Is CBD Legal?
The foundation of America’s ban on cannabis surrounds a man named Harry Anslinger. He was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) which subsequently helped form the modern-day Drug Enforcement Administration. Anslinger was appointed as commissioner of the FBN in 1930, as the prohibition of alcohol was beginning to be repealed. Although cocaine and heroin had been formally outlawed in 1914, enforcing the laws against these drugs wasn’t enough to keep the FBN sufficiently busy because only a very small number of people used such drugs. As a result, Anslinger made it his mission to eliminate all drugs (including cannabis) from the U.S.
Driven by a series of newspaper stories in the 1920s of violent events after cannabis use, Anslinger first claimed that the drug could cause psychosis and lead to violent crime and even murder. The second part of his strategy was promoting fear and disdain of minorities. Anslinger claimed that minorities were the primary users of cannabis and using it caused them to forget their place in American society. Through Anslinger’s influence, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed, which in effect outlawed the possession or sale of cannabis. Furthermore in 1970, Cannabis sativa, the species which includes both hemp and marijuana, was collectively classified in the U.S. as a Schedule I controlled substance and regulated by the Controlled Substances Act.
For many centuries however, hemp has been used around the world as a fiber and an oil for a variety of industrial and consumer products. Although it is a different variety of the same species, industrial hemp is not marijuana. Unfortunately, the association with marijuana has significantly limited hemp’s growth as a commodity.
The 2014 farm bill began to differentiate hemp from marijuana by establishing a definition of industrial hemp as having a maximum THC level of 0.3 % on a dry weight basis. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 farm bill which was signed into law in December 2018, legalized the growth, sales, and transportation of industrial hemp across state lines and removed it from the list of controlled substances. The 2018 bill also listed hemp as a commodity covered under crop insurance.
Despite expansion of hemp production under the 2018 farm bill, it still does not allow farmers to grow it as freely as other crops. The bill maintained that cultivating hemp without a license and/or producing a plant with a THC content higher than 0.3 % violates the law. Some states continue to update their cannabis laws, but hemp-derived CBD is fully legal or conditionally legal in nearly every state. However, unfortunately there is still legal ambiguity in a handful of states as the country awaits anticipated formal regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Wright Penniman M.D. is a board certified family physician with 15 years of clinical experience and 4 years of experience as a medical director with a major health insurance company.