Is CBD Legal and Safe to Use? The Complete Breakdown

There is a lot of confusion about the legality of CBD regarding its sale and use.  Stores across the nation can be found carrying CBD. Even still, we still see stories about people getting arrested, shipments seized, and stores shut down.

This has been going on regardless of the fact that the 2018 Farm Bill has made the growth and sale of hemp and hemp products legal.  This implicitly makes CBD legal since many CBD products are made strictly from hemp.

This is a controversial and difficult topic since there are many conflicting ideologies even within government agencies.  

At its foundation, CBD is legal on the federal level but not legal in all states for all intended purposes.   We will go over in detail what this means through the rest of the article.

At the core of these legal issues is the growing concern from agencies and authorities on CBDs safety and efficacy.

Generally, I would consider CBD safe to use due to the testimonies of the millions of people but I would still approach CBD use judiciously.

Things can get pretty complicated overall, but let’s go over CBD’s legality and safe of use best we can.

Let’s start with the thing that started it all — the legalization of hemp through the Agriculture Improvement Act, otherwise known as the 2018 Farm Bill.

2018 Farm Bill

2018 farm bill

On December 20th 2018, President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, otherwise known as the 2018 Farm Bill into legislation.

Effective Jan 1st, 2019, this legalized the growing and selling of hemp and its products.

The inclusion of hemp into the act was championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Prior to the passing of the Farm Bill, hemp was only allowed to be cultivated in federally approved pilot programs.  These programs were put into place for educational and research purposes.  

In addition, CBD was classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which made it illegal.  This placed CBD on equal footing with such drugs as heroin, as silly as that may sound.

At the time many operators grew and sold hemp and hemp-related products under the pilot test program umbrella.

Fast-forward to 2018 when the Farm Bill passed with an overwhelming majority and brought forth 3 key changes to hemp and CBD.  

Definition of hemp

The bill clearly defines hemp as the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent by dry weight.

Anything with more than 0.3% THC would be classified as marijuana and federally illegal.  

Removal of Schedule I

Hemp and hemp-derived products like CBD is no longer a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act.

This made it so that CBD was no longer under the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and not subject to arrest and seizure.

State Delegation

States and Indian territories have the authority to limit the growth and sale of hemp and hemp products in their respective regions.  However, they cannot restrict transportation of sale products through their state.  

This is a very important point to remember as it’s going to affect CBD’s legality across all 50 states.

Even though hemp is legal federally, the state can still enforce their own laws permitting the sale of hemp and CBD.  

Is CBD legal in all States?

is cbd legal in all states?

Despite the fact that CBD is now legal at the federal level, it does not mean it’s open season for everyone.

The 2018 Farm Bill gave the right to individual states to create their own mandates.

Unfortunately, not all states have hopped on board the CBD train.  Some states still ban all CBD products even if hemp-derived.

Some states that have legalized cannabis and marijuana on all levels don’t have much to worry about.

These ten states have legalized cannabis use medicinally and recreationally. Listed in alphabetical order:

  • Alaska

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Maine

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Nevada

  • Oregon

  • Vermont

  • Washington

If you are fortunate to live in one of these states, it’s open season for you to use all forms of CBD.  You can even use CBD products that have high THC content.  

This next list of states have approved marijuana and cannabis use for medicinal purposes. This would include hemp and cbd as well.

  • Arizona

  • Arkansas

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Louisiana

  • Maryland

  • Minnesota

  • Missouri

  • Montana

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • West Virginia

If you live in these next states, CBD and hemp is permitted but marijuana is not allowed for any reason.  Some of these states, like North Carolina and Alabama have their own specific laws for CBD.  

Be sure to check state laws for specifics regarding CBD use if you live in any one of these states.

  • Alabama

  • Georgia

  • Idaho

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Mississippi

  • Nebraska

  • North Carolina

  • South Carolina

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Utah

  • Virginia

  • Wisconsin

  • Wyoming


Unfortunately, if you live in these next few states, CBD is still somewhat prohibited.  No cannabis products of any kind can be purchased or used. CBD is allowed but only under special circumstances.

These states are notoriously strict for their cannabis laws.  I would advise you to check your state laws for complete details.  

  • Idaho

  • Nebraska

  • South Dakota

Idaho

According to Idaho state laws, CBD is legal if it follows federal and state laws.

Wait…don't jump for joy just yet.  There are some very important caveats that need to be mentioned.

First, there can be absolutely zero THC.  This restricts you to only products that are made from isolate, which is a small percentage of total CBD products on the market.

It doesn’t matter if it is made from hemp with less than 0.3% THC.  ZERO THC.

The second reason why CBD isn’t completely legal in Idaho is because the CBD products can only be derived from hemp stalks, fibers of the stalks, oil from the seeds, sterilized seeds or any compound made from mature stalks.

In my opinion, this is an important distinction for Idaho residents.

Products made from only the stalks and seeds have virtually zero CBD in them.  These are your basic hemp and hemp seed oils and not CBD oil.

The majority of CBD content is found in the flowers of the plant.  By excluding the flowers, they are implicitly removing true CBD products.

cbd flower

I’m not sure why they would go out and say CBD is legal when the wording in their laws excludes any real CBD product.  

Either they want to purposely fool the public or they are not completely educated on the differences between marijuana/THC and hemp/CBD.  I going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter.

In any case, Idaho is a state where I would be careful about using CBD.  

Nebraska

Hemp has been removed from their list of controlled substances and you may see CBD being sold in stores but laws are still ambiguous.  

According to Nebraska law, they have approved CBD products but only ones approved by the FDA.

Currently, only Epidiolex, a prescription drug, has been approved.

Nebraska has pilot programs that have approved a small list of medical patients to use CBD for research purposes. 

In a statement released by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, 

“With the exception of Epidiolex, cannabidiol or any product containing cannabidiol, obtained by any means other than the authorized UNMC study, remains illegal to possess, manufacture, distribute, dispense or possess.”

Epidiolex cbd drug

Picture: Epidiolex 

Unfortunately, that sure sounds like CBD for public use is still illegal in the state of Nebraska.

South Dakota

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has announced that all forms of CBD are illegal in South Dakota.  

In spite of this statement, this hasn’t stopped some local shops from selling CBD.  

Because of this, there is uncertainty amongst the general population.  Is it legal or not? If it was illegal, then why is it being sold in a shop?

Nebraska has removed CBD from their list of banned substances but laws are still unclear and people have been prosecuted for possessing CBD oil.

Until South Dakota’s CBD laws become clearer, I would be wary of purchasing and using CBD oil.  Erring on the side of caution would be prudent. It would definitely be a case of use at your own risk.

I’m sure this is bad news for many of you out there but there are steps being taken to allow the use of CBD now that it has been federally approved.

It’s understandable that states want to take the cautious approach.  The existence of CBD is not new but its quick popularity has sparked an influx of black market products.

Authorities are waiting till the science backs up the claims.   

And though the words of TONS of people are hard to ignore, scientific proof is lacking.

Without proper policies and regulations, it’s difficult to keep tabs on what products are safe for you — the consumer.

So, is CBD safe?

If you ask the thousands of people that have taken it they will tell you that it is.

The FDA has not yet found CBD as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).  They have, however, approved of one CBD prescription drug for epilepsy — Epidiolex.

FDA GRAS

This is FDA’s stamp of approval that something is safe for consumption by the general public.

You may be asking, If they approved a CBD drug to be safe, shouldn’t be safe for me to use elsewhere?

Well, not quite according to the FDA.  

CBD can be found from everything from oils to food products to creams and much more.  

How each of these is used can produce vastly different effects.  

What are the long-term effects?  Is it safe for kids? Does it affect drug use? 

These are the types of questions the FDA wants to answer before they give the go ahead on general safety and quite frankly, there isn’t enough data at the moment.

Most studies have been performed on animals and human clinical trials are thin.

CBD has often been touted as the panacea to all of mankind’s problems.  This is a problem.  

This sensationalism has drawn ire and concern from the FDA.  

The FDA has come out saying not to trust any brands that claim that their CBD can cure, prevent or treat any disease.

Even worse, the FDA has done some trials on CBD products on the market and what they found was alarming.

Some products contained much less CBD than the amounts stated on the labeling.  In other cases, they found contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals.

Nowadays, brands have been wary to market such extreme claims.  In fact, companies aren’t allowed to expressively market any medical cures or benefits.

All this hasn’t stopped millions of people from around the world from using CBD.  

There isn’t a lack of stories claiming its benefit and life-changing capabilities.

It is important to also note that it hasn’t helped everyone.   Some people have reported no changes to their ailments. Some people have reported adverse side effects.

When it comes down it, use CBD at your own discretion and with caution.  Buy from reputable sources. Make sure the products have been third party tested for concentration and free from contaminants.

If you’re still on the fence, then contact your physician and ask their opinion, especially if you are on other types of medications.

It’s hard to ignore the voice of the public and when asking people whether CBD is safe or not, many would exclaim with a resounding YES!

Final Thoughts

In terms of legality, there are ten states that have approved cannabis use recreationally and medicinally.  There shouldn’t be any worry in these states whether CBD is legal or not.

However, in the majority of the states, there are state laws that will determine if CBD is legal or not.  You will mostly be fine if your state allows marijuana for medicinal use.  

While in other states, CBD use is OK if it made from hemp and not marijuana.

Those unfortunate people in Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota should really be careful about CBD use, as it doesn’t appear completely legal.   Even though cases on any conviction are rare, be aware of the risks.

A major hurdle for most legalization is the distinction between different forms of cannabis, notably marijuana and hemp.   This confusion is the limiting factor when it comes to nationwide legalization.  

The use of CBD from hemp is legal federally but states have the final say and the federal government has given them that authority.

In terms of safety, the cumulative experience of millions of people would imply that CBD is safe to use.  

But, there still needs to be cautious when using it especially with pre-existing conditions and medication.  Consult your doctor if you have any reservations. The science isn’t yet complete and it's better to error on the side of caution.  

I would approach CBD with restrained optimism.  Give it a shot. As always, go slow and steady. Watch for any ill effects and withdraw if you experience any.  

Hemp is a wonderful plant and we are just beginning to scratch the surface.  If anything, all this news and commotion just means that we are headed in the right direction. And that is to ensure that everyone can enjoy CBD safely and without restriction.