As a result of several states having legalized marijuana, the cannabis industry is booming. Between medical marijuana licenses, laxer laws on recreational use spreading throughout the country and over-the-counter CBD products being sold in convenience stores, many feel that it is only a matter of time before marijuana becomes legalized on a federal level.
Despite the ever-growing popularity of various cannabis products and the countless medical studies verifying several claims about this substance’s therapeutic properties, the legality of growing hemp has remained unclear to many. However, new legislation is about to change all of that.
What is CBD and Is It Legal?
Technically, CBD is a substance that is perfectly legal to purchase and consume. CBD is a cannabinoid that’s isolated and extracted from the cannabis plant. This cannabinoid has been found to have the potential to treat a wide range of common ailments. Many people now self-dose with CBD to treat migraine headaches, arthritis, anxiety, depression and more.
Up until recently, medical researchers were unable to figure out what it is about CBD that caused all these anecdotal reports of positive benefits. However, thanks to new research, we are beginning to understand that it has to do with the endocannabinoid system in the human body. This system regulates various processes that keep the body in a state of homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system produces cannabinoids that interact with the nervous system to keep the immune system functioning properly while regulating everything from our internal temperature to our sleep patterns.
Cannabinoids simply supplement the body with what it needs to stay healthy. This helps to explain why CBD can be taken in large doses without any serious consequences to one’s health. At present, it appears the worst thing that can happen because of taking too large of a dose of CBD is that the user will feel sleepy for a few hours.
However, despite CBD’s potential therapeutic benefits as well as its lack of serious side effects, the DOA (Department of Agriculture) hasn’t been so quick to hop on the cannabis train. In fact, the DOA’s relationship with cannabis has been complicated for decades.
The Difference between Marijuana and Hemp
As it stands, CBD is legal to consume and purchase in the United States and many other places because it comes from the hemp plant rather than the marijuana plant. Both plants belong to the cannabis family. The difference between the two is that hemp, unlike cannabis, has no psychoactive properties when it is consumed. This is because of its incredibly low level of THC, a cannabinoid that is responsible for the high that people experience when they consume the leaves and buds of the marijuana plant.
As it turns out, marijuana can contain up to 30 percent THC, which explains why users can get extremely high off of small doses. On the other hand, hemp contains approximately 0.3 percent THC. Because of this, CBD products that come from the hemp plant rather than the marijuana plant don’t put users at risk of experiencing psychoactive effects. Therefore, CBD is not considered to be an illegal substance when consumed.
Of course, in states in which marijuana is legal, it is possible to purchase and consume CBD products that are derived from the marijuana plant. CBD products sold in states where marijuana is legal may or may not have psychoactive properties. These products, however, cannot be transported into other states legally.
How the DEA Views CBD
Even though CBD that is derived from the hemp plant will not get a user high, the DEA has still tried to restrict the cultivation of hemp for a very long time. In fact, the DEA classified CBD as a Schedule I controlled substance back in 1970. This means that the drug is seen as having a high potential for abuse and does not seem to have any medicinal benefits.
Other substances that exist in this category include LSD, cocaine and heroin. It goes without saying that countless CBD users have struggled to see the similarities between these potentially harmful, addictive drugs and CBD, a relatively harmless substance that has been proven to have the potential to treat all kinds of ailments.
By classifying CBD as a Schedule I controlled substance, they had, up until recently, been able to determine that it is illegal for hemp to be grown, consumed or purchased. That all changed, however, with the introduction of the 2014 Agricultural Farm Bill. This bill stated that hemp could be cultivated as long as it was for research purposes. This meant that farmers could only grow hemp if they had the state’s permission and were cultivating it in order to give it to medical researchers.
According to the DEA, the fact that CBD had not been approved by the FDA meant that it could not be considered a form of medicine. However, the FDA has just recently approved the first CBA-based drug for children who have epilepsy.
When asked about their stance on CBD by The Cannabist in January of 2017, the DEA claimed that CBD is being marketed and sold illegally. They stated that the production and marketing of CBD is in direct violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as well as the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). According to them, due to the “clandestine” nature of the CBD industry, brands are free to create questionable, potentially dangerous products that vary in legitimacy and effectiveness. They also stated that it was very likely that brands that were marketing CBD were producing products that did not actually contain CBD, putting users at risk of consuming harmful ingredients.
Because, according to laws passed by the DEA, CBD products had to contain only CBD derived from registered hemp farmers, the DEA was concerned that farmers were falsely claiming to be harvesting hemp for research purposes when they were, in fact, simply trying to produce CBD products strictly for commercial use. That’s why they required all hemp farmers to submit to the FDA an Investigational New Drug (IND) application. This application required hemp farmers to prove that they were growing hemp with the intent to submit it to authorized research laboratories. It also required that the researchers obtain the CBD from the farmers before the application was accepted.
One of the biggest concerns that the DEA had about the manufacturing process of CBD products was the fact that CBD was just beginning to become widely viewed as an acceptable product for pediatric use. The other issue was that CBD was being sold to consumers without direct authorization from the DEA. According to the DEA, all CBD products had to be approved by the FDA before being put onto the commercial market.
Some of the DEA’s concerns regarding the production of CBD products were legitimate. However, as the result of many medical researchers proving that CBD can indeed be useful for various medicinal purposes, it was only a matter of time before the DEA had to change its tune.
Take note as well that the DEA’s “marijuana extract rule” doesn’t apply to hemp or derivative products such as hemp-derived CBD. This is again excellent news. There is also a U.S. Hemp Roundtable that protects those who manufacture and use CBD. Here is a quick excerpt from them on their site to shed a bit more light on this: “ready to defend that principle if ever the DEA tries to interfere with state pilot programs – or the interstate sale or transport of hemp from those programs – in contravention of clear federal law, as confirmed in the recent Omnibus Spending Law.”
A New Dawn for Hemp Farmers
Which now brings us to these latest news. Only last week, the 2018 Farm Bill was passed by the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been pushing for the passing of this bill for several years. This bill determines that for the first time since 1970, CBD is no longer classified as a controlled substance.
More importantly, it means that hemp farmers are free to cultivate hemp without any federal restrictions. Therefore, hemp can be legally grown for the first time since the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937.
Although the FDA’s stance on CBD is still unknown, it is generally believed that CBD will soon become accepted as having medicinal value thanks to the many studies that have demonstrated its various effects on common ailments. Today, more and more medical practitioners are becoming aware of the studies that suggest CBD’s effectiveness as well as its lack of side effects. Therefore, CBD enthusiasts are hopeful that the DEA’s new laws regarding the cultivation of hemp are just the beginning of a CBD revolution.
How CBD Will Continue to Gain Momentum in the USA
The DEA’s relationship with hemp farmers has been full of turbulence since 1937. However, with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp farmers can cultivate their crops without any legal consequences at last, making it easier than ever for CBD users to have access to high-quality CBD products.