Despite the explosion in popularity, there are still lots of unanswered questions concerning cannabidiol (CBD). Many people continue to hear wonderful things, but still want to know exactly what is CBD oil. Making things even more uncertain is the current legal status. Is CBD oil legal or isn’t it?
Compounding the confusion is all the bad or misleading information on product labels and across the interwebs. There’s a ton of money to be made in this industry, and there is far too much unethical marketing being done to trick us consumers.
Plus, the rise in multilevel marketing companies makes it even harder to find unbiased, objective information concerning CBD oil.
As I was preparing for an upcoming interview with Dr Mary Clifton for my podcast, I realized just how confusing this issue is, so I decided to do my best, as a neutral third party, to explain the basics and clear up some of this confusion.
What is cbd oil? Is it even legal? Clearing The Confusion on Cannabidiol
In this article, I will answer many of your questions including:
- What is CBD Oil?
- Will CBD oil make me feel high?
- What’s the difference between CBD, marijuana, cannabis, and hemp?
- Is CBD oil legal?
- How do I find the best CBD oil brands?
You’ll also learn about some pretty nasty additives that may be lurking in your CBD products.
What Is CBD Oil?
To better understand medical marijuana and CBD, we need to know a little bit of background and define a few terms first.
Cannabinoids are compounds found in the cannabis plant. To better understand, it may be helpful to think of essential oils. For example, peppermint essential contains the compound (known as a terpene) menthol. Menthol is one of the compounds that gives peppermint its medicinal value. Menthol is used for various conditions like muscle pain (think Icy Hot) and congestion (think Vick’s Vapor Rub).
While cannabis plants also contain terpenes, it’s the cannabinoids that give them their potential to heal or provide relief of a wide variety of conditions.
The two most known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), but there are actually over a hundred different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Interestingly enough, our bodies also produce cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids.
Terpenes are the aromatic compounds found in plants. More plainly, terpenes give plants their unique scent. The various distinct fragrance of different strains of marijuana and hemp are determined by the terpene profile of the plant. As mentioned above, each terpene has their own unique medicinal value, and different strains of cannabis possess a unique terpene profile.
Tetrahydrocannabinol is the cannabinoid that causes psychoactive effects and produces the feeling of “being high”. THC is villainized for this effect and it’s what led to the criminalization of all cannabis. However, THC does have its own medicinal value, but since it is not widely accessible, this article will not dive much deeper into THC or medical cannabis.
CBD = Cannabidiol
CBD is the second most abundant compound found in the cannabis plant, but unlike THC, it has no psychoactive effects. In other words, you can not get high from CBD.
What Is CBD Oil?
Research on CBD and anecdotal evidence tells us that CBD is an effective treatment for numerous conditions including (but not limited to):
- Gut Disorders
- Neurological Conditions
- Skin Conditions
- And Many More Potential Conditions
Medical Cannabis vs Medical Marijuana
For all intents and purposes, these two terms are the same. They are often used interchangeably, and only available in states who have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.
Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp: What’s The Difference?
Here’s what it gets a little confusing. Marijuana and Hemp are essentially the same plant. They are both made from the same plant family known as cannabis. There are believed to be 3 main species of cannabis plants (sativa, indica, & ruderalis), but selective breeding of these plants has led to variations of cannabis within the same species. This is where you get all the funky names of various cannabis plants (ie OG Kush, Harlequin, and Ringo’s Gift).
Cannabis is hemp, and cannabis is marijuana. (Say what?) The distinction depends on the level of THC produced by the plant. Cannabis with less than 0.3% THC is known as hemp. By the way, hemp and industrial hemp are the same thing.
Cannabis with more than 0.3% THC is known as marijuana, and is not legal in states that have not legalized marijuana.
Hemp = Cannabis plants with less than .3% THC
Marijuana = Cannabis plants with more than .3% THC
As you will learn later, CBD oil made from hemp is legal according to the US Government, but CBD oil made from marijuana is not. (Although, it’s a little more complicated)
What Is CBD Oil?
Many people like to think of CBD oil as the essential oil of the cannabis or hemp plant, but this is not entirely accurate. Cannabidiol is one component of the essential oil from hemp. However, the CBD oil you purchase online or at a storefront is CBD extract that has been processed to remove the THC and, potentially, the other cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant.
Is There CBD In My Hemp Oil?
For those of you that regularly consume hemp food products like hemp oil, seeds/hearts, milk, or protein powder, there is almost zero cannabinoids in those products. These are made from the stalks and seeds of the plant. Cannabinoids are produced by the leaves or flowers of the plant, so the foods you’re consuming are not sources of CBD.
Don’t Be Fooled
Sneaky and unethical companies are using clever marketing to fool consumers into paying more for products. They’ll add hemp oil or hemp seed oil and then adorn the package with cannabis leaves or even the word cannabis to make you think there is CBD in the product. When in fact, there is absolutely no CBD.
Check The Label
According to Healthline.com,
“Hemp seed oil will be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil. Most CBD will be listed as cannabidiol, full-spectrum hemp, hemp oil, PCR (phytocannabinoid rich) or PCR hemp extracts.”
Is CBD Oil Legal?
Many people believe that the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD oil, and that is partially correct. The bill did remove the ban on hemp production and farming. It also removed hemp and its derivatives, including CBD oil, from the controlled substances list.
Hemp is no longer governed under the Controlled Substances Act, but marijuana is still listed as a controlled substance.
The source of your CBD oil determines its legal status. CBD made from industrial hemp is perfectly legal (according to the US Government), but the DEA still considers CBD derived from marijuana to be a controlled substance regardless of the THC content present in the CBD oil.
A Legal Gray Area
Federally, CBD oil made from hemp is 100% legal, and no longer under the jurisdiction of the DEA. However, the 2018 Farm Bill allowed individual states to regulate the production and sale of hemp and hemp products within their borders. This has led to a widespread confusion over the legality of hemp-derived CBD oil, and people are still wondering “is CBD oil legal in my state”?
Many states still consider CBD oil to be unlawful even those that have legalized medical cannabis for certain conditions. Even more confusing, is that within individual states, different cities and local prosecutors view CBD differently.
Grandma Arrested At Disney World
A great example to illustrate the ridiculous and bewildering state surrounding CBD comes from Disney. A 69 year old grandmother was arrested for having a bottle of peppermint CBD oil even though it contained no THC. Having a letter from her doctor did nothing to deter the officer who arrested her.
Charges were eventually dropped, and grandma plans to sue Disney and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
As you can see, there is no definitive answer surrounding the legality of CBD.
What’s A Consumer To Do?
So, what should you do? It’s unlikely that you will be prosecuted if you buy CBD oil online or at a reputable retailer and use it in your home. It’s also highly unlikely that you would be randomly stopped and searched for CBD.
In places where you are subject to bag checks, like theme parks and airports, you may be better off leaving your CBD oil at home unless you really need it. It’s best to keep a note from your doctor with you if you decide to risk bringing your CBD oil.
Honestly, it’s fairly unlikely that you would be prosecuted even if you are caught with CBD oil
“DEA spokesman, Melvin Patterson and Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, the marijuana advocacy group, say they know of no cases where consumers faced legal penalties for buying CBD products online”-Consumer Reports
I think it is fair to assume that consumers purchasing CBD oil from legitimate brick and mortar retailers are reasonably safe from prosecution over CBD oil.
Flying With CBD Oil
TSA has recently stated that it is okay to travel with CBD oil.(-TSA.gov), but even with that statement, you still want to be following the letter of the law within the state you are traveling too.
At the end of this article there are links to 2 websites with listings of the laws in all 50 states. If you want to be 100% certain, I would check those sites and their local laws, check with city your traveling too, and maybe even the airport to see what the current thinking is regarding carrying CBD oil.
Is CBD Oil Legal? In Summary
CBD oil from hemp is federally legal, but states and individual municipalities may feel differently. You’re probably safe to buy and use CBD oil in your own home, but there is a slight risk when traveling or visiting public places with security screenings. -Check local laws to be 100% certain and always have a note from your doctor if possible.
Remember, I am simply a Dad. I am not a lawyer, scientist, or medical professional. I spent 30+ hours learning about cannabidiol, and the info presented here is my best interpretation of the current legal status.
Move Over DEA: The FDA Is Here
While the Drug Enforcement Agency no longer regulates CBD oil made from hemp, the FDA asserts their jurisdiction over cannabidiol under the Food, Drug, & Cosmetics Act. At this time, the FDA has stated that the sale of CBD oil and hemp derived products as supplements or food ingredients is not allowed.
“it’s unlawful under the FD&C Act to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived” -FDA.gov
This doesn’t mean that companies cannot make and sell CBD. It means they cannot make any health related claims about their product. This is why you’ll see most manufactures using words like support, renew, recover, calm, relax, or sleep. This is no different than any other supplement on the market today.
Charlotte’s Web, makers of CBD products, has a blog post on their website titled “Tongue Tied For The RIght Reasons”. In this piece they talk about why they are not answering customer questions with specific detailed information.
“The bottom line – regardless of the amount of research-backed studies on cannabinoids, the FDA could revoke our ability to sell Charlotte Web if they felt we were speaking too specifically about the way our proprietary extract may benefit your health. And with that, we’ve nearly said too much.” -Charlettesweb.com
Wild Wild West
Since CBD oil made from hemp was removed from the controlled substance list and transport across state lines is allowed, there has been an explosion of products hitting the market.
Despite the FDAs ban on marketing hemp derived products, like CBD oil, as supplements there is little regulation on these products. This has led to a flurry of poor quality, misleading products many of which downright lie about what is actually in the bottle.
What’s Really In The Bottle?
A 2017 study on label accuracy revealed some startling findings. 84 products were purchased from 31 different companies.
Amazingly, only 26 samples contained the amount of CBD claimed on the label. 25% of the samples had less than what was on the label. Making things worse, 18 samples had potentially intoxicating levels of THC as well. (-JAMA)
The FDA also discovered several CBD products that contained no cannabidiol at all.
Several CBD manufactures are adding ingredients that will trick you into thinking the CBD is actually working. For instance, melatonin is added to make you feel relaxed and fall asleep easier. The unknowing consumer then assumes the CBD oil helped them relax.
Other additions like Viagra, pain-killers, or even THC is added to CBD products in order to trick consumers. This has led legitimate CBD producers to call for stricter regulations.
The FDA is currently accepting public comments on how they should be regulating cannabinoids and CBD. (comment period closed July 02, 2019)
At the end of this article, you’ll find a link to make a public comment to the FDA if you wish to contribute.
How To Find A Good Source of Cannabidiol and CBD Oil
The first recommendation on sourcing CBD is to only buy products made from American grown hemp. Products imported into the US are more likely to be contaminated with heavy metals. The hemp plant is very good at pulling metal from the soil. In fact, it’s used to clean up toxic sites.
These metals can then be concentrated in CBD oils and derivatives, so it’s best to buy American made. Furthermore, look for organically grown as well.
If you want to take it a step further, chose companies that grow their hemp in states where marijuana is legalized. These states typically have higher standards, which makes for a better quality product.
Look for CBD oil that is a “full spectrum” product as opposed to an isolate. A CBD isolate contains only CBD and no other compounds. You would think this is a good thing. However, CBD may be more beneficial when it works synergistically with the other compounds found in the plant.
The “Entourage Effect” is the term used to describe how the different cannabinoids and terpenes in the hemp plant work like a team. These different components serve different purposes. Some mitigate potential side effects while others open up pathways allowing the cannabinoids to do their thing.
“The terpene myrcene, for example, can reduce resistance in the blood-brain barrier, enabling easier passage of other beneficial chemicals. Pinene helps counteract compromised cognition and memory caused by THC.
A combination of terpenes pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene help unravel anxiety. Mixing terpenes linalool and limonene with the cannabinoid CBG shows promise in the treatment of MRSA. THC plus CBN yields enhanced sedating effects.
Linalool and limonene combined with CBD is being examined as an anti-acne treatment.” -Leafy.com
The Problem With Isolates
CBD isolates still have therapeutic value, but you may need a higher dose to produce a desired effect. Also, when you isolate plant compounds in large doses, you create more opportunity for side effects.
For this reason, many recommend full spectrum CBD oil. On the flip side, if you are worried about failing a drug test, a CBD isolate would be better for you as it contains no THC.
Similar to essential oils, there are several ways to extract the CBD oil from the cannabis plant. CO2, ethanol, or chemical solvent extraction using something like butane or hexane. CO2 and ethanol are cleaner and gentler ways to extract the CBD.
When the oils are not properly extracted there can be lost of residual chemicals left, so it’s best to find a ethanol or CO2 extraction method.
According to CBD formulator and researcher, Taylor Bright:
“you’ll see all sorts of residual solvents, butane included, where you are–because even in all the processes including CO2, ethanol and butane, they end up in some form of alcohol, whether it’d be hexane, heptane or some sort of organic solvent, the hexane, heptane, ethanol. And if you don’t pull that off properly and you don’t test for it at the end, you’re just ingesting all those chemicals, which is obviously not what it’s looking.” -Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast
Pathogenic microbes are everywhere, and hemp and its derivatives are not safe from things like bacteria and fungus. In fact, mold is one of the most common contaminants in CBD products. Unfortunately, there is little regulation on these products and requirements on microbial testing are minimal.
Good news; some companies do test for bacteria and fungal contamination. Of course, you’re probably better off going with one of those.
Is Your Head Spinning? Don’t Worry
So far, I’ve given you several questions to answer when looking for a good source of CBD oil. These include:
- How do you know the amount of CBD in the bottle is the same as the label indicates?
- Is the product a full spectrum or isolate and if it claims to be a “full or broad spectrum” are there other cannabinoids and/or terpenes present?
- Is the product free of heavy metals, microbes, and pesticides?
- Are there any residual solvents from the extraction process?
If you’re thinking this is way too much for me to figure out, it’s way too complicated. Actually, there is an easy way to figure out if a company or specific CBD oil, is any good. Look for their batch reports.
If they are not publically available on their website, contact the company and ask to see a sample report. If they refuse, time to move to a different company.
Batch Reports What To Look For
First and foremost, you want to look and make sure the amount of CBD on the report is the same as that on the label.
Then, look to see if there are any other cannabinoids present. Some of the most common cannabinoids other than CBD and THC include: CBG, CBGa, CBC, CBDa, CBDV, CBN, CBDVA, THCV, THCA.
Also, take a look at the terpene profile. Remember, different terpenes are good for different things. If a CBD is not working, it may simply be that you need to try a different plant with a different terpene profile.
Research is still too early to say exactly which combinations are best for specific conditions, so don’t stress too much about knowing these different terpenes & cannabinoids. Just look to see if there are any present. If only CBD is listed, then you may be dealing with an isolate.
In some cases, you may see a company advertising as full spectrum, broad spectrum, or whole plant, but upon looking at the batch report, no other cannabinoids or terpenes are detected.
For instance, the company Green Roads claims to be a broad spectrum, yet it you look at their batch report, you can see there are no detectable levels of cannabinoids or terpenes. I have contacted Green Roads for clarification on this, and I will update this post if/when I hear back.
*Find a link to this Green Roads batch report at the end of this article.
Some companies provide their batch reports, but their testing is limited to their cannabinoid spectrum. Most do not test for solvent, pesticide residue , heavy metals, or mycotoxins (ie mold toxins).
If you want the highest quality and cleanest product, you may want to choose companies that do test for these residues and provide the results to customers.
Friends May Not Be The Best Sources
At this point, I’m sure you probably have a friend, family member, or coworker who justs boasts about how great CBD oil is. They may even claim it as a cure all. While this can be a wonderful source of anecdotal proof, be cautious.
The Rise Of CBD MLM Companies
With the burst in CBD companies and products, there has been an increase in multi-level marketing companies using their army of consumers to sell their product. I am not making any product determinations simply based on the fact that the company is an MLM.
In fact, I was an avid fan of Young Living Oils for years before I found Plant Therapy Essential Oils. Young Living makes a great product, but I always hated that it was an MLM. I felt like the people recommending certain oils were always recommending the more expensive oils and pushing you to sign up for recurring purchases.
Therefore, be weary of CBD companies who are also MLMs, and I strongly advise you to do your due diligence.
Your friend or family member may be earning some extra cash or maybe even a full time living selling CBD oil. You still want to take a look at those batch reports no matter what the salesman or sorry, your friend is claiming.
The advocacy group, Project CBD, has listed 10 tips for buying CBD oil. You can find that link at the bottom of this article.
What is cbd oil? Is it even legal? Clearing The Confusion on Cannabidiol
CBD oil is legal in most places, but check your local laws to be absolutely certain. You are fairly safe to buy and use CBD oil without worry of prosecution.
When buying CBD products, buy American grown, preferably organic. Most importantly, make sure you check out the batch reports, so you know exactly what you are getting.
The world of cannabis, cannabidiol, and CBD oil is confusing and ever evolving. Hopefully, this article helped clear things up a little bit. Keep in mind the legal status of CBD is dynamic and subject to change.
As of June 2019, the information presented in this article is up to date and relevant.
Is CBD Legal In Your State: Check Local Laws:
Sample Batch Reports