Is CBD legal? This is a question that is currently being asked because of the recent changes in very old laws. Hemp was federally legal in the USA until Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937. Thomas Jefferson along with some other presidents even grew hemp. It has been federally illegal until the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp federally legal again in the United States. Even though hemp is now federally legal, each state has its own hemp-growing policies.
The short answer is yes, the CBD products that you buy at the vape shop, smoke shop, corner store, natural food store, etc. are hemp-derived CBD products and are being marketed as dietary supplements legally because of the 2018 Farm bill. Just because they are legal, that does not mean they are high quality though!
The major difference between the cannabis and hemp plant was discussed in the book “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics” by Ernest Small. The book explains it is difficult to distinguish hemp and cannabis from each other because there’s no actual taxonomical difference between the two plants. So, the government had to create a law stating the difference between Cannabis and Hemp. This law states the difference is the fact that Cannabis contains more than .3% THC and Hemp contains less than .3% THC.
Scientific studies have not confirmed the health benefits of CBD, however, public reports state people use it for pain control, depression and anxiety relief, to calm nausea, control addiction, plus a wide variety of other physical and mental issues. The FDA sends out letters to companies that make these types of health claims telling them to remove the claims from their website and company marketing materials, however, enforcing it is another matter.
Houman Danesh, MD, director of integrative pain management for the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City says, "My practice has patients walking in every day asking about CBD, it's still very difficult to say what the real benefits are due to a serious lack of research." (Health.com)
Hopefully, this will change now that the Farm Bill removed all hemp-derived CBD products from the Controlled Substances Act. This Farm Bill basically makes CBD legal if it comes from hemp because it has less than the .3% THC limit. However, if it comes from cannabis, it can only be sold in states that have legalized marijuana dispensaries. Buying hemp CBD products online is the way many people purchase products. This new legality can now open up the ability for research groups and documented data.
The FDA has formed a high-level CBD Policy Working Group because of the mass amount of public, industrial, tribal and congressional interest on the subject. Their mission states the goal is to approach CBD policymaking on CBD products being lawfully marketed, translation - regulation!
Regulation enforcement will be a very difficult task. The drug Epidiolex that the FDA approved with the active ingredient being CBD is given to a controlled group of people through a doctor's supervision and prescription, which will make it much easier to regulate. However, regulating CBD of different qualities that is sold to the masses over the counter, who are all taking it in different dosages for different purposes, seems to be an insurmountable task.
The FDA is also considering whether CBD should be marketed as a dietary supplement or as a food product which will change the research status and regulations. There is so much that is undecided, however, the FDA is actually trying to gather public data. They held a public hearing on May 31, 2019, to obtain scientific information and data on product quality, manufacturing, labeling, marketing, safety, and the sale of CBD products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. CBD was the main topic raised with multiple issues discussed during the public hearing. There was so much interest a public docket was opened collecting 4,492 comments, closing on July 16, 2019, so the comments could be reviewed. The agency has sent out statements stating they will keep the public informed of the current regulatory landscape and any potential for new pathways. Another way they are trying to keep the public informed is through their cannabis products Q&A page.
The USDA has even stepped into numerous meetings where cannabis issues are being discussed. The EPA's Pesticide program has brought that sector of the government to the cannabis talks arena. With all these different governmental agencies, the mass amount of people demanding fair and equal treatment on the issue, stakeholders becoming actively involved, even the tribal leaders making their voices heard, while Congress stares down with their watchful eye there may be some forward movement in a positive direction.