No matter where you look lately it seems like you can find a store selling CBD-based items or find an article discussing the medical benefits of CBD. In fact a simple Google search of the term “CBD” pulls up an overwhelming 225 million results. This article will cover the basics of CBD so that you can get all of the facts without having to parse through pages and pages of information.

Let’s start right at the beginning. What is CBD? CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol. CBD is a nonpsychoactive chemical compound derived from the hemp plant and is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of marijuana.

CBD is increasing in popularity due to ongoing studies which show that CBD may provide benefits for persons suffering from pain, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, depression, infection, cancer and a multitude of other ailments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates marijuana products under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FD&C Act”) and Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act, has raised concerns over the usage of CBD products, however, as “there has been no FDA evaluation regarding whether they are safe and effective to treat a particular disease, what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs or foods, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.” More than 70% of CBD extracts sold online, for instance, were mislabeled regarding potency, according to a Penn Medicine study in 2017.

While CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, whether CBD is legal is not a simple yes or no answer.

In December 2018, Congress passed the Farm Bill which legalized hemp – defined in the Farm Bill as cannabis and cannabis derivatives with very low concentrations – less than 0.3 percent – of THC. THC is the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for making a person feel “high.” The Farm Bill allows hemp cultivation broadly, and explicitly allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes.

Many people assume that, because CBD is derived from the hemp plant, CBD is likewise automatically legal at the federal level under the Farm Bill. That assumption is inaccurate, however, and that discrepancy is causing much confusion and uncertainty with respect to the production, distribution and use of CBD products.

While the Farm Bill removes hemp-derived products from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, the legislation does not legalize CBD generally. As a result, certain uses of CBD, including the addition of CBD in foods and drinks, remain illegal under federal law.

The FDA is struggling to determine how to regulate CBD. The FDA held a hearing at the end of May 2019 “to obtain scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds.” The FDA is also gathering data from the public through the use of a docket that is open for comment until July 16, 2019.

More recently the FDA put out a consumer update entitled “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.” In the article the FDA states that it “recognizes the significant public interest in cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, particularly CBD. However, there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD.”

Because the federal government’s regulation of CBD is lagging, many states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction.

New York has maintained that CBD is legal, however adding CBD to food or drinks has recently been banned in New York City. “As of July 1, 2019, the Health Department is embargoing food and drink products that contain CBD — the products will have to be returned to the supplier or discarded,” the city’s health department said. “Starting October 1, 2019, the Health Department will begin issuing violations to food service establishments and retailers for offering food or drink containing CBD. Violations may be subject to fines, and for food service establishments, violation points may count toward the establishment’s letter grade.”

The legal status of CBD is constantly changing and there will likely be further changes over the next few months as the FDA continues to develop and update its regulations concerning the use of CBD. We will continue to provide updates as new information comes to light.