In the CBD industry, there is always a lot to keep up with. Laws seem to be changing left, right, and centre, and it’s really all a bit of a mess. At one point, this niche supplement was thought to be at least a little bit illegal, but now most people are aware that this is not the case.
CBD food supplements are completely legal in the UK, appearing in health food shops like Holland & Barrett, in pharmacies like Lloyds and Boots, and in your best friend’s mother’s medicine cabinet. The boom in popularity experienced by CBD has meant that less people are afraid to use it; education is spreading.
Now, most people are aware that any CBD is legal as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC and is not intended to be a medicine. But it still occupies a slight grey area, especially in the United States. While the UK’s laws on CBD are unified (even in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), all 50 states seem to have different opinions on this mysterious compound.
Laws overseas are changing just as fast as they are here, but things are even more complicated in America. So, let’s take a look at the CBD situation in the states, and see if things are set to change.
American Law on Hemp: The 2018 Farm Bill
Just like in Great Britain, cannabis plants were illegal in the United States for a long period of time, beginning in the early 1900s. This prohibition included hemp, too, perhaps erroneously. Despite the fact that hemp is non-psychoactive, it was banned due to its inclusion in the Cannabis sativa genus of plants; its prohibition was backed by cotton and paper companies who wanted to push their alternatives to hemp.
Since then, both the U.S. and the UK have been growing hemp. The UK is actually the world’s largest exporter of legal cannabis, despite the fact that marijuana is illegal and hemp is restricted. Until recently, you had to pay for and be granted a license to grow hemp in both countries.
However, the 2018 Farm Bill recently allowed the cultivation of hemp throughout the United States. As such, farmers anywhere in the states can now grow hemp as part of their crop. Mitch McConnell, a Republican responsible for pushing this bill, believes that hemp could replace tobacco as Kentucky’s most important cash crop.
But the Farm Bill did not just legalise hemp. It also says that “hemp-derived products” are legal – including cannabinoid products, providing that they contain less than 0.3% THC. Theoretically, this means that CBD products are now legal throughout the United States.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that CBD is accepted.
So, is CBD Legal in the U.S.?
Just like here in Great Britain, you’re bound to see CBD in a variety of places throughout America. Especially in big cities.
Even before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD was becoming a popular alternative to many other products. It was common to see it in health shops, pharmacies, apothecaries, and even restaurants, bars and cafes. CBD coffee and CBD beer are definitely proving to be popular products, and savvy entrepreneurs were quick to act on this business.
Now that the Farm Bill is officially law, CBD is technically legal everywhere. Businesses have to be extremely careful, though, because some state governments organise crackdowns on CBD businesses, searching for products over the THC limit. Unfortunately, gleaning CBD from hemp is not a straight-cut system, and sometimes THC ends up in the final product. As a result, some products unwittingly cross that 0.3% threshold and enter illegality.
For this reason, you have to be careful. Of course, some states now allow recreational marijuana use for those over the age of 21, and so the laws are likely to be much more lenient in these states. But there are also extremely conservative states which will be much stricter.
As you can see, the matter is complicated and largely depends on which state you are in. In black-and-white terms, CBD is legal as long as the THC content is minimal.
But there’s another caveat. CBD food products – such as CBD beverages and CBD edibles – are actually illegal under federal law. Great, another complication!
The Grey Area: Why is CBD Everywhere?
After the Farm Bill passed, it became clear that the vague language was not enough to determine once and for all where CBD stood. Producers and consumers alike have absolutely no idea what the truth is, and even law enforcement agencies are a little confused. So, what are we to do?
Until the law is settled – which apparently could take years – everybody will simply be forced to keep track of the conversation.
On June 16, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) published a document called: What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD. The document states: “We are aware that there may be some products on the market that add CBD to a food or label CBD as a dietary supplement. Under federal law, it is currently illegal to market CBD this way.”
And yet the FDA has been turning a blind eye to the sale of these products. There are thousands of CBD brands selling products online, and huge brands are even opening themselves up to the market. While Budweiser plans to make a CBD drink, Ben & Jerry’s are intending to infuse ice creams with the supplement.
Quite obviously, there has been no legal action taken whatsoever. And that’s because the FDA says it’s still conducting research. It has declared CBD as unsafe because it is unaware of its effects; but if the World Health Organisation has declared CBD to be safe, then why is America’s FDA being so slow to act?
Right Now, It’s Up to Individual States
Until the FDA makes a decision, individual states are allowed to make their own laws on CBD. Unfortunately, many of them are seeking guidance and are afraid to take a stance for themselves.
Here are some things we do know:
- Indiana, Utah, Texas, and Florida allow the sale of CBD products. However, a QR code is required that allows consumers to trace the products and view lab reports on potency and ingredients.
- In Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Sitt approved a bill which has laid out labelling requirements for CBD and hemp extracts.
- In Florida, a state hemp program has gone into effect (as of July 1) which details licensing requirements, as well as a framework for dealing with violations and enforcement in the sale of CBD products.
- New York City has banned the sale of food and drinks containing CBD. Businesses have until October 1 to remove all CBD products from their menus, or they risk incurring a fine ranging from $250 to $600.
The fact that some states are making definitive decisions is reassuring, but there is nothing to say that things will stay this way. For that reason, it is important for the FDA to act.
Why the FDA Needs to Act on CBD
Right now, the CBD industry is unregulated. Not only does this damage the reputation of the compound, but it also puts consumers at risk. The lack of education, combined with legal confusion and a desperation to make money, means that scam products are absolutely everywhere in this market. Consumers run the risk of buying products with undisclosed ingredients, traces of chemical fertilisers from poorly grown hemp, and falsely claimed cannabinoid contents.
Currently, the FDA needs to individually allow the sale of each and every CBD product, and it’s impossible. The workload is causing the organisation to turn a blind eye to the CBD industry entirely.
But there is a solution.
The FDA simply needs to issue a statement that CBD is safe and can be added to foods, whilst also implementing a few guidelines that companies must adhere to. For example, it could require third-party lab testing, give guidelines for labelling information, and provide a bullet-point list about what counts as good manufacturing practices for CBD.
Of course, it would also need to be made clear what happens in the event of a violation. A fine would probably suffice.
It cannot be denied that CBD needs to act quickly and make a decision – people’s health and livelihoods are counting on it.
Final Thoughts on CBD in the U.S.
When it comes to CBD, everything is completely up in the air. Even here, in Great Britain, there are too many grey areas and loopholes, and we are in desperate need of someone to take charge.
But in America, the situation is worse. States are under threat from federal laws that don’t allow CBD in food, but they also have the capacity to make their own decisions about what is and isn’t allowed. This just adds to the pandemonium, and it’s no wonder that all this is hindering the CBD industry from reaching its full potential
Hopefully, the FDA will come to a conclusion about CBD soon enough – and we desperately hope it’s the right one. For now, we can only turn to organisations who have already had a say on the matter, such as the WHO.
For more information on the difference between UK and U.S. laws regarding CBD, check out our other article here; we give a run-down on CBD attitudes in all 50 states.