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Is Cannabis Oil Legal?

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Last updated 11/18/2019

Although cultures around the world have used cannabis for centuries, Americans are just now beginning to understand what cannabis and the chemical compounds in it do to the human body. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, in particular, has become wildly popular for its alleged health benefits, but is CBD oil legal?

America's relationship with cannabis is complicated. According to federal law, cannabis — including CBD — is still predominantly illegal, although there are exceptions. Even with the continuing federal prohibition of cannabis, most U.S. states have enacted their own cannabis-related laws. As such, CBD oils reside in a legal grey area.

When Is CBD Oil Illegal?

It depends. In terms of federal law, the legality of CBD oil depends largely on where the CBD in it came from and where it is being used, so it is important to understand some cannabis-fundamentals.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

Both industrial hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis family, but they are treated differently under federal law. Industrial hemp, as defined by the federal government, is cannabis that contains less than 0.3 percent THC by weight. Marijuana is defined as any cannabis that contains more than 0.3 percent THC by weight.

If CBD oil comes from hemp, it is federally legal. If CBD oil comes from marijuana, it is federally illegal. State laws, however, vary widely.

Every U.S. state allows for the use of cannabis in some form, but each state's laws are different. For example, Washington state law allows residents to legally consume CBD oil for recreational purposes, whereas South Dakota state law categorizes CBD as a Schedule IV controlled substances and allows citizens to use CBD only in forms that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, e.g., Epidiolex.

What Is CBD Oil?

Cannabis is filled with chemicals. Arguably the most well known of these chemicals is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whereas THC is largely responsible for cannabis' “high," CBD does not result in a high. Supplement manufacturers are making CBD into many forms, including oils, tinctures, pills, and lotions. Some supposed benefits of using CBD include:

  • Pain relief
  • Reduction of anxiety and depression
  • Treatment of cancer-related symptoms
  • Acne treatment
  • Neuroprotective properties
  • Heart health
  • Antipsychotic effects

It is important to discuss the use of CBD oils or products with a medical professional. Noted side effects include diarrhea, changes in appetite and weight, and fatigue. Additionally, because so many factors influence CBD oil's legality, it is worth your time to become familiar with your state's cannabis laws. And if you are accused of illegally possessing cannabis, contact an experienced defense lawyer near you.

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