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CBD Laws: What You Need to Know

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People often wonder if CBD is legal. CBD law in the United States is fairly new and is closely tied to the conflicted history of cannabis—and specifically marijuana—over the last century. Before you make a decision on whether or not it is right for you, we can help you to uncover what you need to know about the legal status of CBD Oil in America.

A Short History of Cannabis

An ancient herb, the Cannabis family of plants originated in Asia where it was used in traditional medicine since at least 500 BCE. It’s a little known CBD fact that after migrating to Africa, Europe, and the Americas, the hemp variety of cannabis became a popular source of fiber, fuel, and food and was widely cultivated by the early American colonists in the 1600s. In fact, hemp was seen as such a valuable plant that the government required farmers in Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to grow hemp on their land — talk about the earliest forms of CBD laws!

CBD Law and Medical Cannabis

Just like kratom and our other ethnobotanicals, folk uses of medicinal cannabis came long before the plant was analyzed and understood in more depth by the scientific community.

The first evidence of cannabis being used by a Western medical doctor came from an Irish doctor, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy. O’Shaughnessy was studying in India in the 1830s and discovered that cannabis extracts could help to reduce stomach pain and ease vomiting in patients with cholera.

In the late 1800s, when CBD laws were essentially non-existent, cannabis extracts were also sold in United States pharmacies as a remedy for stomach complaints. Unfortunately, this widespread access to cannabis and its use as a standard remedy were only to last a short time.

Recreational Cannabis and CBD Law in the United States

In the early 1900s, Mexicans escaping the Mexican Revolution migrated to the United States and introduced the concept of recreational marijuana to the general population. When the Great Depression hit and created mass unemployment, resentment against these immigrants grew, and marijuana started to become known as the “evil weed.”

Later, when Prohibition came into full swing in the early 1930s, marijuana and its derivatives were outlawed in 29 states along with alcohol. This cannabis and CBD law crackdown went even further in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act which made marijuana possession and sale illegal at a federal level.

A Breakthrough for Canna-Science

During this period of mass restriction, scientists who continued to study the chemistry of cannabis made some important discoveries that would affect CBD law and CBD’s legal status today.

The first discovery took place in 1942 when the American chemist, Roger Adams, isolated cannabidiol (CBD) for the first time. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam then took this research further by charting the stereochemistry of CBD in 1963 and that of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in 1964. His work represented a great step forward in terms of formulating CBD law today, as it enabled the mind-altering effects of cannabis to be linked with the cannabinoid THC and placed CBD in the clear as far as “getting high” was concerned.

Marijuana Placed on the Schedule

In 1970, CBD’s legal status changed when the Marijuana Tax Act was repealed by President Richard Nixon and cannabis was, instead, listed as a Schedule I drug—together with LSD, ecstasy, and heroin. At an international level, the United Nations agreed in 1971 to make cannabis a controlled and illegal substance. The war on cannabis was officially on.

In 1978, the 1978 Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act was passed in New Mexico, enabling an exception to federal CBD law and allowing for the study of marijuana’s medicinal potential. The groundbreaking study that followed examined the effects of CBD extract taken daily on eight epileptic patients. Fortunately, the results of this study were very positive: Out of 8 epileptic patients, 4 stopped having seizures completely after 4 months of treatment and 3 others experienced dramatic reductions in the number of seizures experienced.

Man signs papers at desk

Cannabis and CBD Laws Finally Ease Up

By 1996, awareness of the medicinal uses of cannabis and CBD was beginning to experience a renaissance that gave way to the Compassionate Use Act—allowing restricted use of cannabis in the case of severe and chronic illness. The passing of this act opened the way for medical marijuana to be legalized in 29 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and Guam.

By 2018, nine states and Washington D.C. had legalized recreational marijuana without a prescription, and the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and its sterile derivatives (taken from the mature stalks and sterilized seeds) at a federal level. What does this mean for CBD’s legal status across the country today?

Since the Nixon decision of 1972, marijuana and THC both continue to be listed as Schedule I restricted drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency, despite multiple attempts to remove or downgrade them for their proven medicinal potential. This means that, officially, CBD from marijuana is not an approved product for sale or use.

However, the 2018 Farm Bill does allow for products derived from the mature stalks or sterilized seeds of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa L.) to be sold and purchased—meaning that CBD derived from hemp is legal at a national level.

State CBD Law Variations

While federal law defines CBD’s legal status generally (according to whether it is derived from marijuana or hemp), each state has laws that affect the implementation of these laws. Currently, each state in the U.S. falls into one of three categories:

  1. States in which marijuana and CBD are completely legal.
  2. States that permit CBD oil from marijuana for medical use.
  3. States in which CBD oil is restricted or illegal.

Marijuana versus Hemp CBD

To begin with, let’s clarify the differences between “marijuana” and “hemp” in CBD law. While both of these plants fall within the Cannabis family, the difference between CBD and THC is that “marijuana” contains more than 0.3% THC and “hemp” contains less than 0.3% THC. As CBD is present in both of these plants, it can be extracted from either marijuana or hemp. The difference is that CBD extracted from marijuana could have much higher levels of both CBD and THC (the psychotropic component of cannabis), whereas CBD from hemp has less than 0.3% THC and in some cases is completely THC-free.

Ten States in Which Marijuana and CBD are Completely Legal

In Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, recreational marijuana is legal, so you can purchase and use CBD without breaking laws surrounding CBD.

In 33 states and Washington D.C., CBD oil derived from the marijuana plant is permitted if you have an approved medical condition and obtain a medical marijuana card. In these states, CBD oil from hemp is available to the general public. It is important to check the CBD law and conditions in your state to see if you qualify for a medical marijuana card.

A small map booklet of the United States lays on wooden table

States in Which CBD Oil is Restricted or Illegal

The states that have taken the strongest stance with CBD’s legal status and CBD oil law restrictions are South Dakota, Idaho, and Nebraska. In these three states, it is illegal to sell, possess, or use marijuana-derived CBD oil derived, and even CBD oil derived from hemp is somewhat risky.

South Dakota

In South Dakota, no form of marijuana is allowed—even for medicinal purposes.


In Idaho, any CBD oil product must meet two requirements to be legal:

  1. It must not be derived from marijuana.
  2. It must contain 0.00% THC.

Children in Idaho with “intractable epilepsy” can access the FDA-approved CBD drug Epidiolex® as part of the EAP (expanded access program).


Nebraska has the strictest CBD law of all of the states, with a 2018 memo from the office of the attorney general stating that cannabidiol (CBD) falls within the definition of marijuana and is therefore considered a prohibited Schedule I controlled substance. There are two exceptions to this ban:

  • A form of CBD which had been approved for a specific, 4-year medical study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is allowed in the context of the study.
  • The FDA-approved drug Epidiolex® is allowed for eligible children.

In 2019, Senator Justin Wayne introduced a bill to remove cannabidiol from the list of controlled substances. We will have to wait to find out if this bill makes CBD more accessible in Nebraska and hope for a positive outcome!

Shop THC-Free CBD Oil at Kratora

Now that you know all about CBD’s legal status in the United States, stop by Kratora and shop our THC-free CBD oil products with confidence! For buyers in other countries, please refer to the relevant national and local CBD law and restrictions on herbal products before purchasing the premium products on our website.

The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

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Why Buying Cheap Kratom Can Be Dangerous

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