When looking to buy CBD oil for the first time, you may have a lot of questions. CBD products, while increasingly popular, haven’t been around for that long. If you buy or sell CBD, you could be breaking the law. These science lessons can explain why. Do you need a medical marijuana card to buy CBD oil? You're not alone if you've been asking yourself this question! Here, we explain all!
Do You Need A Prescription For CBD Oil?
When looking to buy CBD oil for the first time, you may have a lot of questions. CBD products , while increasingly popular, haven’t been around for that long. Because of this, there are many questions left unanswered.
One of these questions is: do you need a prescription for CBD oil? In short, no , you do not need a CBD prescription from your doctor or another medical authority in order to buy CBD oil. However, there are more layers to this question than meets the eye.
CBD is not currently included on the United States’ list of controlled substances , which catalogs drugs and chemicals regulated by the government. Some controlled substances are outright illegal, like heroin, while some require a prescription, like Xanax.
And while the government does not regulate CBD, another popular cannabinoid is considered a controlled substance: THC, commonly associated with marijuana. THC induces intoxicating side effects, unlike CBD . However, it also aids in a variety of medical conditions . And not too long ago, marijuana was much more illegal than it is today, with patients needing a medical marijuana card to purchase and ingest medical cannabis. One complicating element is that CBD products contain small amounts of THC. So why do you not need a CBD prescription?
The History of Medical Cannabis, in Short
The history of medical cannabis is almost as long as the history of recorded medical conditions. In fact, the first known use of cannabis to treat medical conditions comes from circa 2900 BCE, when Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi wrote about the medicinal properties of cannabis , calling it a very popular medicine.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that THC became stigmatized and eventually outlawed. Cannabis was officially included among the U.S. list of controlled substances in 1970 . It would take over 20 years for one state to fight back against federal cannabis regulations.
California passed Prop. 215 in 1996 , legalizing medical cannabis. Patients suffering from severe or chronic illnesses could receive a medical marijuana card, allowing them to purchase both THC and CBD products from licensed distributors (although THC products were far more popular, as we still didn’t fully understand the CBD compound).
2018: a BOOM in CBD
When answering the question, do you need a prescription for CBD oil , we must look at a variety of factors. For starters, the U.S. government legalized CBD products at the end of 2018 with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill . If you’re wondering why you can buy CBD oil just about anywhere, this bill is why.
However, these legal CBD products can only contain trace amounts of THC, 0.3 percent, or less, to be exact. What happened to all those medical marijuana cardholders who used medical cannabis (containing both CBD and THC) to treat a variety of medical conditions.
Cannabis is legal for recreational use in a handful of states . However, medical marijuana is legal in far more states, many of whom have refused to make the jump to recreational legalization. If you live in a state where medical cannabis is permitted, but recreational cannabis is illegal, do you need a prescription for CBD oil?
If you want to purchase CBD products that contain more than just trace amounts of THC, yes , you would need a prescription (in the form of a medical marijuana card) to purchase THC-heavy CBD products.
What About Other States?
When examining the question do you need a prescription for CBD oil , there are a variety of layers to consider. The most crucial factor might be where you live.
If you live in a state where medical cannabis is legal but recreational cannabis is illegal, you would need a CBD prescription if you want a product that contains high concentrations of both CBD and THC.
But do you need a prescription for CBD oil if you live in a state where both medical and recreational cannabis is legal? And what about states where medical and recreational cannabis are both illegal? Do you need a CBD prescription then?
States with Medical & Recreational Cannabis Laws
Do you need a prescription for CBD oil if you live in a state where both medical and recreational cannabis are legal? No, you do not. If you want CBD products that contain only trace amounts of THC, you can buy CBD oil online or your local stores. If you want CBD products with high amounts of THC, you can go to your local recreational cannabis dispensary.
States where medical and recreational cannabis are legal include:
- District of Columbia (D.C.)
States with Medical Cannabis Laws, but No Recreational Cannabis Laws
Do you need a prescription for CBD oil if you live in a state where medical cannabis is legal, but recreational cannabis is illegal? As we mentioned, you only need a prescription if you wish to buy CBD oil that contains more than 0.3 percent THC. If you want CBD products that contain 0.3 percent THC or less, you can find these products online or at your local stores.
States where medical cannabis is legal but recreational cannabis is illegal include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
States with Neither Medical or Recreational Cannabis Laws
Do you need a prescription for CBD oil if you live in a state where medical cannabis and recreational cannabis are both considered illegal? No, so long as your CBD products only contain trace amounts of THC (0.3 percent or less), in line with the federal 2018 Farm Bill.
States where neither medical or recreational cannabis are legal include:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Epidiolex: The One CBD Prescription
In the eyes of the federal government, THC is still a Schedule I narcotic on the list of controlled substances. This means that the federal government believes THC has no medical use and is unsafe for human consumption.
The federal government used to think this way about all cannabinoids, CBD included. However, prior to passing the 2018 Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex – a medication containing CBD – for prescription use in children suffering from two severe forms of epilepsy.
While you don’t need a prescription to buy CBD oil, there does exist one CBD-based medication. We at CBD Choice believe that there are many more medicinal uses for CBD than currently approved by the federal government, and we should see more prescription CBD uses in the not-so-distant future.
CBD: No Prescription Needed
Because of CBD’s status as a federally-legal substance, you can buy CBD oil online and have it shipped anywhere in the country! Some states have attempted to pass Draconian laws that limit the local sale and supply of CBD products within state lines but remember: you do not need a prescription for CBD oil.
Stay informed on all CBD-related laws , standings, and medical evaluations with CBD Choice. And remember: no matter where you live, you’re entitled to CBD treatment.
Is CBD legal? Here’s what you need to know, according to science
I’ve come upon it in pharmacy chain stores and gas stations. My dog kennel sells CBD (cannabidiol) gummies for pets, and multiple massage spas in the D.C.-metro area offer “CBD-infused relaxation” through lotions, oils and sprays. There are at least four cafes within a 15-minute walk of the White House that sell CBD coffee.
Yet here’s a strange fact about the overnight ubiquity of these products: Selling them is illegal. That’s true even though the 2018 Farm Bill removed legal restrictions on CBD if it’s derived from hemp plants.
What’s equally strange: Buying CBD products is legal…at least sometimes.
This paradox is one of many in America’s long history of both utilizing and criminalizing cannabis. As marijuana, cannabis has been a tool for relaxation, as well as an element of mass incarceration — but also for medical benefits, like to fight the side effects of cancer chemotherapy.
That tension is something two professors and their students are trying to better understand at the University of Connecticut, which launched the nation’s only college course on growing weed earlier this year.
While “there are all sorts of classes to train lawyers to understand cannabis law and programs for medical practitioners to learn how to dispense medical marijuana,” said Gerry Berkowitz, a 20-year professor of plant science who co-runs UConn’s new course, this is the first in decades to focus on questions like: How exactly does this stuff grow and how can we use it?
They’re among many in the U.S. who are peering through the fog of the clinical claims, legal quagmires and social stigma around weed.
Cannabis, which has been cultivated by humans for at least 12,000 years, is “one of the oldest plants on record as having been used for human benefit,” said Shelley Durocher, a UConn research grower who manages the hemp greenhouse for the class. It’s a fascinating plant that occupies a unique space in the natural world, Durocher said, one that has helped shape the modern existence of Western countries like the U.S.
As hemp, its fiber made the sails that carried European colonists across much of the known world. It was so fundamental to America’s foundations that its image was printed on money. George Washington was notoriously bad at growing hemp, though.
“Began to separate the Male from the Female hemp…rather too late,” Washington penned in his diary in August 1765. (We’ll get to why that’s a problem later.)
A cheat guide to CBD
If you’re looking for the abridged version of this story so you can pass your “pot” quiz, here are the main takeaways.
- The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of hemp and its extracts. Hemp, by federal law, cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Anything with more THC is classified as marijuana, is considered a schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration and is federally illegal.
- A hemp crop can accidentally start growing marijuna packed with THC because of pollination and sexual reproduction. (Cannabis plants are typically either male or female). Unexpected pollination can easily happen in outdoor fields, given cannabis plants grow abundantly in the wild and their pollen can travel for miles. If your CBD comes from a marijuana plant, it’s illegal. If your CBD contains too much THC (more than 0.3 percent), it’s illegal.
- The extraction process for CBD and THC is essentially the same. As a consequence, CBD can be contaminated with THC, chemical solvents or pesticides if the extraction is done improperly.
- The only approved health use of CBD is the seizure drug Epidiolex, despite having many other suspected benefits. The FDA prohibits the sale of CBD in any unapproved health products, dietary supplements or food — which literally means everything except for this epilepsy drug.
- If CBD comes from a hemp plant with less than 0.3 percent THC, you can buy it under federal law — but some states still have legal restrictions on the possession of CBD.
Cannabis’ reputation has shifted significantly since then, from vital resource to societal ill to maybe something in between.
Berkowitz and professor Matthew DeBacco launched the class at UConn — called “Horticulture of Cannabis: from Seed to Harvest” — to fill a desperate need in the ever-budding cannabis industry, with U.S. sales expected to reach $80 billion by 2030. Three years ago, another of Berkowitz’s undergrad classes took a field trip to one of Connecticut’s medical marijuana producers.
“The owner said his head grower learned their trade by growing pot in their basement,” Berkowitz said. In pointing this out, he was not trying to throw shade on these employees, but rather emphasizing that many of the growing practices in the marijuana industry aren’t typically standardized nor backed by research.
Which brings us back to those CBD lotions and lattes — and how they can be both legal and illegal.
Due to the way cannabis plants naturally grow and breed, many CBD products in stores contain the same drug that makes marijuana federally illicit — THC or tetrahydrocannabinol.
And even if you make sure that your CBD is pure, some federal agencies and state laws still forbid it — even in places where medical or recreational weed is legal.
So before you add CBD to your routine, it might help us all to head back to school for a few science lessons that explain how cannabis is grown, how the compound is collected, and the ways it might benefit and harm your health.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis has many names, strains and varieties, including hemp and marijuana. But these days, they’re all considered one species: Cannabis sativa.
“Marijuana” is any cannabis plant with abundant amounts — technically, more than 0.3 percent — of the mind-altering drug THC. Though 11 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuna, this version of cannabis remains federally illegal and classified as a schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Hemp,” by contrast, cannot legally contain more than 0.3 percent THC. There are almost no restrictions on the hundreds of other compounds made by the plant, such as terpenes (which are responsible for weed’s “distinctive” aroma).
One noteworthy contradiction in weed law: Marijuana can also produce CBD. If your purified CBD comes from hemp plants, it is federally legal, but if it comes from a marijuana plant, it is illegal. That’s because marijuna plants themselves are prohibited by the DEA.
CBD versus THC
The most obvious hurdles to making pure and legal CBD arise from being unable to tell marijuana and hemp plants apart.
Just try it for yourself:
Hemp versus marijuana. Good luck spotting a difference. Image by Devin Pinckard
“So how do we make a distinction when … basically looking at the plant structure, you really can’t tell the difference?” DeBacco, one of the cannabis course professors, asked us on the campus quad after class (located in the university’s largest lecture hall, due to its popularity).
His answer: “You’ve got to go beyond what they look like to the chemical profiles.”
Scientists suspect cannabinoids protect the plant from UV rays, much like sunscreen does for human skin.
Both THC and CBD are members of a chemical family called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are plants oils, and cannabis comes packed with more than 100 versions of them.
Scientists suspect cannabinoids protect the plant from UV rays, much like sunscreen does for human skin. They think that because up to a quarter of a cannabis plant’s weight can come from just cannabinoids — and cannabinoid levels change with light exposure. “At the top of the plant, you’ll get more cannabinoids, compared to flowers that are at the lower end of the plant,” graduate student Peter Apicella said.
Cannabis makes most of its cannabinoids in its flowers, which are more commonly called “buds.”
“If they don’t get pollinated, the buds will essentially just keep growing and keep producing cannabinoids,” Apicella said.
This is true of both CBD and THC. The only chemical difference between them comes down to a couple of chemical bonds.
CBD and THC are like the “fraternal twins” of plant chemistry. They are basically identical, aside from a couple bond. Image by Adam Sarraf
All cannabinoids start out as a bit of sugar, which hitchhikes around the plants’ enzymes, changing its identity, bit by bit, with each ride. In some cases, this wandering sugar reaches a crossroads, where it can either can bum a ride from one of two enzymes: THC-a synthase or CBD-a synthase. One route leads to becoming THC, the other to becoming CBD.
But in hemp, THC synthase is genetically dormant, Apicella said. As a result, some hemp plants can make loads of CBD because there is no internal competition for making THC.
“With other highly valuable crops — like saffron or vanilla — you get a small percentage of the plant that’s actually usable yield,” Apicella explained. But with hemp, “it’s a huge amount.” Some strains have are upwards of 12 to 15 percent CBD by weight.
How a hemp crop can sometimes become marijuana
Thanks to the “miracle” of reproduction, a hemp crop can start off making only CBD and then unwittingly turn into a THC-laden field of marijuana.
Let’s just say that again because it is a bit mind-blowing. A hemp crop — that is federally legal and only makes CBD — can become marijunana. Studies have found that if two certifiable hemp plants hook up, most of their offspring will be able to make THC. In fact, some of these seedlings will ONLY make THC.
Cannabis is abundant in the wild — meaning an outdoor hemp field is one gust of pollen away from accidentally breeding marijuana.
The wild card for hemp growers is pollination. Most flowering plants boast both male and female parts. They’re hermaphrodites that can mate with themselves. But a cannabis plant is an exception, in that it is almost always either female OR male. And when the plants reproduce sexually, their traits mix and once dormant genes — like those behind THC production — can suddenly be replaced with active versions.
Any biological organism is going to fluctuate — a variable that farmers and growers are always really concerned about, Apicella said.
So to prevent sexual reproduction, UConn’s greenhouse smashes the (cannabis) patriarchy. You don’t want a male in your greenhouse, Apicella said: “If there’s a male, your whole crops can be destroyed.”
So UConn’s greenhouses only grows female hemp plants — all of them are clones. There’s even a small pistil — called a preflower — on young plants that allows horticulturists to identify females without a genetic test.
To grow an all-female group, “you snip a part of a plant off, and you put it in soil with a little rooting hormone and that cutting is actually genetically identical to that first mother plant that you took from,” Apicella explained, raising his arms and pointing to a long row of hemp plants. “So these are all genetically identical to one of the mother plants we have in here.”
Keeping a greenhouse all-female is easy, but it’s a different story growing hemp outdoors.
Cannabis is abundant in the wild — meaning an outdoor hemp field is one gust of pollen away from accidentally breeding marijuana.
The other way that THC can sneak into your CBD bottle
To collect CBD or THC from hemp, farmers harvest the plants and send them to an extractor, who collects the drugs and preps them for sale. The issue is that extracting CBD or THC is essentially the same process. If your supplier does it incorrectly, your CBD bottle might carry an illegal dose of THC.
“It happens all the time,” said Rino Ferrarese, COO of the medical marijuana extractor CT Pharma, who is frustrated by low-quality and tainted products flooding the CBD market. Under Connecticut law, Ferrarese’s company must ensure their products match the labels on their bottles — which they accomplish through pharmaceutical-grade extraction.
Ferrarese said many states across the country do not hold their CBD suppliers to the same standards and federal enforcement is lacking.
Cannabinoids are extracted as oils or resins, which can be gooey. Image by CT Pharma
“What a lot of consumers don’t realize is that the FDA, who’s charged with protecting our safety with respect to food and medicine in the U.S., are not on top of policing those CBD products that you see in the gas station or at the grocery store,” Ferrarese said. “A lot of these products are also not under the purview of departments of public health either.”
As a lark, he and others at the company keep tabs on the sloppy and sometimes illicit products flooding the CBD market. Ferrarese said the results vary widely, and rarely do these products ever meet the claims on their labels.
The math that’s fueling the CBD green rush
A little math can explain why farmers and suppliers are excited about CBD.
To make CBD, farmers can grow up to 4,000 hemp plants in an acre. A single hemp plant can make about a half kilogram of plant material for CBD extraction.
A half kilogram of this cannabis material can yield about 75 grams of CBD, according to Rino Ferrarese, COO of the medical marijuana extractor CT Pharma. That much CBD can make about 350 bottles of lotion, he said, which each typically hold about 200 milligrams of the compound.
That means a single acre of hemp can make about 1.4 million bottles of CBD lotion. If you sell each of those bottles for $30, that’s…a boatload of greenbacks.
“Whenever we see CBD at a gas station or in a retail location, we purchase it and we send it to our independent third-party laboratory,” Ferrarese said. “Sometimes it even contains THC in the bottle when it’s not supposed to. It’s really a crap shoot.”
Extractors can prevent THC from entering a CBD supply. To sap CBD or THC from plant material, all extractions use a chemical solvent. That sounds nefarious, but a solvent is any substance that can dissolve another. Water, for instance, is one of nature’s best solvents — but it wouldn’t be effective for something like this.
“In Connecticut, we’re limited to using only [liquid] carbon dioxide as a solvent for extraction or ethanol as a solvent, Ferrarese said. “In other states, such as Colorado and California, they’re allowed to use solvents like butane.”
Liquid carbon dioxide and ethanol come with distinct advantages. Carbon dioxide is very efficient at stripping cannabinoids from plants, but it must be kept at cold temperatures — -70 degrees Fahrenheit — to stay liquid.
Ethanol extraction, meanwhile, can be conducted at warmer temperatures in a process similar to making liquor, said Kimberly Provera, the operations manager at CT Pharma.
“There is a process called fractional distillation, where you can actually isolate different cannabinoids,” Provera said. “Each cannabinoid will separate based on a specific temperature…so you can isolate just CBD and THC.”
Once the gooey cannabinoids are separated, they add a little heat. The carbon dioxide and ethanol will eventually evaporate, leaving behind pure CBD or THC — but only if the extraction is done properly.
If your supplier makes a mistake, it might taint your CBD with THC — a consequence that can be problematic if your job randomly drug tests. Poor extractions can also leave behind the chemical solvents, which is hazardous in the case of butane, or even pesticides.
“There is a certain consumer expectation that we have here in America when we interact with our products, and cannabis should be no different,” Ferrarese said. “Cannabis, as a consumer packaged good, should have to meet those same standards for purity, identity and composition.”
Before you buy CBD, ask the store how its extracts were made and if they’re validated by a third-party tester.
Why you shouldn’t assume CBD is a cure-all
Raise your hand if you’ve heard someone state a version of the following:
“THC is psychoactive or mind-altering, hence it can make you high and why it is illegal. CBD, meanwhile, isn’t psychoactive.”
That’s not entirely accurate. CBD won’t intoxicate you, but from a neuroscience perspective, CBD is absolutely psychoactive, psychotropic or whatever adjective you want to use to say that it affects the mind and behavior. CBD just affects you differently than THC.
This lack of understanding has led to a lot of misconceptions about CBD, said Joseph Cheer, a neurobiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who specializes in cannabinoids.
The first thing you need to know is that our bodies make their own natural versions of these compounds called endocannabinoids.
Akin to dopamine and serotonin, endocannabinoids can operate like neurotransmitters — the chemical messengers that activate or switch off our nerves. That, in turn, sparks or dampens the electric pulses that create our thoughts, behaviors and movements.
Why hemp seeds and their oils are typically legal
Cannabis pollination causes a plant’s flowers — its buds — to set seed and stop making cannabinoids. Hemp seeds and their oils have essentially zero cannabinoids and are only considered illegal if THC residue lands on them.
Cannabis pollination can also stunt the growth of female plants, which is problematic if you’re cultivating the plant for fibers. George Washington made the mistake of allowing his hemp crop to undergo pollination, and it ruined his harvest.
Our nerves receive those chemical messages through neurotransmitter receptors — think of them like radio antennas. Cannabinoids have two known receptors called CB1 and CB2.
This is where the mental effects of THC and CBD differ. THC makes us high because it has a strong affinity for the CB1 receptor, but CBD is the opposite. CBD does not typically interact with the CB1 receptor…at least not directly. Research shows CBD can elevate the body’s self-made endocannabinoids, and scientists are also hunting for a “hidden” brain receptor for the cannabis extract.
The other evidence that CBD is psychoactive? It can battle seizures.
The FDA has only approved one drug made from CBD: an epilepsy medication named Epidiolex. No one knows for sure how it works, but Cheer and other researchers suspect that Epidiolex tweaks how much calcium can get inside of our nerves.
Without going too far into the particulars, our nerve cells use calcium to carry those electrical pulses throughout the body. If a nerve cell has too much calcium, it will fire electric pulses at too fast a rate, which can cause a state of distress called excitotoxicity.
CBD appears to maintain a healthy balance of calcium in nerve cells, which wards off the electrical overloads and damage that happen during seizures.
Cheer said there is also strong support that CBD reduces anxiety and stymies addiction to opioids and marijuana. It may also offer sleep benefits to patients with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
But FDA approval for these treatments, other medicines like lotions and foods may take years, and “the pace of discovery has already been significantly hindered by the scheduling of the plant,” Cheer said.
Most CBD products are illegal — but only if someone is checking
So if you buy CBD…and it came from a hemp plant…and it’s pure…then you’re in the clear…right? Not quite.
Yes, purchasing CBD is federally legal as long as it doesn’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC, but some state laws have put restrictions on buyers. For example, Virginians can only buy and possess CBD if they have a prescription.
Federal provisions have a blindspot whereby a store can sell as much CBD as it wants, as long it doesn’t make any health claims about its products…
It gets more complicated for sellers.
The FDA has prohibited the sale of CBD in any unapproved health products, dietary supplements or food — which literally means everything except for the drug Epidiolex.
The FDA can officially go after any companies selling or marketing items that make health claims about CBD, especially if those products involve interstate trade of the cannabis extract.
But the agency has limited staff for enforcement. As of this writing, the FDA has only issued warning letters to violators, though it has hinted at pursuing broader enforcement with federal and state partners if the CBD craze continues. Local law enforcement in states like Iowa, Ohio and Texas have also raided hemp and CBD stores this year.
These federal provisions, as written, also have a blindspot whereby a store can sell as much CBD as it wants, as long it doesn’t make any health claims about its products, put it in food nor add it to dietary supplements.
University of Connecticut grad student Peter Apicella works with a cannabis plant in a UConn greenhouse growing THC-free hemp. Photo by Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS via Getty Images
Connecticut’s road to a hemp industry
As PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien has detailed in past reports, marijuana research has been stymied by the plant’s designation as a federally illegal drug. And until recently, the same restrictions have applied to hemp and CBD.
The 2014 Farm Bill was the first piece of national legislation to permit hemp research, both for health and agriculture pilot programs. Last year’s updated law further loosened restrictions and expanded the grants available for such studies.
Connecticut is looking to capitalize. Legislation to start the state’s industrial hemp program was passed rapidly by state officials this spring.
“It solves a lot of issues for us in the state of Connecticut by creating an industry that can be quite lucrative,” said state senator Christine Cohen, who chairs the environmental committee that reviewed the bills. “The Connecticut Farm Bureau has been predicting $37,000 to $150,000 per acre and in gross value.”
Cohen said this green rush could help dairy farmers in Connecticut and across the nation. Nearly 3,000 U.S. dairy farms folded in 2018 alone.
A spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration told the PBS NewsHour that their agency would have a limited role with these infractions. Since the Farm Bill said CBD with less than 0.3 percent THC was no longer a banned substance, it’s no longer under DEA’s purview, a spokesperson said in an email.
“It is now regulated by the FDA, so we refer you to them for this request,” the DEA spokesperson wrote. Another factor: “DEA does not pursue individual users – we focus on larger-scale operations and drug trafficking organizations,” the spokesperson added.
All of this is important for CBD sellers and consumers because the FDA has a mandate to verify the safest dosage for the chemicals that we consume or apply to our bodies — whether they be applied to drugs, food and dietary supplements — under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
The rapid legalization of hemp and CBD has put the FDA in a tough position. Under its mandate, the agency must validate the safety of foods, drugs and dietary supplements. But CBD products are already flooding American stores.
Cheer and the FDA caution “against all of the off-the-shelf CBD products” because the cannabis extract — like any compound you put in your body — can come with adverse side effects.
Human studies have shown that taking CBD can cause liver problems, diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue. Rodent research also suggests CBD can cause harm to male and female reproductive organs.
When it comes to CBD in the U.S., “whatever I tell you today may change significantly a week from today,” Cheer said.
Left: Even if your CBD is pure, some federal agencies and state laws still forbid it — even in places where medical or recreational cannabis is legal. The PBS NewsHour visited the nation’s only college course for growing weed — at the University of Connecticut — to explore the science and legality behind growing hemp to make CBD. Video by Nsikan Akpan and Jamie Leventhal. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post/Getty Images)
Do I Need a Medical Marijuana Card to Buy CBD Oil?
As the push for the legalization of medical marijuana has intensified into one of the more popular topics of discussion in the United States, advocates have been putting increasing pressure on more states to legalize cannabis entirely. Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in only ten states, but as an industry, cannabis has had an incredible year of growth.
This incredible growth has got a lot to do with the increasing popularity of cannabidiol (CBD). The most popular used form of CBD is CBD oil, but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the legality of these products.
Despite the fact that the majority of states have legalized some of, or all forms of cannabis use, on a federal level, the DEA still classifies CBD as a schedule 1 drug. This means that it’s considered to provide no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse. According to the law, this is how the cannabis plant as a whole, including CBD, is classified.
However, at the end of last year, the 2018 Farm Bill was passed which has legalized industrial hemp on a federal level. The act states that industrial hemp and its derivatives (including CBD) are now legal on a federal level. This development is a real game-changer for the CBD industry. But it has added a bit more confusion to the issues surrounding the legality of CBD oil. While cannabis-derived CBD oil is still not legal in all states, hemp-derived CBD oil is now fully legalized.
The Difference Between Cannabis-Derived CBD Oil and Hemp-Derived CBD Oil
Broadly speaking, in the botanical world, there are two kinds of cannabis – hemp plants and drug plants. This differentiation is also often referred to as marijuana and hemp. Both are cannabis plants, but they have very different purposes. Hemp plants are typically grown for fiber and seed oil, while drug plants include non-intoxicating CBD-rich plants and intoxicating THC-rich plants.
Hemp is Cannabis sativa, and marijuana is either Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa. Essentially, hemp is the well-known and legal term for cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC, and marijuana is the well-known and legal term used for cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC.
The main difference between drug plants and hemp plants is the resin content. Industrial hemp plants are low-resin plants, while drug plants are high-resin plants. Initially, the U.S. federal law defined marijuana in terms of its resin content. Here’s the definition of marijuana as encoded in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA):
“The term marihuana means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L. [sic], whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”
So what does all this mean? Well, essentially, certain parts of the cannabis part, including “mature stalk” and “sterilized seed” were exempt from the legal definition of marijuana. Hemp seed oil is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant.
Here’s what you need to understand about the difference between CBD that is hemp derived and CBD that is cannabis/marijuana-derived. Marijuana is harvested for its buds, which include psychoactive properties, like THC, which is known to produce stoned effects. Hemp, on the other hand, is harvested from the stalk and seeds of the crop. These hemp plants don’t contain enough THC to make anyone high. Ultimately, for cannabis to be considered as hemp, it should contain no more than 0.3% THC.
Is Hemp-Derived CBD Oil Legal?
Hemp CBD oil products are legal to purchase without a prescription throughout the U.S and in at least 40 other countries around the world. Essentially, provided that products are made from oil that has been extracted from hemp and not marijuana, you are able to buy it in all 50 states without a doctor’s recommendation or medical marijuana card.
It all boils down to the difference between hemp and marijuana, as explained above. While THC and marijuana are prohibited under federal law, CBD isn’t specifically listed under the Controlled Substances Act. Since the definition of marijuana according to federal law (as stated above), excludes the oil extracted from the seeds, as well as the mature stalks of the plant, hemp CBD is classified as legal. This means that CBD products that are hemp-derived/originate from these parts of the plant aren’t prohibited under federal law.
In 2018, President Trump passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively removed hemp from the list of schedule 1 substances and reclassified it as an “agricultural commodity.” According to the new bill, the law states that if the CBD is derived from hemp and adheres to the below regulations, it’s removed as schedule 1 substance and is considered legal:
- The hemp has less than 0.3% THC
- The hemp adheres to the shared state-federal regulations
- The hemp is grown by a properly licensed grower
The 2018 Farm Bill also withdrew restrictions on the sale, possession, and transportation of hemp-derived CBD products. This means that hemp-derived CBD products can be transported across state lines as long as it adheres to the regulations above.
Is Marijuana-Derived CBD Oil Legal?
This is where things get complicated again. Since marijuana-derived CBD originates from a plant that is still classified as illegal, things are not that straight-forward.
In states where the use of recreational marijuana is legal, like California and Colorado, marijuana-derived CBD is obviously also legal. However, in some states, marijuana is only legal for medicinal purposes. In these states, you are only allowed to use medical marijuana/marijuana-derived CBD under certain conditions, meaning that you would need a medical marijuana card to purchase CBD oil. In other states, marijuana is strictly prohibited, and thus, so is marijuana-derived CBD oil.
There are currently 15 states where cannabis – including both hemp and marijuana – are completely legal for both medicinal and recreational use. These states are:
- New Jersey
- South Dakota
If you are lucky enough to live in one of these states, you are legally allowed to buy any kind of marijuana and CBD products, regardless of where it is derived from.
There are currently 47 states (including the above 10), where marijuana-derived CBD oil is legal for medical purposes. The specific regulations vary from state to state, but most states allow the use of medical marijuana for a broad range of conditions. However, there are those states that set specific requirements for approved use. For instance, the CBD must contain less than a certain percentage of THC, or the patient must suffer from a specific condition.
The specific requirements for a person to use marijuana-derived CBD vary from state to state. Before purchasing CBD oil in any of these states, you are encouraged to research the regulations. In one state, chronic pain may qualify you to obtain a medical marijuana card, and in another state, it may not. This is why it’s important to look into the specific laws for each state.
Final Thoughts: Do You Need an MMJ Card to Buy CBD?
Ultimately, what you should understand from this article is that the legality of CBD oil and whether you will need a medical marijuana card to purchase these products, all comes down to where the CBD is derived from. If the CBD oil is derived from hemp, you are legally able to buy it throughout the United States without a medical marijuana card.
However, if the CBD oil is marijuana-derived things are a little more complex. Unless you live in one of the states where recreational marijuana is legal, you will need a medical marijuana card to purchase marijuana-derived CBD oil. At the end of the day, it’s all about where the CBD oil originates from.