- In the United States, 47 states out of 50 have allowed the use of CBD products with varying degrees of regulation. It is federally legal to travel with CBD from state to state, although restrictions vary per jurisdiction(1).
- The availability and legalization of CBD and other cannabis-derived products are scarce in Asia, with only a few countries, such as Thailand(2), legalizing the use of medical cannabis and the use of CBD in cosmetics.
- Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strictly forbids the marketing of CBD products using unproven health claims(3).
- The European Union classifies cannabidiol (CBD) as a “novel food(4).” However, not all its members have declassified hemp-derived products as narcotics.
- As of 2020, the accessibility and use of CBD and other cannabis-derived products in Australia and New Zealand are still limited to people with medical conditions and require prescriptions(5).
CBD Legality per Continent
CBD in North America
The legal status of hemp production and distribution of hemp derivatives in North America widely varies for each country and territory.
In the United States, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) removed hemp as a classification of marijuana and is no longer considered a Schedule I controlled substance(6).
As of 2020, hemp-derived CBD may be legally purchased under federal law if its THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content is less than 0.30%(7). 47 US states have legalized the selling and use of CBD, although individual state laws have varying levels of restrictions(8).
|CBD Is Legal||CBD Is Illegal|
|Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington D.C.||Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota|
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disallows CBD companies to make unapproved health claims about CBD products. The marketing and labeling of hemp products as a dietary supplement or disease prevention or cure are also illegal(9).
The FDA has approved only one product with CBD as its active ingredient—Epidiolex, which is used to treat Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome(10). These conditions are treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy.
- United States of America: Hemp growers must acquire licenses under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) hemp program, a state hemp program, or a Tribal hemp program for Native American reservations(11).
The availability of USDA-approved State or Tribal hemp programs varies per location. If the hemp-growing facility’s location does not have a hemp program, parties may apply for a license under the USDA hemp production program(12).
Some states only allow hemp farming for research purposes. Others only permit the cultivation of hemp for commercial purposes using certified hemp seeds(13).
Requirements to own business licenses for selling low-THC CBD products vary per state and product type. The selling of ingestible CBD products often requires a food-specific business license(14).
- Canada: According to the Canadian government’s official website, all parties interested in cultivating hemp with THC levels below 0.30% must obtain a federal license under the Industrial Hemp Regulations of the Cannabis Act.
Growers may only farm Health Canada-approved cultivars or plant varieties for commercial use. Health Canada is a federal institution under the Canadian government’s health portfolio.
All parties interested in the manufacturing, distribution, and selling of CBD products, hemp-derived or not, must apply for a processing license(15).
- United States: Hemp testing guidelines for cannabinoid content and contaminants vary per state(16).
All testing laboratories must submit their THC findings to the USDA and the licensed manufacturer(17).
- Canada: Testing must be done to the final forms of CBD products, either before or after packaging and labeling, by third-party testing facilities with valid Health Canada licenses.
Testing must be performed to determine the quantity or concentration of CBD, CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), THC, and THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).
Companies must also test for contaminants, such as heavy metals, mold and yeast, and residual solvents(18).
CBD in South America
CBD and other cannabis-derived products are heavily regulated in South America, remaining illegal in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guiana, and Venezuela.
- Colombia: The Colombian government requires companies to acquire licenses from the Ministry of Justice for the legal cultivation of hemp and a permit from the Ministry of Health to produce CBD products(19).
- Uruguay: In 2013, under Law 19.172, then-president José Mujica legalized the medical and recreational use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products(20).
- Brazil: In 2015, the National Agency for Health Surveillance of Brazil (ANVISA) allowed the importation and personal use of cannabidiol-based medicinal products. It also legalized the use of medical cannabis for terminally-ill patients(21).
CBD in Europe
The European Union classifies CBD as a “novel food.” The European Commission defines novel food as food that was not common in European diets before May 1997, including innovative food or food developed with new technologies(22).
- The United Kingdom: The United Kingdom’s government established CBD’s “novel food” status in January 2019(23).
Food businesses interested in marketing CBD must first have their isolates and extracts authorized by the European Union(24-25).
- Switzerland: CBD products considered foodstuffs require authorization from the European Union or the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO)(26).
CBD products may be marketed freely and legally in compliance with the product type’s corresponding Swiss legislation, as CBD is not subject to the Narcotics Act(27), Switzerland’s federal regulations on narcotics and psychotropic drugs.
- Slovakia: Unlike other countries in the European Union, Slovakia has yet to remove cannabidiol from its list of narcotics and psychotropic substances(28).
CBD in Asia
Cannabis and cannabis-derived products are generally illegal and heavily regulated throughout Asia. Some countries, like Thailand and South Korea, have approved medical marijuana use yet still prohibit recreational use.
- China: The local governments of Yunnan province and Heilongjiang province have allowed the cultivation and processing of hemp for CBD production and future export.
The Chinese government currently allows the use of CBD extract for cosmetics only but has yet to approve its use in food and medicine. Cosmetic CBD products are legal to use domestically(29).
- India: According to the Indian Industrial Hemp Association, some parts of India, including the northern territory of Uttarakhand, have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp(30).
- Philippines: According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), all cannabis products, including CBD, are illegal for general public use.
Terminally-ill patients may procure a special permit from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration for CBD oil use, although medical marijuana is still prohibited(31).
- South Korea: The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has approved the use of Epidiolex, Marinol, and Sativex only(32).
- Thailand: The Thai government has amended its previous stance on hemp and medical cannabis—including CBD— and has legalized cannabis for medical use, research, and the development of certain industries(33).
CBD in Australia and New Zealand
Australian and New Zealand CBD supplies are presently limited to patients granted prescriptions by health professionals(34).
Australia’s Poison Standard currently classifies CBD as a Schedule 4 substance. The Advisory Committee on Medicines and Chemicals Scheduling proposed down-scheduling CBD to Schedule 3 to allow its sale to the general public(35).
According to the Australian government’s Department of Health, it may permit the over-the-counter selling of oral, oromucosal, and sublingual CBD formulations in pharmacies by June 2021(36).
New Zealand regulations dictate that for a cannabis product to meet the government’s definition of a legal CBD product, the THC content must not exceed 2% of its CBD content. Products surpassing the requirements are considered controlled substances(37).
- Australia: The Office of Drug Control (ODC) requires parties interested in the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis products to possess a medicinal cannabis or cannabis research license.
Growers also need an approved medicinal cannabis or cannabis research permit before beginning crop cultivation(38).
- New Zealand: Parties interested in manufacturing CBD products other than pure CBD extract must obtain a medicinal cannabis license with a “possess for manufacture” activity specified in the license.
A license to manufacture medicines, issued under the Medicines Act 1981, is also needed.
Companies repacking CBD products only need a license to pack medicines. A license to manufacture medicines is not required.
Organizations supplying CBD products need a product assessment from the Medicinal Cannabis Agency.
Parties interested in supplying CBD do not need a “supply” activity stated in their licenses to supply and export CBD products(39).
- Australia: Requirements vary per state and territory, although similarities in requirements include testing industrial hemp leaves and flowers for THC content of no more than 1%.
Certified hemp seed must also be harvested from a plant with THC concentrations from its leaves and flowering heads not exceeding 0.50% THC(40).
- New Zealand: New Zealand’s Ministry of Health released guidelines for testing industrial hemp, primarily to ensure hemp plants do not exceed 0.35% THC in dry weight. Growers and license holders must use authorized laboratories(41).
CBD in Africa
In 2019, according to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, cannabidiol was down-scheduled from Schedule 7 to Schedule 4 with some exceptions.
CBD complementary medicines that provide a maximum dosage of 20mg of cannabidiol per day and products made from cannabis intended for ingestion containing less than 0.0075% cannabidiol are classified as Schedule 0(42).
The accessibility of CBD products in South Africa remains exclusive to medicinal use and is subject to the requirements and guidelines of the Medicines and Related Substances Act(43).
The World Health Organization and CBD
A 2017 report stated that the World Health Organization does not recommend CBD as medicine, yet acknowledges its potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for the treatment of epilepsy and other related conditions(44).
The WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) has determined that cannabidiol—in its pure state—does not appear to have the potential for dependence and abuse.
They have also reported that no public health problems, like comorbidity and adverse effects on driving, have been linked to pure CBD formulations(45).
As of a 2018 report, cannabidiol isn’t included in the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines and in the Model List of Essential Medicines for Children(46).
Buying CBD Legally
Before including CBD in one’s health regimen, there are many important details to consider to ensure the safety and quality of a CBD product and avoid legal repercussions.
How to Choose Which CBD Products to Buy
- Research the CBD company to confirm its legitimacy. It is advised to confirm if the company possesses all necessary government licenses and if it is accredited or certified by any official hemp organizations.
- Check for any third-party lab test results. Certificates of analysis (COAs) contain vital information, such as CBD and THC levels, and reports on any detected contaminants, including harmful residual solvents and heavy metals.
It is crucial to know the acceptable THC content percentage of one’s country of residence.
- In the United States, while it is legal on the federal level to carry CBD products from state to state, it is essential to know the exact legal status of CBD in one’s state of residence.
Some states require prescriptions and only allow the use of CBD as complementary treatments to severe medical conditions, while some areas consider the selling, purchasing, and possession of any cannabis-derived product—regardless of THC levels—a criminal offense.
- Refer to product descriptions and COAs to determine if a product is a CBD isolate, broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum CBD.
Where to Buy CBD Products Legally
Due to the de-scheduling of hemp-derived cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, the US has become a friendlier landscape for acquiring CBD products legally.
Many CBD brands operate online as it is federally legal to transport CBD from state to state. CBD users may also easily purchase CBD from dispensaries and major drugstore chains in states that have legalized recreational cannabis use.
A History of Hemp Production and Legality in the World
Hemp has a rich, centuries-old history of agricultural and medicinal use, going as far back as 8,000 BC. Hemp oil and fibers have been used in many industrial and commercial industries(47). Hemp was most notably used for clothing textiles and rope(48).
Hemp plants have also been frequently mistaken for and associated with high-THC marijuana plants throughout history, particularly after the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Researchers and historians assume that racist prejudices over the influx of Mexican immigrants—who introduced the recreational use of marijuana—led to the beginning of marijuana’s demonization(49).
It was only through the 2018 Farm Bill that hemp and hemp extracts were removed from the United States’ definition of marijuana and de-scheduled from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively making commercial hemp production federally legal(50).
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoids—active compounds—found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
CBD’s growing popularity in the alternative and allopathic medicine industries is linked to various potential therapeutic benefits, such as anxiety management(51); pain relief for chronic pain, multiple sclerosis(52), and fibromyalgia(53); and anticonvulsant properties for epilepsy(54).
CBD works with the human body by eliciting a response from the cannabinoid receptors spread throughout the body. These receptors are connected to the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Like neurotransmitters, the ECS assists in regulating essential physiological functions that keep the body in homeostasis. Such functions include(55):
- Mood, including anxiety and depression
- Sleep quality
- Muscle repair
- Motor functions
- Cardiac function
What Is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?
Despite shared physical characteristics(56) and being associated with cannabis usage, the cannabis varieties that people identify as the hemp plant and the marijuana plant are not identical. The cannabis varieties’ THC content drives their main difference, making them not interchangeable, especially when viewed from a legal standpoint.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) defines marijuana as a variation of the cannabis plant that holds higher levels of THC, the cannabinoid most associated with the plant’s mind-altering properties(57).
Cannabis plants with less than 0.30% THC content in dry weight are classified as hemp and also referred to as “industrial hemp.” Such minuscule amounts of THC do not cause a “high.”
The difference in THC content drives the distinction in legality between both plants. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FDA permit the trade of hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.30% THC on the federal level(58), while marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance(59).
What Are the Side Effects of CBD?
While the adverse side effects linked to cannabis usage are primarily due to THC’s ability to alter a person’s mental and motor functions, CBD—despite having no psychoactive effects—was still found to incite negative responses from the human body. Some observed side effects are(60):
- Appetite loss
Will CBD Show in a Drug Test?
Data from a 2020 study pointed out that the use of pure CBD isolates does not result in a positive urine drug test result, although CBD products with trace amounts of THC may yield positive results(61).
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine conducted clinical trials with six adults. They reported that low amounts of THC may accumulate in the human body over frequent use and trigger a positive test result(62).
The industrial hemp and CBD industries are thriving. Despite this and hemp’s change in status as a controlled substance in many parts of the world, navigating the global legality of CBD products remains complex.
Legislations regarding the cultivation and sale of CBD vary widely per continent.
Before traveling from one territory to another, it is best to research each nation’s policies on the possession and transportation of CBD and other cannabis-derived products to avoid severe legal repercussions.
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