The legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in the US is a pretty clear-cut situation: it’s legal in certain states, and illegal in others and at the federal level. Hemp, on the other hand, is a much murkier situation. This plant is a useful cousin, and the main ingredient in CBD Oil, which is increasing in popularity to treat a wide range of symptoms and ailments.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a varietal of the cannabis plant that’s legally required to contain less than 0.3% THC. Hemp is actually one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world, with evidence of widespread use and cultivation as early as the neolithic age in China. In the United States, hemp was one of the earliest cash crops in the colonies and was grown by George Washington, who defined it as “a highly profitable fiber crop” in his personal diary.
How is Hemp Used?
Certain parts of the hemp plant, such as the seeds, have a high nutritional value and can be processed into food products with a high protein and iron content. Hemp stems and leaves are highly fibrous, making them ideal to process into rope, textiles, clothing, bioplastics, and even biofuel and sustainable building materials.
The seeds can also be processed into hemp oil, which can be used orally or topically to provide relief from a variety of medical issues. Hemp seeds also produce hemp hearts and hemp sprouts, which are edible, delicious, and highly nutritious! Hemp hearts can be used in ways similar to chia or flax, while hemp sprouts are a great alternative for bean sprouts and soy. Hemp hearts and sprouts are extremely nutritious: they’re high in protein, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and minerals.
One of the most popular uses of hemp at the moment is the extraction of cannabidiol, or CBD, for topical and oral use. CBD, like THC, is a compound exclusively found in cannabis plants that can be used for medicinal purposes. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a “high,” but can have some anti-inflammatory and relaxation effects.
Is Hemp Legal?
In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act made the cultivation of all marijuana plants illegal, and this was further strengthened in 1970’s Controlled Substances Act. Hemp was not legally distinguished from breeds of cannabis used to produce marijuana, with higher THC content. This made this useful plant effectively illegal despite the fact that it doesn’t contain enough THC to cause a “high” or be used as a drug in any way.
The 2018 Farm Bill made a huge change for the legalization of hemp. This bill specifically allowed for the growth of “industrial hemp” for limited purposes, with the ability to transport qualifying products over state lines with no restrictions. It also provides protections for farmers that are traditionally reserved for other crops, meaning hemp farmers are eligible for federal protections against crop losses (that are traditionally reserved for other food and textile crops).
However, this hemp legalization comes with strict regulation. The Farm Bill’s protections are limited to breeds of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC and products derived from these breeds. In order for a state to begin farming hemp with an appropriate licensing and regulation program, the state’s governor and chief law enforcement officer have to submit a plan to the USDA for approval.
Because of the complex regulations around hemp, it will likely remain a commercial crop cultivated on large farms—it will likely be years before we see hemp growing on small farms and in backyard gardens.
Is CBD Legal?
While hemp legalization opened up wide avenues for commercial production of hemp and hemp-derived products, to say that the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD would be false. Most CBD consumer products exist in a legal grey area.
Technically, isolated cannabinoids, like CBD, are still schedule I drugs. However, most CBD contains less THC than the 0.3% threshold, meaning it is legal under the bill. Certain states still consider all CBD oils to be a drug.
In terms of consumption of CBD, the FDA has published extensive information on their current stance on CBD, despite the fact that they have not yet approved any over-the-counter or consumer products containing CBD. There has been one FDA-approved prescription drug containing CBD, called Epidiolex, for the treatment of seizures. This lack of approval is because the required research on CBD, its effects, and its benefits simply has not been done.
Because the FDA has not officially approved CBD consumer products, it is impossible to verify the quality, purity, and effects of most CBD on the market. It then becomes the consumer’s responsibility to research their products and the manufacturer to make sure that they’re reputable. Any commercially available CBD can be legally sold as long as it meets the required definitions for a hemp product and complies with the Food, Drug, & Cosmetics (FD&C) Act.
The Future of Hemp Legalization
Already, CBD and hemp-derived products are becoming consumer favorites, with everything from gummies, seltzer water, and sneakers made from hemp derivatives flying off shelves. As CBD becomes more popular, more and more research emerges around the safety and efficacy of CBD. It’s likely that the FDA will begin approving consumer products at the federal level in the near future. In anticipation of widespread federal approval, a large number of major brands, including Starbucks and PepsiCo, are rumored to be developing CBD beverages to be launched in mainstream retail environments.
Is hemp legal?
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and hemp-derived products were legalized in the US. In this bill, hemp is defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3% of THC.
Is CBD legal?
CBD is legal at the federal level in the United States under the 2018 Farm Bill provided that it meets certain conditions: (1) it contains less than 0.3% THC and (2) it complies with all requirements set forth in the FD&C Act for consumable products. Some states more strictly regulate CBD and all related products.