What Is CBD’s Legal Status?

Reading Time: 5 min 18 sec

By Ryan Sanders

With many CBD products flooding the market in retail stores and online shops, you might be wondering if it’s actually legal. For many, it seems like it was only yesterday that hemp was still considered illegal by the federal government.

Since CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, it does not induce the traditional “high” effect that people receive from THC. Instead, CBD has been extensively researched to uncover that it can provide a multitude of other supportive benefits. If you’re wondering what the definitive legal status on CBD is, read along to find out everything there is to know so you can purchase your CBD with a clear conscience.

2018 Farm Bill

“[The 2018 Farm Bill] made CBD legal at the federal level, so long as that CBD is made using industrial hemp and not cannabis.”

CBD became officially legal at the federal level with the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. This act proposed to remove hemp from the list of Schedule I controlled substances as long as the plant contains less than 0.3% THC.

Hemp is the same plant that all cannabis “comes from”, Cannabis sativa, but it is now bred for industrial purposes. This hemp has only small amounts of THC but contains high CBD content. Before the 2018 Farm Bill passed, even this specific hemp was a schedule I drug under The Controlled Substances Act 

Any schedule I substance is said to have no medicinal value and have a high potential for abuse. That means that hemp, with barely any THC content, was banned on a federal level and carried the same penalties as conventional cannabis with higher THC content.

Through extensive research by many organizations, we also now know that CBD is a highly valuable compound that carries medicinal value in many aspects. For example, a plant-derived CBD medication was approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for children with severe forms of epilepsy 

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 set out to right this wrong and allow states to grow hemp for industrial purposes. Not only would hemp be used for manufacturing CBD, but it’s also useful to make various products like textiles, biofuel, paper, and more.

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was then combined with the 2018 United States Farm Bill and passed on December 11, 2018. This bill made CBD legal at the federal level, so long as that CBD is made using industrial hemp and not cannabis.

But hemp and cannabis are different strains from the same plant, right? Exactly, but the government classifies them in two categories, either hemp or cannabis 

Like we said before, hemp is the low THC and high CBD version of cannabis. However, any other strain that has a high amount of THC (anything over 0.3% THC) is considered “cannabis,” according to the government.

This also means that any CBD products must come from a licensed grower, be produced from hemp, and be grown in a way that is consistent with the 2018 Farm Bill. Ok, so if all of those things are true, then it’s legal for me to buy it, right?

Well, not exactly. There’s still the issue of state laws. But don’t worry, we’ll make that all crystal clear.

State By State Legality

“As a rule of thumb, for CBD to be legal for you, it must also be legal in your state.”

Each state is free to govern itself on how it deals with cannabis laws. As we have seen in the past (and present), states can ignore federal regulations and make cannabis legal for medical or recreational purposes at their own discretion.

States can also choose to restrict cannabis even if the federal government says it’s ok. As a rule of thumb, for CBD to be legal for you, it must also be legal in your state.

compass on map book page

In some states, it’s a no brainer, but for others, there are confusing restrictions. Luckily, most states allow fully legal use of CBD products, so long as they contain less than 0.3% THC.

So far, 33 states have full CBD legality, but 17 states have restricted usage or prohibitions. If your state isn’t on the list below, then it’s entirely legal for you to buy under federal law and use CBD without any restrictions.

Restricted States:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nebraska
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

If you live in any of the states mentioned above, then it means that CBD products are legal only under certain conditions. For example, in Alabama and North Carolina, you need to suffer from epilepsy and not respond to other treatments.

States like Tennessee and Kansas have laws that say the CBD oil must contain either no THC at all or smaller amounts than even 0.3%. If you live in any of these states, your safest bet is to check what your state laws are precisely.

The laws are changing rapidly, so stay up to date and support or write to your local policymakers.

Banned States:

  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • South Dakota

These three states still have all cannabis products wholly prohibited. If you live in any of these states, then it is illegal for you to obtain any CBD product unless you have special permissions, i.e., a medical cannabidiol card.

Hopefully, the laws in these states will change soon, since CBD is non-addictive and can help with a myriad of problems. If you would like this to change, then support any upcoming cannabis legislation in the state and write to your politicians.

cannabis plant

CBD’s Clear Use-Case

Based on current and ongoing research, it’s clear that CBD is best used for supporting medical-based issues, such as chronic pain, anxiety, and seizures. CBD can even be used for recreational purposes, especially when you want to kick back and relax after a long workday without being intoxicated. 

If you’re interested in learning more about what CBD can and can’t do or if CBD is addictive - read into the rest of our extensive CBD-based series that will bring you up to speed on everything CBD-related.


Ryan Sanders

Ryan is a writer for Altruist CBD. He is a graduate of Arizona State University with a B.A. in Educational Studies with an emphasis on Environmental Education. Ryan has experience in the cannabis industry as a Patient Consultant and Brand Ambassador.