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The Odd Legal Status of CBD under Federal Law

Posted by on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 in News, Updates.

As discussed in Chapter 4 of the book, much of the controversy surrounding marijuana’s purported benefits and harms has stemmed from THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid commonly found in the cannabis plant. However, another non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), has been drawing increasing interest, because it purportedly generates its own distinct medical benefits (e.g., in calming seizures) while producing none of the harms attributed to THC (e.g., in impairing driving).

Tapping into this interest, suppliers now produce a variety of products that contain CBD — but very little or no THC — extracted from the cannabis plant. The question (see page 27) is whether these products are still considered “marijuana” for purposes of federal (or state) law.

Under federal law, “marijuana” includes, the flowers, leaves, stems, and germinating seeds of the cannabis plant and any products made from those parts of the plant, regardless of whether they contain THC (see Chapter 2). While this definition is expansive, however, it does not cover all CBD products on the market. In other words, federal law does not consider all CBD products to be prohibited “marijuana.” This may be why some mainstream retail outlets like and Wal-Mart have offered CBD products. 

In this new blog post on Above the Law, here, Hillary Bricken succinctly identifies three scenarios in which CBD products might be legal under federal law:

  1. CBD is made from parts of the plant (e.g., the mature stalks) that are excluded from the definition of marijuana;
  2. CBD is made from industrial hemp lawfully grown under the 2014 Farm Bill; and
  3. CBD is made from lawfully imported industrial hemp.

I recommend anyone interested in the legal status of CBD and the definition of marijuana more generally to read the post.

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