• The 2018 United States Farm Bill authorized the cultivation of industrial hemp. The law mandates that the hemp strain used for cultivation must not exceed 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration(1).
  • Pennsylvania launched an industrial hemp pilot program after the 2014 United States Farm Bill was signed, allowing state governments to study the growing, processing, and marketing of hemp and hemp products(2).
  • The State of Pennsylvania has not enacted possession limits of hemp-derived CBD not exceeding 0.3% THC. Patients registered with the medical marijuana program may possess up to a 30-day supply of marijuana-derived CBD oil(3).
  • The US Food and Drug Administration forbids manufacturers from adding CBD and THC into food products. State regulations require hemp growers and processors to comply with federal regulations regarding CBD forms(4).

The legality status of CBD oil depends on its product concentration and plant source. In Pennsylvania, not all CBD oil products are legal.

The 2018 United States Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp plants not exceeding 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound which causes psychoactive effects(5).

The law allows manufacturers to use industrial hemp to develop products, such as CBD oil and hemp oil. Commercial CBD products derived from industrial hemp are permitted in the United States (US) if the legal amount of THC level (0.3% or less) is maintained.

CBD products that are not compliant with the US Farm Bill regulation are prohibited from being sold commercially.

Marijuana-derived CBD products or CBD products exceeding 0.3% THC are categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance(6). 

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the list of Schedule I controlled substances includes marijuana and heroin(7).

Unless one has a qualifying condition and permission from the state, possessing a marijuana-derived CBD oil or CBD oil exceeding 0.3% THC is considered a drug offense in the US(8).

Although hemp-derived CBD products are legal, there are some restrictions on how they may be marketed and sold.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow CBD companies to market their products as pharmaceutical drugs or dietary supplements. Companies are also prohibited from claiming that CBD can cure or prevent health issues(9).

Furthermore, the FDA forbids manufacturers from using CBD as a food additive. 

Although hemp-derived CBD may be legal on a federal level, CBD state laws may vary. Some states may or may not align with federal law in terms of hemp cultivation provisions.

Pennsylvania CBD Laws

House Bill 967 proposed an alignment with federal law imposed by the 2014 Farm Bill, which allows the launching of industrial hemp pilot programs(10).

In 2016, Pennsylvania lawmakers enacted House Bill 967, allowing the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp with THC content not exceeding 0.3% in dry weight(11).

The bill launched an industrial hemp pilot program to study industrial hemp products’ growth, cultivation, and marketing.

The bill has assigned the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to oversee industrial hemp activities in the state(12).

The State of Pennsylvania has not imposed any possession limits for hemp-derived CBD products, not exceeding 0.3% THC. However, marijuana-derived CBD oil or cannabis oil has several restrictions.

CBD products exceeding 0.3% THC or marijuana-derived CBD products are covered by the state’s medical marijuana program(13)

According to the Medical Marijuana Act, individuals with state-issued medical marijuana cards may possess up to a 30-day supply of medical cannabis products(14)

The act also mentioned that a state-approved physician must diagnose individuals with qualifying conditions. 

Once the physician issues a prescription or written certificate, individuals may apply for the medical marijuana card. 

Meanwhile, hemp-derived CBD oil is not approved by the FDA. Thus, physicians are prohibited from prescribing hemp-derived CBD products to patients.

An antiepileptic drug, Epidiolex, is an FDA-approved pharmaceutical drug that contains CBD as an active ingredient. Purchasing Epidiolex requires a prescription from a licensed physician(15)

Marijuana Laws in Pennsylvania

The State of Pennsylvania launched its medical cannabis program in 2016. Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 3, allowing licensed growers and manufacturers to cultivate and process cannabis plants for medical purposes(16).

Recreational marijuana is currently prohibited in the state.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is tasked with issuing medical marijuana cards to individuals with qualifying medical conditions.

These are the qualifying conditions for the medical marijuana program(17):

  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Cancer (including those in remission)
  • Glaucoma
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

Qualified patients may obtain cannabis oil or marijuana products from licensed dispensaries. The patient may possess up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana.

Individuals may refer to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s official website for a complete list of qualifying conditions.

CBD Licensing Requirements

Hemp growers must obtain a permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA). Under state law, businesses and individuals must meet some conditions before getting a permit(18).

The Department of Agriculture allows businesses to grow hemp indoors or outdoors. The agency also specified that hemp farms must be at least 1,000 feet away from schools or recreational areas. 

Pennsylvania residents are required to submit to an FBI background check, which must be completed within 60 days after application.  

Once PDA’s conditions are met, applicants must pay a $150 fee(19).

According to PDA, hemp processors must obtain a permit using the same application form for hemp growers and undergo the same inspection process.

Testing Requirements

Fifteen days before harvest, hemp growers must submit a sample for laboratory testing. According to the PDA, the laboratory must test for trace amounts of THC(20). 

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture may order growers to destroy industrial hemp crops that exceed 0.3% THC. 

Buying CBD Legally

According to PDA, it is the permit holders’ responsibility to abide by federal laws and regulations regarding hemp products and forms(21)

Not all forms of CBD products are legal. The official website of PDA has cited FDA’s CBD regulations as a reference.

The FDA prohibits food manufacturers from using CBD as a food ingredient. 

According to the agency, ingredients derived from cannabis plants without CBD or THC, such as hemp seeds, may be added to food(22)

The State of Pennsylvania complies with federal regulations regarding CBD policies. Thus, commercial food products that contain CBD or THC are prohibited in the state(23).

How to Choose Which CBD Products to Buy

When buying CBD legally, Pennsylvania residents may opt for products that are not marketed as a food or dietary supplement, such as CBD tinctures, CBD oils, CBD vape pens, and CBD topicals (lotions, creams, and gels). 

CBD products intended for oral consumption, such as CBD gummies, may not be legal.

Before buying such products, individuals must check the certificate of analysis (COA). The COA or third-party laboratory report indicates if the product’s cannabinoid concentration is consistent with the label information. 

The COA also helps determine if the product contains harmful substances, such as heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, or microbial contaminants. 

Consumers may refer to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to find highly rated CBD companies in the state. 

The BBB provides customers with an avenue to express their concerns regarding a brand’s product quality, services, and trustworthiness. 

CBD companies accredited by BBB are rated based on the number of customer complaints received(24).

Before buying CBD products, individuals must evaluate the information indicated on the CBD product label. 

Many CBD brands claim that their products are of high quality. It is the customer’s responsibility to verify if the information on the label is correct.

CBD products labels must contain the following:

  • CBD oil type (full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolate)
  • Manufacturer name or company name
  • CBD and THC concentration
  • Concentration per unit or concentration per serving
  • Batch code or ID code
  • Date of manufacturing and expiry
  • Barcode, quick response (QR) code, or website link directing consumers to the certificate of analysis

Consumers must first check what type of CBD oil they are buying. Consumers who do not want THC must opt for either broad-spectrum or CBD isolate. 

Any products that indicate full-spectrum CBD or full-spectrum hemp oil may contain trace amounts of THC.

Individuals may check a CBD company’s or manufacturer’s BBB status. Customer ratings and reviews can help in the decision-making process when shopping for a good quality CBD product.

First-time CBD users must opt for products with lower CBD concentration. Once individuals become accustomed to taking CBD, they may increase the dosage or opt for a more potent variant.

Some CBD brands have made their COAs accessible by printing QR codes or barcodes on the label. Thus, consumers can quickly check the COA before purchasing the product. 

Batch codes allow consumers to check if the COA is updated. The COA must include the product name, batch number or batch code, and date of testing. 

Any product that does not contain a batch code or ID code is not recommended for purchase. 

Where to Buy CBD Products Legally

Consumers who want to buy CBD oil can check the Better Business Bureau website for local businesses with high ratings. These businesses may include smoke shops, wellness stores, and health food stores.

Individuals may also purchase CBD directly from a brand’s official website or through online retailers.

According to the Better Business Bureau, the following CBD companies and stores are operating in Pennsylvania(25):

  • CBD Timme – 5 W Ferry St, New Hope, Philadelphia, PA
  • Hounds N Herbs LLC – 101 E Broad St Unit 36, Dallastown, Pennsylvania 17313-1841
  • Hippie and French – 5122 Butler St. Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Understanding CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid that is predominantly present in Cannabis sativa. Hemp and marijuana plants are varieties of Cannabis sativa, a flowering plant rich in phytocannabinoids.

Hemp and marijuana contain major phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, THC, cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG).

The phytocannabinoids are extracted from the plant using various methods, such as CO2 extraction, solvent extraction, or cold-press extraction.

After extraction, the compounds are suspended in a carrier oil to create tinctures, infused into topical products, or blended into vape oils.

Currently, three types of commercial CBD products are widely available in the market.

A full-spectrum CBD oil contains all the cannabinoids found in industrial hemp. Some consumers prefer full-spectrum CBD oil because it provides the “entourage effect.”

The entourage effect implies that the cannabinoids have a more significant benefit when consumed together than individually. 

Broad-spectrum CBD oil may contain one or more cannabinoids, except for THC. This product is recommended for individuals who do not want any THC in their system.

Lastly, CBD isolates contain pure CBD and usually comes in a powder form. 

CBD oil has been studied for its anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties(26)

Nevertheless, more definitive studies are needed to verify CBD’s efficacy in helping alleviate health issues. 

Is CBD Safe?

CBD oil has been reported to cause side effects, such as changes in appetite or weight, dry mouth, diarrhea, and drowsiness(27). 

A 2019 study has also shown that high CBD doses may cause liver injury in rats. The study also mentioned that consuming CBD may cause elevated liver enzymes. An increase in liver enzymes is often a sign of liver inflammation(28).

Nevertheless, the World Health Organization has acknowledged that hemp-derived CBD oil has a good safety profile and is often well-tolerated(29)

Conclusion

The State of Pennsylvania has passed laws to protect its constituents from purchasing illegal CBD oil products. 

The state requires hemp growers and processors to obtain a license and submit samples for testing. This process ensures that industrial hemp and its extracts do not exceed 0.3% THC.

Consumers must beware before buying CBD oil due to the prohibition of marijuana-derived CBD oil or products exceeding 0.3% THC.

Individuals can make sure that the CBD oil they purchase is legal by checking the product’s certificate of analysis.

Individuals must consult with a licensed practitioner or healthcare provider before taking any CBD oil.

For more information on CBD’s legality in all 50 US states, click here.

*The findings shared in this article is based on information retrieved on November 12, 2020. The legal status and regulations of CBD may change without notice.  


  1. The US Food and Drug Administration. Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019
  2. Pennsylvania Legislature. 2016 Act 92. House Bill 967. Retrieved from https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/li/uconsCheck.cfm?yr=2016&sessInd=0&act=92
  3. Pennsylvania Legislature. 2016 Act 16. Medical Marijuana Act. Retrieved from https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/li/uconsCheck.cfm?yr=2016&sessInd=0&act=16
  4. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Industrial Hemp Program. Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/industrial_hemp/Pages/Industrial-Hemp-Program-FAQs.aspx
  5. The US Food and Drug Administration. Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill. Op cit.
  6. Drug Enforcement Administration. Implementation of the Agriculture Improvement Act. Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/fed_regs/rules/2020/fr0821.htm
  7. Drug Enforcement Administration. Controlled Substance Schedules. Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/
  8. Drug Enforcement Administration. Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act. Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr/21usc/844.htm
  9. US Food and Drug Administration. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
  10. Pennsylvania Legislature. 2016 Act 92. House Bill 967. Op cit.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Pennsylvania Legislature. 2016 Act 16. Medical Marijuana Act.
  14. Ibid.
  15. FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms
  16. Pennsylvania Legislature. Senate Bill 3. Retrieved from https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2015&sInd=0&body=S&type=B&bn=0003
  17. Pennsylvania Department of Health. Medical Marijuana Program. Retrieved from https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/programs/Medical%20Marijuana/Pages/Medical%20Marijuana.aspx
  18. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Industrial Hemp Program. Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/industrial_hemp/Pages/Industrial-Hemp-Program-FAQs.aspx
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22. US Food and Drug Administration. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Op cit.
  23. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Industrial Hemp Program. Frequently Asked Questions. Op cit.
  24. Better Business Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.bbb.org/overview-of-bbb-ratings
  25. Better Business Bureau. Accredited and unaccredited business. Retrieved from  https://www.bbb.org/search?filter_ratings=A&filter_state=AL&find_country=USA&find_entity=81000-800&find_id=81000-800&find_text=CBD%20Oil&find_type=Category&page=1&sort=Distance&touched=1
  26. Corroon, J., & Phillips, J. A. (2018). A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 3(1), 152–161. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0006
  27. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  28. Ewing, L. E., Skinner, C. M., Quick, C. M., Kennon-McGill, S., McGill, M. R., Walker, L. A., ElSohly, M. A., Gurley, B. J., & Koturbash, I. (2019). Hepatotoxicity of a Cannabidiol-Rich Cannabis Extract in the Mouse Model. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(9), 1694. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24091694
  29. The World Health Organization. Cannabidiol.Retrieved from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
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