As legalization continues sweeping across the globe, many are confused about the laws surrounding CBD, and rightly so. They’re pretty complicated! The federal government passed the Farm Bill in 2018 that removed industrial hemp from the Schedule I Substances list, which includes drugs, substances, or chemicals with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, such as heroin and ecstasy. This effectively legalized CBD derived from hemp at the federal level in the United States.
Hooray, right?! Well, not exactly. Confusion is nothing new for the cannabis industry, and states have the right to set their own laws regarding industrial hemp and CBD. So, just because the federal government says CBD is okay, it doesn’t mean the states have to abide.
History of the Legalization of CBD
Before we dig into the legal status in every state, let’s look at the very recent history of how CBD came to be legal throughout most of the United States.
Agricultural Act of 2014
Before 2018, industrial hemp was only legal in the United States under pilot programs which are basically heavily-supervised hemp cultivation operations (usually at major universities) and it wasn’t even close to the hemp market we have now. It was formed in 2014 under the Agricultural Act of 2014, and while it wasn’t the economy exploding 2018 Farm Bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014 provided necessary pathways for industrial hemp and cannabinoid research.
Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (AKA 2018 Farm Bill)
The success of the 2014 Agricultural Act allowed lawmakers to pass The Hemp Farming Act, which was included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill states that hemp is defined as, “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” In short, it made hemp -- and CBD -- an agricultural commodity, and removed it from the Schedule I Substances list, making it legal on a federal level.
Historical Impact of Legalizing Hemp
Before 2018, industrial hemp was considered to have no medicinal value or purpose, thought to be at high-risk for abuse, and as mentioned, sat alongside drugs like heroin and ecstasy. Absurd, right? Industrial hemp!
The hemp plant, which produces sustainable fiber, cotton, concrete, and powerful cannabinoid-based therapies, was considered to be as dangerous as heroin just a few years ago. It makes the need for cannabinoid-based research more apparent. The same cannot be said for commonly-prescribed opioids, which contribute to the overdose crisis in America.
How Legalization of Hemp Helps
The legalization of industrial hemp has carved a potential pathway to combatting the overdose crisis. In addition, the move opened the floodgates for eager Americans to be part of the green rush and achieve their version of the American dream. Farmers were able to take part in a booming industry, and put their important skills to new use. Canna-passionate entrepreneurs, finance professionals, business executives, retail managers, and more were able to bring their skills with them and pivot to CBD.
And for hemp, the future looks even brighter: The Brightfield Group predicted the CBD industry to grow by 706% by 2023, and reach $23.7 billion in revenue. CBD is also completely legal in many nations around the world.
The Big Question: Is CBD Oil Legal in All 50 States?*
As of February 2021, 48 of the 50 states agree with the federal government's legislation and CBD is legal in its entirety as long it’s derived from hemp -- not marijuana -- and is under 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated in the last two states that are holding out: Idaho and South Dakota.
Idaho allows CBD products only if they contain zero THC and are made from certain parts of the plant. It gets even more circumstantial as different cities in Idaho are allowed to make their own rules regarding CBD. Many cities have started to allow Idahoans to buy CBD oil in their jurisdictions, so if you’re in Idaho, you’ll need to check with your local legislation if you’re trying to get your hands on some CBD.
South Dakotans legalized marijuana for recreational use last November, but the CBD laws are still unclear. We recommend those South Dakotans who want to buy CBD oil check with their local jurisdictions first.
Until recently, Nebraska was among the list of states that restricted hemp-derived CBD, but as of March 2019, the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act (Legal Bill 657) was signed into law, which allowed hemp-derived CBD to become legal.
Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
From a scientific standpoint, hemp and marijuana are just two different names for the cannabis plant. From the perspective of the law, the main difference is the amount of THC in the plant. As I’m sure you know by now, good old THC is the chemical that provides that feel-good-fuzzy feeling when ingested or inhaled in elevated amounts. When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, the federal government required all hemp plants to test under 0.3% THC -- a far cry from some marijuana products that test at 30% THC!
Marijuana is still on the Schedule I Substances list even though it is legal -- for medical and/or recreational use -- across 36 states. This makes regulations all the more bewildering, because marijuana is legal in over half of the country by state laws, but federally illegal in all states.
CBD vs. THC: How Do They Work?
CBD works by interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a bodily system that every mammal on the planet has, including you. The endocannabinoid system also works with THC, and if you didn’t know, it’s a cannabinoid just like CBD! The two cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system in different ways, and ultimately, produce very different outcomes. When someone consumes THC, they will feel a psychoactive effect. The same is not so for CBD. The different structures of the cannabinoids and their uniquely individual interactions with the endocannabinoid system is the reason why.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of receptors, and when these receptors meet cannabinoids like CBD, the body is able to do amazing things. Research shows that the endocannabinoid system exists to help bring the body to homeostasis.
Two different kinds of receptors that we’ve identified so far are CB1 and CB2:
CB1 receptors are primarily located in places like the spinal cord, the brain stem, and the nervous system, though both kinds of receptors can be identified all over the body. CB1 mainly interacts with THC, and the cannabinoid fits the receptor like a key. This is why THC creates a psychoactive effect, because there is a concentrated amount of CB1 receptors in the brain.
CB2 receptors mainly work with CBD, but unlike THC, CBD does not fit the CB2 receptors perfectly. CBD works with the CB2 receptors in a roundabout way, but their interaction still produces an incredible outcome. CB2 receptors can be found in immune cells, vital organs, and the digestive system, and provide relief for the body.
So, does CBD make you high?
Nope. The tiny amount of THC allowed in CBD will not cause any psychoactive effects, but the trace amounts of THC in a full-spectrum formula will contribute to the entourage effect. The entourage effect is the idea that cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, work better together. When the cannabinoids work together, you achieve better results. Full-spectrum formulas also contain other powerful plant compounds, like terpenes and flavonoids. These compounds have also been shown to have therapeutic benefits, especially terpenes.
Where Can I Buy CBD Oil?
Thankfully, you have plenty of options when it comes to buying CBD. According to a 2019 Consumer Reports study, 27% of consumers purchase their CBD online. You can also buy CBD oil in person at certified CBD retailers and cannabis dispensaries. Toast offers an array of quality CBD products available for online purchase, so feel free to look around.
No matter, where you purchase your CBD, always ensure that the place where you buy it is a high-quality source. Look for hemp-derived CBD products with:
A third-party Certification of Analysis (COA) that closely matches what the product’s label reads.
The USDA’s Certified Organic label
Plenty of resources for you to learn about CBD
See our guide How to Shop for High Quality CBD for more information.
*Disclaimer: The information herein is correct to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publish (March 19, 2021). The laws and regulations for cannabis are changing constantly, so please consult your own state's laws for the most current information.