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What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, which is commonly abbreviated as CBD, is 1 of 100+ cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa L), of which marijuana and hemp are both derivates.
Unlike THC, which is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, CBD has no mind-altering effects. In fact, evidence suggests that CBD may actually help to counteract some of the adverse psychological effects of THC. (1)(2)
But that’s not all CBD is thought to do. It’s also been investigated in a number of clinical and pre-clinical studies as a treatment for a variety of different medical conditions and diseases, including chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.(3)(4)(5)(6)
While the findings up until this point seem promising, particularly as they relate to treating pain and inflammation, there simply haven’t been enough controlled, randomized, studies on CBD — the type medical professionals rely on — to say anything for sure.
Even so, CBD has been growing in popularity amongst the general public in recent years due to a number of potential therapeutic applications. It’s important to note, however, that it has yet to be approved by the FDA as a treatment for anything other than a few rare forms of epilepsy.
With more and more products like gummies, oral sprays, and vape cartridges entering the market here in the U.S, CBD has become increasingly accessible to the average consumer, however, some still have questions surrounding its legality.
Is CBD Legal?
The legality of CBD largely depends on where it’s derived from. Marijuana-derived CBD inhabits more of a grey area as it’s only legal in states where medical and/or recreational marijuana has been legalized.
Even so, the issue remains that marijuana is still viewed as an illicit substance by federal law.
With that being said, marijuana-derived CBD is currently available for recreational use in these 10 states:
Every other state but Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota has made medical marijuana available through licensed dispensaries. In some states, marijuana-derived CBD may only be available as a treatment for serious diseases, while it may also be used to treat less severe medical conditions in others.
The actual laws and restrictions surrounding its availability as a medical treatment vary significantly from state to state, so you will need to check with a local medical professional to see if you qualify for marijuana-derived CBD in your state.
Hemp-Based CBD & The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018
Unlike with all the grey area surrounding marijuana, which is still a controlled substance on the federal level, CBD derived from the hemp plant can now be legally obtained across the U.S. The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (colloquially known as the 2018 Farm Bill) opened up a number of legal pathways to both cultivate and sell hemp and hemp-derived products across the U.S. (that includes CBD).
One of the most important things the 2018 Farm Bill did in order to make this possible, was to formally remove hemp from the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Section 12619 of the Farm Bill alters the CSA by amending the term marijuana to no longer include plants and products which meet the government’s legal definition of hemp.
Section 297A of the Farm Bill defines hemp as “Any part of that plant [Cannabis sativa L], 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.”
As you can see:
Hemp-based products can, in fact, contain cannabinoids, including CBD and THC. In order to legally qualify as hemp, however, the actual plant or any derivative thereof must have a THC concentration of 0.3% or less.
Ok, so you can make it…but can you ship CBD?
The bill also directly addresses interstate commerce. Section 10114 specifically states that nothing in the bill or any amendments made by it “Prohibits interstate commerce of hemp or hemp products.” It also goes on to say that “No state can prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products that were produced in accordance” with the Farm Bill.
This seems to clearly open up the doors to legally sell and buy hemp-based CBD products online here in the U.S. However, you will want to be extra careful that what you are ordering was produced in accordance with federal (and any local) regulations. The bill also extends to states the right to further regulate hemp production and commerce in their state following approval from the Secretary of Agriculture, so you will want to look into any additional laws that may exist in the state where you live if you are thinking about producing or selling CBD.
What Does The FDA Say About Hemp & CBD?
The FDA released a statement in later December 2018 clarifying their stance on CBD following the passage of The Agricultural Improvement Act. The statement reiterates that with the passage of the bill, hemp and hemp-derived products are indeed no longer an illicit substance.
However, it goes on to state that “the FDA requires a cannabis product (hemp-derived or otherwise) that is marketed with a claim of therapeutic benefit, or with any other disease claim, to be approved by the FDA for its intended use before it may be introduced into interstate commerce.”
Simply put, CBD has not been approved by the FDA as a treatment for anything but a couple of rare epileptic conditions, which just happened in 2018. Ultimately this means that hemp-derived CBD is legal to buy and sell on the open market but it is illegal for advertisers to make any kind of claims about its therapeutic benefits.
That means manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers cannot make any claim that CBD will prevent any disease or help to treat inflammation, sleeplessness, pain or any other sort of condition or ailment.
As a consumer, you want to be especially mindful of what you’re purchasing. All sorts of CBD products make unsubstantiated health claims and unfortunately many of them may fly under the FDA’s radar. Long story short, quality companies will not be making these kinds of claims on their products.
Is CBD a Banned Substance in Athletics?
In addition to becoming available for general consumption, CBD is also no longer a banned substance in most sports-based anti-doping agencies. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) formally removed CBD from its list of banned substances in 2018. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which is the main anti-doping agency here in the U.S., also took CBD off of its prohibited substances list in 2018.
While most athletes are now cleared to take CBD, THC is still a banned substance according to both WADA and USADA. This is potentially problematic for full spectrum CBD products, which also contain small amounts of other cannabinoids including THC. While it’s not enough THC to produce psychoactive effects, it may still be enough to show up on a drug test.
There are however some products that offer CBD in a purified form where all other cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids have been removed. The benefit is that no THC will show up on a drug test when taking CBD isolate. The downside is that there does appear to be clear evidence that CBD is less effective when isolated from the other chemicals found in cannabis. (7)(8)(9)
While there is still some grey area surrounding the legality of marijuana-based CBD, CBD derived from hemp is now legal in all 50 states. It is important to note however that no CBD product, except for Epidiolex, has been approved by the FDA.
That doesn’t mean it’s illegal to buy CBD. What it does mean though, is that there currently isn’t enough evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of CBD as a treatment for anything other than a few rare forms of epilepsy. However, cannabis-based research is rapidly growing as laws and attitudes continue to change and many believe we are just beginning to understand the medical and therapeutic potential of CBD.
- “Does cannabinol protect against adverse psychological effects of THC?”Niesink, J.M., van Laar, M.W. Frontiers in Psychiatry. Oct. 2013.
- Hlozek, T., Uttl, L., Kaderabek, L., Balikova, M., Lhotkova, E, Horsley, R., Novakova, P., Sichova, K., Stefkova, K., Tyls, F., Kuchar, M., Palenicek, T. “Pharmacokinetic and behavioural profile of THC, CBD, and THC+CBD combination after pulmonary, oral, and subcutaneous administration in rats and confirmation of conversion in vivo of CBD to THC” European Neuropsychopharmacology. Feb. 2017
- Johnson, J.R., Burnell-Nugent, M., Lossignol, D., Ganae-Motan, E.D., Potts, R., Fallon, M. “Multicenter, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of THC:CBD Extract and THC Extract in Patients with Intractable Cancer-Related Pain” Journal of Pain and Symptoms Management. Feb. 2010.
- Notcutt, W., Price, M., Miller, R., Newport, S., Phillips, C., Simmons, S., Sansom, C. “Initial experiences with medicinal extracts of cannabis for chronic pain: Results from 34 ‘N of 1’ studies” Anaesthesia. May. 2014.
- Giacoppo, S., Rajan, T.S., Galuppo, M., Pollastro, F., Grassi, G., Bramanti, P., Mazzon, E. “Purified Cannabidiol, the main non-psychotropic component of Cannabis sativa, alone, counteracts neuronal apoptosis in experimental multiple sclerosis” European Review of Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2015.
- Langford, R., Vachova, M., Mares, J., Ratcliffe, S. “A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of THC/CBD oromucosal spray in combination with the existing treatment regimen, in the relief of central neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis” Journal of Neurology. Nov. 2012.
- Russo, E., Guy, G.W. “A tale of two cannabinoids: The therapeutic rationale for combining tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol” Medical Hypotheses. 2006.
- Russo, E.B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects” British Journal of Pharmacology. Jan. 2011.
- Calvi, L., Pentimalli, D., Panseri, S., Giupponi, L., Gemini, F., Beretta, G., Vitali, D., Bruno, M., Zilio, E., Radmila, P., Giorgi, A. “Comprehensive quality evaluation of medical Cannabis sativa L. inflorescence and macerated oils based on HS-SPME coupled to GC–MS and LC-HRMS (q-exactive orbitrap®) approach” Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. 2018.