November 17, 2020 4 min read

So, is CBD really legal? 

We get it. The history of hemp in the US is, to put it mildly, confusing. What started as one of America’s staple crops was in turn actively discouraged, banned, and then re-legalized. 

But the process of legalization has been piecemeal and convoluted—and has probably created more confusion than clarity. 

So just in case your interest in Kanibi CBD is being hampered by your fear of infringing on the law, we present to you a brief history of the legality of hemp laws in the US, and an overview of its current legal status today.

The short version is that, yes, CBD is legal in the US. 

But if you’re in the mood for a bit of a history nerd safari, here’s the long(er) story of hemp legality in the US.

Hemp’s Ancient History

First, a definition.Both hemp and marijuana are part of the cannabis family. Historically, the term “hemp” has been used to describe the more fibrous strains, while “marijuana” became associated with recreational use in the 20th century. 

Today, we use those terms based on how much THC a plant contains (that’s the cannabinoid that makes you high). 

But humans have used cannabis for a very long time.In fact, remnants of hemp cords have been traced as far back as 8,000 BCE in Asia. If you keep in mind that the history of human agriculture begins at around 10,000 BCE, it seems very probable that cannabis was among the first agricultural crops.

hemp farmer in hemp field

There are ancient texts that describe the use of cannabis as a treatment for a variety of ailments—from earache to menstrual cramps. Throughout the millennia, it’s been used for everything from pottery to food, medicine, clothing, shoes, paper, sails (for ships), and rope. And that’s just the beginning.

It was, in short, a staple crop for centuries. In the US, the authorities considered hemp to be so essential to survival that early laws required farmers to grow the crop. Even The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. 

Why Was Hemp Banned?

So what happened? How did cannabis go from being a staple crop to such a controversial one? 

Truthfully, the 20th century was a bit of a mess when it comes to cannabis law. At the mid-point of the century, hemp actually reached peak production in the US, due to the wartime “Hemp for Victory” act. (At this time, “hemp” just referred to the more fibrous strains of cannabis.)

But even at that point of top production, cannabis was already coming under suspicion as recreational use started to gain popularity.Since there was little understanding of cannabinoids at this time, the paranoia about “reefer madness” made little distinction between hemp and marijuana.

dropper with cbd oil

Mixed in with the fear of recreational cannabis use was the desire for a greater market share for plastics and other manmade materials like nylon. (Of course, now that we’re drowning in oceans of plastic, this decision seems unfortunate, to put it mildly.)

Without delving too deeply into the history of the war on drugs, what eventually took place was the passing of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This officially banned the growth of cannabis (hemp as well as marijuana), putting a temporary end to the legal hemp industry in the US.

Hemp Legalization and the Emergence of CBD

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. The thin edge of the legalization wedge came in 2004 when the US legalized the import of hemp food products. At this time, businesses were also importing more hemp fiber for clothing and textiles. 

With businesses legally importing hemp products into the country, it became harder to justify the prohibition on growing the crop. 

Also, during the early part of this century, scientists were doing more research into the benefits of cannabinoids,and excitement began to grow around the potential of CBD. It was clear from early on that CBD both had enormous potential, and that it came without the main drawback of THC. Namely, it wouldn’t make you high.

At this point, momentum around hemp legalization really began to grow.

The Farm Bill of 2014 was a landmark piece of legislation that allowed states to begin experimenting with hemp. And it was this Farm Bill that really launched the CBD industry in the US in a big way. 

But there was still a lack of clarity around whether CBD was truly legal. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintained that the language of the 2014 Farm Bill didn’t warrant removing CBD from the list of controlled substances. 

The 2018 Farm Bill, however, clarified any confusion around CBD’s legal status. With the passing of that legislation, CBD was no longer listed as a Schedule I drug, and it was removed from the purview of the DEA.

Is CBD Legal? Federal vs. State Laws

So after 2018, hemp (and CBD!) were both officially legal at the federal level in the US.

What has been confusing, though, is the attitude of some states towards CBD. Even though CBD is legal federally, some states decided early on to maintain its illegal status at the state level. 

US map showing legal restrictions on CBD in ID, KS, IA, MS, TN, VA, NC, and SC

Thankfully, as pressure has mounted on legislators,a wave of state-level legalization has swept across the country over the last couple of years. Today, even holdouts like South Dakota have initiated hemp programs and allow for the sale of hemp-derived CBD. 

Because hemp legislation is in flux though, it’s never a bad idea to check out your state’s local laws.

How is CBD Regulated Today?

So CBD is unquestionably legal in the United States. Legal, but unregulated. The FDA, at this point, has not come forth with regulatory guidelines for the CBD industry.

This means that it’s up to us, as responsible CBD business owners, to uphold a high bar of quality and transparency. At Kanibi, we take that responsibility seriously. 

It’s why we make choices like sourcing domestic, organically grown hemp. It’s also why we provide third-party test results for our customers.In fact, we double test all of our products so that nothing slips through the cracks.

None of this is required by law. We do it so that our customers know they’re getting the best CBD on the market.