medical Marijuana for ChildrenSome studies suggest medical marijuana may help relieve seizures in children with hard-to-treat epilepsy.A type of medical marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web” may help kids without getting them high, because the strain has very little THC.

Reviewed by Neil Lava on 12/15/2018

And November’s midterm elections, along with action by Congress late in 2018 to legalize hemp in the Farm Bill, brought even more changes to the landscape. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant with a negligible amount of the high-producing THC found in marijuiana.

Here is a scorecard of what’s legal and what’s not.

Marijuana & the States

Even though, thanks to the Farm Bill, hemp lost its status as a Schedule I drug – one that has no proven medical purpose and potential for abuse – marijuana did not. That means even though many states have legalized its use, the federal government still considers marijuana and CBD products derived from marijuana in almost any form to be illegal. But so far, federal law enforcement officials have not used their power to swoop in and shut down marijuana operations in states that have legalized it.

The list of states where medical or recreational use of marijuana and CBD is legal keeps growing. Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C., have passed medical marijuana laws (including 10 states and the nation’s capital where recreational and medical use is legal), says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Also, 14 states have enacted CBD-explicit medical laws.

And, according to Armentano, all cannabis products, including marijuana and medical CBD, are illegal in Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

What About CBD Products?

CBD products sold online run the gamut, from tinctures and creams, to gummies and pills, to coffees and teas. Most experts believe the Farm Bill makes it clear that consumers anywhere can legally buy these products if they’re made from low- or zero-THC hemp. But that could change if your state’s lawmakers explicitly act to ban them.

By Kathleen Doheny

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