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Cannabis and CBD – legal, or not? 

The law can be a complicated matter, especially in the United States where federal and state law can be conflicting. This has been a significant issue in relation to cannabis, and more recently non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) products. Since the mid-1990s, American states have started to enact marijuana reform, starting with medical cannabis legislation. This has now extended to recreational marijuana, which is now legal in 11 US states as of 2019. 

But with so many different cannabis products available, it’s a struggle for the average marijuana or CBD user to know what’s legal and what isn’t, and what their rights are. In this article, we’ve trawled through federal and state law so you don’t have to, painting a clearer picture of the legality of cannabis in CBD. Most of our focus is on the US, but we’ll also briefly cover the cannabis law in Uruguay, Canada, Europe and beyond. 

We’re going to be answering the following questions, and more:

  • Is cannabis oil legal in all 50 states?
  • Where is cannabis legal?
  • Can you travel with CBD cream, e-liquid and oil?
  • Is CBD oil legal in all 50 states?
  • Can anybody buy recreational marijuana in legal states?

Is cannabis oil legal in all 50 states?

No. While the term ‘cannabis oil’ can technically be used to describe hemp-derived CBD products, it overwhelming refers to cannabis with psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Federal law still classes marijuana as illegal. Indeed, cannabis is under the most restricted Schedule 1 grouping of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). 

However, several states have taken matters into their own hands, making recreational and medicinal cannabis legal. The first to do was California in 1996, when the electorate voted to pass a medical marijuana bill called Proposition 215. The West Coast state set the tone for others to follow, despite there being no change in stance at federal level. Medicinal use of cannabis for epilepsy, chronic pain, chemotherapy symptoms has become more widespread. As of July 2019, 33 states – or two-thirds of the country – has legalized medical marijuana, along with Washington D.C. 

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 

In 2014, Colorado became the first state to approve recreational marijuana. This allowed anyone over the age of 21 to walk into a recreational dispensary and purchase cannabis flower, oil, vape juices and more. This was the first time that any American could legally use cannabis, without a prescription, since the effective prohibition of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont, Nevada and more soon followed, with Illinois the most recent state to legalize in June 2019. To cash in on the soaring demand for potent weed, cannabis plants have become stronger thanks to modern cultivation methods. Although this is not without controversy, as some argue that this disruption of cannabinoids makes pot more dangerous, even more so with the production of high-strength concentrates.

The laws on marijuana vary from state to state. In Colorado, for instance, medicinal users are permitted to have up to 2 ounces of cannabis at any one time. Other states set limits on the amount of THC that is allowed. In Virginia, a medical cannabis dose must have no more than 10mg of THC. Critics say that this restricts the benefits that MMJ can offer to patients. Furthermore, many states limit the conditions where medical cannabis can be offered. This is in contrast to California, where patients can quite easily get hold of an MMJ card. They can then walk into a dispensary and purchase the products that they are entitled to. 

Even in some places where recreational marijuana is legalized, people cannot always access it easily. In Washington D.C., for example, while possession of cannabis is legal, the sale of it is not. 

Benefits of cannabis legalization 

Cannabis legalization is ultimately proving to be a great victory for the American people, in terms of freedom and health. More clinical trials are now vital because of the increased use. This is almost certain to throw up further medicinal uses, which for some conditions, could replace prescription drugs. Cannabis is popular as it causes fewer side effects. Many also report getting benefits from marijuana they weren’t expecting. This could be down to the unique effect that cannabinoids have on the body, by reacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Moreover, while the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has always had the power to override state law and raid dispensaries, attitudes are changing. The US public is now overwhelming supportive of legal marijuana. The social battle for cannabis has been won thanks to states legalization, and the clear medicinal benefits that is bringing. The DEA increasingly has bigger issues to handle, with the opioid crisis, and also the increasing presence of harmful, synthetic drugs.

Federal legalization of cannabis containing THC may still be a way off. Much depends on political circumstances. Although this would likely be a bipartisan issue that Democrats and Republicans could work together on. If cannabis is legalized soon, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would likely want to have a role in product regulation. 

Is CBD oil legal in all 50 states?

Now we have summarized the legal status of cannabis, let’s move onto the chemical compound of CBD, and the industrial hemp plant. This is an area where the federal government has become much more involved in during the 2010s. However, the emergence of a CBD industry was an unintended effect of the legalization of hemp products in 2014. The 2014 farm bill did not mention CBD once. The law simply allowed for the sale of hemp products with less than 0.3 percent THC. Hemp has a number of other uses, such as to make clothing and rope. 

However, this loophole meant that companies started to spring up selling CBD products to all 50 states. While the farm bill suggested there was nothing wrong with this, the Schedule 1 status of CBD as a cannabis-derived substance posed a problem. This was clarified in the 2018 farm bill, which legalized hemp cultivation across the country. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell was a strong advocate for the bill. The Kentucky senator wants to kickstart hemp farming in his own state. Kentucky was big on hemp production before the plant was banned in the 1930s.

Yes, CBD is federally legal  

Therefore, according to federal law, we can now say that CBD is legal in all 50 states. There are very few FDA-approved products, however. Epidiolex is currently the only CBD medicine on the market, and is used to treat epilepsy. The CBD products that the average American citizen can buy are sold as hemp supplements. These work just the same, and are made from natural hemp extracts. 

But it has been up to manufacturers to effectively self-regulate. With the FDA not yet involved, CBD businesses send their hemp oil products to third-party labs for testing and analysis. This system works pretty well, and has served to distinguish reputable businesses from those selling snake oil. When the hemp-derived CBD industry first emerged, some dodgy companies were diluting the CBD, if they were even including it at all. 

CBD products must also be checked because of THC levels. The hemp plant is not THC-free, it just has a very low amount of it. CBD-isolate products are manufactured to have 0% THC. But full-spectrum CBD products are created with full-plant extracts, so may have a small concentration. Providing this is kept within the 0.3% maximum set by recent farm bills, there is no legal problem. 

Taking cannabis or CBD products on planes

Because cannabis remains prohibited at federal level, it’s illegal to take any THC-containing marijuana product on a plane. This still applies if you are travelling between legal states (e.g. California to Colorado). Airports are federal buildings, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) a federal agency that adheres to federal law. By the same logic, it’s not permitted to take cannabis across state lines – again, even between pro-cannabis, legal states. 

The law on taking CBD products on planes is not as clear-cut. But considering the recent changes in CBD law, there shouldn’t be an issue travelling with hemp-derived products. CBD could potentially be very useful for nervous travellers hoping to calm their anxiety before a flight. Products may also help with sleep if going on a long journey. 

A recent TSA update clarified that carrying some CBD oil is now okay. It’s probably best to only travel with the necessary quantity, and not to be using a product that looks too much like cannabis and may arouse suspicion.

The law on cannabis outside of America 

America gets the most attention regarding recreational cannabis, as the first major country where any form of legalization became a reality. But a month prior to Colorado’s new dawn, the South American nation of Uruguay also approved cannabis. However, the country holds a much different perspective, and has not capitalized on its early status as a trailblazer.

While Uruguay has legalized cannabis, it wasn’t out of any affinity for the plant. Rather, the law was to combat health problems and drug-related crimes. The country has never criminalized drug possession at a personal level. Uruguayans can grow up to six plants for personal use, or up to 99 if part of a registered growers’ club. Since 2017, approved pharmacies have been able to sell cannabis at a commercial level.

Canada made headlines in 2018 by passing The Cannabis Act. This made them the first G8 nation to legalize recreational pot. Canada hopes that a legal industry will reduce or eliminate the cannabis black market, and make it more difficult for those underage to get hold of marijuana. Cannabis is legal at 18 or 19 in Canada, slightly younger than in the US. 

Meanwhile, European nations are also getting curious about cannabis. The Netherlands leads the way, decriminalizing marijuana in the 1970s. This has made Amsterdam a hub for weed smokers worldwide. Coffeeshops can sell marijuana to Dutch people and foreigners. Patrons tend to smoke inside, but the police tend to turn an eye to public smokers, providing they aren’t making a nuisance.

CBD in Europe 

CBD is also making its mark in Europe. Some countries, including Switzerland, permit up to 1% THC in CBD products, more than three times the US limit. In the UK, however, the THC threshold is a little lower at 0.2%. There isn’t really any scientific evidence suggesting what the THC limit should be – politicians are just forced to choose a number. 

The UK also recently legalized medical cannabis. However, despite this happening almost a year ago, very few prescriptions are being made. Doctors are hesitant to do so without clinical research. This is likely an indication of the problem other countries will face if and when they legalize, and particularly those with government-run healthcare systems. It also emphasizes just how important more research is in the coming years. Now marijuana is more prevalent, public demand is likely to keep increasing. 

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