If recreational marijuana is legal in your state, you can buy it at a store, you’ll drive through 15 pot-leaf billboards on your way to work, and the fragrance will be all over the place. The legalization of cannabidiol, weed’s non-psychoactive brother, is more complicated. CBD (one of the primary components of the cannabis plant, along with THC) is likely readily available wherever you live. It can be found on the shelves of health food stores around the country online, and in pet stores. CBD supplements and oils are being touted as the latest health and wellness panacea, with claims of anti-inflammatory benefits, anxiety relief, and pain relief. CBD can be taken orally or applied topically to relieve aches and pains, which is why Olivia Wilde told the New York Times that she uses it.
Isn’t it legal, then? Perhaps, but perhaps not. It depends on who you ask.
Most CBD oils are hemp-derived, containing less than 0.3 percent THC by definition. (Hemp is cannabis that does not make people high.) However, the Drug Enforcement Administration still classifies “marijuana (cannabis)” as a Schedule, I restricted substance, alongside heroin and methamphetamine.
“Hemp is a made-up word,” said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne. “It has to come inside the criteria of marijuana to be controlled, not just test positive for THC.” When it comes to CBD, these products are derived from a plant that is regulated and banned.”
Tell hemp farmers and wholesalers all around the country that. CBD consumer sales in the United States exceeded $350 million last year. According to some estimates, that value will exceed $1 billion by 2020.
CBD oil is currently available for purchase online in the United States. Gwyneth Paltrow has promoted CBD chocolates as a Mother’s Day gift on Goop. CBD coffee, face oil, shampoo, chocolates, and, of course, vape juice is all available. CBD was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s restricted drugs list earlier this year after the World Health Organization found that it is not dangerous.
Most hemp growers cite the 2014 Farm Bill as proof that their operation is legitimate. There is a provision that allows persons to grow hemp for research through pilot programs linked to universities or state agriculture departments. “Industrial hemp” is defined as any portion of the cannabis plant that has less than 0.3 percent THC. Forty states have enacted legislation establishing pilot projects, and 19 of them are currently operating under the parameters, producing and researching hemp.
But what about the ten states that remain? “You’re committing a crime if you’re cultivating hemp in a state where there isn’t a pilot program,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the US Hemp Roundtable, a group of hemp enterprises, said. “It’s as if you’re Walter White in his trailer, manufacturing meth, even though you’re cultivating hemp with 0.0 percent THC.” It’s absurd, but that’s how the law stands right now.”
The hemp is grown by a grower in a state where the Farm Bill protects hemp is deemed legal. Miller recommends his clients state that their CBD products are made using Farm Bill hemp on the label. Consumers would otherwise have no way of knowing whether or not what they’re buying is legal.
If you’re still with me, here’s another twist: While the Farm Bill authorizes growers to cultivate hemp, the DEA claims that this does not mean they can sell it.
“People are interpreting the Farm Bill in ways that it wasn’t meant to be interpreted,” Payne said. “It doesn’t say, ‘Oh yes, just mass create this item and sell it,'” says the author.
According to hemp growers and advocates, I spoke with, marketing and distribution are implicitly protected in the bill. According to hemp growers and advocates, I spoke with—after all, you can’t evaluate a product’s viability without seeing if anyone wants to buy it. That is not correct, according to the DEA.
I currently reside in California, where marijuana is legal, and CBD is widely available, with many coffee shops including it in lattes. But, according to Payne, if I ordered a CBD product from Colorado, which has a pilot program, and had it shipped to me, I’d be breaking the law.
“Does it mean we’re going to come in and search your residence without a warrant?” Payne burst up laughing. “No, we’ve got greater problems to deal with.” We are in the midst of a nationwide opioid crisis. People believe that (CBD) is a top priority right now, and it’s not the case.”
“If you ask farmers or businesses in Kentucky or Colorado, they will tell you, ‘Yes, we export to all 50 states because it’s legal,'” said Michael Brubeck, CEO of Centuria Natural Foods, the country’s largest processor and seller of CBD hemp oil. “At the very least, it’s tolerated.” It isn’t being followed. According to attorneys from the USDA, DOJ, DEA, and FDA, it is completely prohibited.”
This uncertainty in the law can generate issues. Treatibles, a firm that distributes phytocannabinoid products for dogs, was dropped by Shopify in April. Customers were notified via email and social media. They were encouraged to send letters, citing the 2014 Farm Bill as proof that “phytocannabinoids from hemp are allowed to make and ship over state lines.” (This statement contradicts what the DEA informed me.)
Any future changes to CBD classification (for example, changing it to a medicinal drug, which is not how marijuana is currently classified) would be made either through the formal scheduling process, which involves research and analysis by both the DEA and the FDA or through legislation passed by Congress, according to Payne. “We’re cops, we’re law enforcement,” he continued. “People believe we can just wave a magic wand and make things lawful.”
A three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit sided with the after the DEA developed a new drug code for “marihuana extract” in 2016. It ruled against the Hemp Industries Association in a recent federal court action, and CBD will remain a controlled substance due to the decision. Garrett Graff, the hemp industry’s lawyer, informed me that the court judgment included an exception for Farm Bill hemp, which was “not subject to DEA authority,” according to him.
“The question before this court was whether the Farm Bill and the DEA’s development of a new drug code for marijuana extract were incompatible,” he continued. “The court determined that the two can coexist, but that when they do, the Farm Bill takes precedence. As the hemp business, this is yet another arrow in our quiver.”