The short answer is, yes, CBD oil is legal in the U.S., as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill.

This bill makes the distinction between two varieties of Cannabis sativa plants, hemp and marijuana. Both plants produce CBD, but marijuana also produces high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical that makes marijuana users feel high.

For many years, hemp and marijuana were lumped together under the cannabis umbrella as a Schedule I controlled substance, making them illegal and creating confusion about the effects and uses of CBD and THC.

The 2018 Farm Bill reclassified industrial hemp, making it legal to grow, manufacture, possess, and sell hemp and hemp-derived products at the federal level. However, there are some caveats.

The bill’s language defines hemp as any cannabis sativa plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Cannabis plants containing more than 0.3 percent THC are considered marijuana, which is still illegal at the federal level. Therefore, CBD oil is only legal at the federal level if it is made from hemp and contains less than 0.3 percent THC.

However, individual states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use may also allow marijuana-derived CBD oil that contains higher amounts of THC. Conversely, there are a few states in which all CBD oil, even if it’s hemp-derived, is still prohibited. This makes for a complicated patchwork of laws, and means that the answer to whether CBD oil is legal may depend on where you are.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that, with the exception of the CBD-based medication Epidiolex, hemp-derived products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that the CBD industry bears the responsibility for manufacturing and labeling products according to federal laws. This has resulted in CBD oil products that contain more than the advertised and legal amounts of THC.

In order to make sure the CBD oil you are using complies with federal and state laws, we recommend purchasing from reputable companies that have their products third-party tested, and publish their test results. This is an added assurance that products contain only legal amounts of THC.

How exactly did hemp’s legal status get so complicated? Here is a brief look at the history of cannabis in the U.S.

Pre-20th CenturyOne of civilization’s oldest cultivated crops, hemp was grown in North America for centuries, first by indigenous peoples, and then by European colonists. Hemp’s strong fibers were used for cloth, rope, paper, and more.
Early 20th CenturyAs more Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s, they brought with them their customs of using hemp’s cousin, marijuana, for its medicinal and calming benefits. Prejudice and public health concerns prompted a movement to criminalize all cannabis, including hemp.
1937This smear campaign against cannabis culminated in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively banned the cultivation of hemp and marijuana in the U.S., despite their different uses and effects.
1970The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 replaced the Marihuana Tax Act, classifying all cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, defined as having “no currently accepted medical use… a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”
1990s-2010sCannabis supporters continued to push for reclassification of hemp and marijuana, mainly based on their medicinal uses. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical uses.
2014The 2014 Farm Bill created a legal framework for Hemp Pilot Programs, which allowed farmers to cultivate industrial hemp without a permit from the DEA. This allowed CBD proponents to take the first steps towards wider production of CBD oil products.
2018The 2018 Farm Bill expanded hemp cultivation beyond pilot programs. It also removed restrictions on the sale, transport, and possession of hemp products throughout all 50 states, as long as the products meet federal guidelines.

While hemp and hemp-derived products are technically legal in all 50 states, some states have laws on the books that contradict federal laws. All information is current as of the time of publication.

HEMP-DERIVED CBD OIL MARIJUANA-SOURCED CBD OIL
STATEMEDICAL USERECREATIONAL USEMEDICAL USERECREATIONAL USE
AlabamaLegalLegalLegalIllegal
AlaskaLegalLegalLegalLegal
ArizonaLegalLegalUnclearIllegal
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NebraskaUnclear**Unclear**IllegalIllegal
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WashingtonLegalLegalLegalLegal
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West VirginiaLegalLegalLegalIllegal
WisconsinLegalLegalLegalIllegal
WyomingLegalLegalLegalIllegal

*In 2020, Iowa legalized hemp cultivation at the state level, but language is still pending about the legality of OTC CBD products.

**In 2020, Nebraska legalized hemp cultivation at the state level, but language is still pending about the legality of OTC CBD products.

IV. Additional Resources