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Home » Blog » Hemp Education » Is CBD Legal? Can CBD Possession Land You in Legal Trouble?

Is CBD Legal? Can CBD Possession Land You in Legal Trouble?


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Is that small 2-ounce bottle of cannabis oil in your purse or jeans pocket legal? Are you breaking the law by having it in your possession? Simply put, is CBD legal? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t black and white, and the answer lies in the proverbial grey area. The answer primarily depends on your state of residency (applicable in the United States). We’ll do our best to explain the legality of CBD for medical and recreational users.

The Legal Status of CBD

The legal standing of CBD is utterly confusing. Quite honestly, we think it’s astoundingly ridiculous that such a beneficial and natural compound is compared to narcotics like heroin. CBD has been shown in a study 1, for example, to improve blood circulation in the brain. Yet, to the “educated” politicians, CBD is bad because it supposedly gets you high, even though it really doesn’t.

Nevertheless, all we can do is educate and inform.

Ask a dozen people if CBD is legal, and you’ll get a dozen answers. The short answer is “yes,” though we can’t just leave it at that because it’s a tad more complex.

CBD extract is legal for medical and recreational use in the U.S. as long as the product contains below 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that gives you that sensation of being high. THC is the main reason cannabis is illegal in the first place. While CBD and THC share some beneficial properties, the former does NOT cause the off-the-wall high feeling.

In essence, CBD should not be confused with THC. Both are forms of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. There are, by the way, an estimated 85 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant. THC and CBD are simply the more well-known and documented of the bunch.

CBD from Hemp

Due to the THC factor, most CBD extracts are derived from hemp, a cannabis species under the cannabis sativa L. genus. Hemp contains very little traces of THC, hence why the bulk of CBD extracts come from this source. More specifically, it’s derived from the stalks and fibers of the plant, whereas THC is primarily found in the plant’s leaves, resin, and flowering tops.

The Laws Become a Bit Muddled

We just established that CBD extract is legal as long as it contains below 0.3% THC. While that is the widely accepted definition under federal law, the legal definition does get a bit murky. In December 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a rule regarding CBD. The new rule is found in the Federal Registrar under item 21 CFR Part 1308. The rule states that all CBD extracts are classified as Schedule I substances. All Schedule I substances are illegal under federal law. This includes CBD extracts derived from hemp.

What’s the DEA’s explanation for this? According to DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg:

“For practical purposes, all extracts that contain CBD will also contain at least small amounts of other cannabinoids. However, if it were possible to produce from the cannabis plant an extract that contained only CBD and no other cannabinoids, such as extract would fall within the new drug code.”

This means even if a pure CBD product contains 0% THC and 0% other cannabinoids, it would still be federally illegal. Do you have a hemp-derived CBD oil in your car? The DEA can technically put you in cuffs for the violation.

In fact, the DEA has abused its authority by doing exactly just that. In Indiana, police raided a store for carrying CBD oil, despite the oil being tested and confirmed to have 0.0% THC.

Many state-level attorneys have lambasted the DEA. Robert Hoban, a Colorado-based cannabis lawyer has challenged the DEA’s stance as unlawful. He points out that the DEA can only reinforce the laws in the books, not create them or interpret them according to their own terms. Hoban goes further, stating that what the DEA is doing is also putting thousands of jobs in the industry at risk.

So, Is It Legal or Not?

Are you confused? We are a bit confused, too. Federal governing entities are all over the place on this and it’s frustrating for users and suppliers alike. Is it legal? Yes? No? While it’s technically illegal under the DEA’s definition, there are safeguards in place that protect growers and users. These protections are state-specific, so you would have to refer to your state laws regarding CBD use and possession.

Individual state protections from federal intrusion is protected under the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, signed into law in 2014. The bill prohibits federal authorities (i.e. DEA) from interfering with state-level cannabis laws. The law was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court when the amendment was challenged by federal prosecutors.

States Determine Legality of CBD

Currently, 28 states have legalized the use of medical cannabis. Another 16 states also permit the possession of “non-intoxicating” CBD products by patients and their caregivers.

It should be noted, though, that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment must be renewed every year. If it expires, then state protections vanish, and the DEA has free reign to bust anyone for possession.

So, is it legal in your state? If so, what is the extent regarding use, possession, and distribution? This post would expand another 200 pages if we were to discuss the laws for all 50 states. Visit Americans for Safe Access to see the specific cannabis laws by state.

Buy CBD Extract from a Reputable Source

Regardless of state mandates, we always urge users to err on the side of caution. This is why we strongly recommend only buying from an established and reputable site. At The Universal Plant, we only recommend products that meet the original definition of legal CBD. This means hemp-derived with THC concentrations below 0.3%. CBD extracts at CBD Pure have met these requirements, hence why they have our backing.

To know whether CBD is legal or not, refer to your state’s laws. Both federal and state laws also update frequently, so keep that in mind in case you’re reading this post a year or two from its publication.

Medical References

Crippa J, Zuardi A, Garrido G, et al. Effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on regional cerebral blood flow. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004;29(2):417-426. [PubMed]
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Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker has a degree in Neuroscience from Duke University, and is the research writer for The Universal Plant. He has dedicated his life to helping men and women around the world educate themselves and take action to improve their health with natural plant-based and nutrient therapies. Follow him on Instagram @_christopherwalker

One thought on “Is CBD Legal? Can CBD Possession Land You in Legal Trouble?”

  1. What about possession of hemp flower ..via mail order from oregon.with a the content at or under..[.03%] in Texas for personal use?

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