Is CBD Legal?

Is CBD Legal?

Most people associate Cannabidiol (CBD) with medical marijuana, so one of the first questions, is CBD legal? The simple answer is, yes, it is . . . now, but how CBD products became legal in all 50 states comes with many twists and turns.

CBD Beginnings

CBD research began back in the 19040s through a Harvard chemist Roger Adams. He began studying the chemistry of marijuana plants. He isolated the compound CBD  from the rest of the Cannabis sativa plant but didn’t describe its organic structure. Even though his research was groundbreaking due to first discovering cannabinoids and would lead later to understanding the Cannabinoid System he isn’t genuinely credited with paving the way for CBD legality.

After Roger Adams, came Dr. Walter S. Loewe who began testing CBD and its cousin Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  Through animal studies in mice and rabbits, he documented that while THC produced a relaxed trance-like state, CBD seemed not to have the same effect. Since the Endobinnoid System hadn’t been discovered yet, scientists didn’t thoroughly understand whether CBD created the “high-like” sensation associated with marijuana or THC. But this led to further research in other parts of the world.

CBD Compound Structure

In 1964, Raphael Michoulam, an Israeli doctor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, mapped the CBD compounds chemical structure.  He also described the chemical compound of THC, showing that it’s responsible for the psychoactive effect (intoxicating cerebral effects), not CBD.

Both CBD and THC cannabinoids are in the same Cannabis sativa plant family but are two different compounds. CBD, found in the hemp plant, reacts differently in the Endocannabinoid System. ECS is responsible for the regulation of emotions, movement, and cognitive abilities. CBD plugs into these receptors to provide balance and relieve from health conditions.

Since Dr. Raphael Michulam’s research included testing on primates, it was easier to identify which compound affected bodily functions. While both have many medicinal benefits, CBD won’t impair you from driving or to failing any drug tests. Following on the footsteps of Michoulam’s discovery, the British Pharmacopoeia in the mid-1970s released a tincture of a full-spectrum CBD for therapeutic use.

The Controlled Substances Act

In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act, which regulates the possession and use of certain substances, such as heroin, LSD, cocaine, and marijuana. The CSA divides these substances into five schedules, based on three attributes. The first criterion is the drug’s potential for abuse. Next, the current medical use of the compound, and, finally, the possibility of safely being used under medical care.

Schedule I drugs are the most heavily regulated and carry high sentences if found to possess or sell drugs in this category. Substances included in this category are everything from heroin to cannabis. Since marijuana is a Schedule I drug, any variety of cannabis, even industrial hemp, which isn’t psychoactive, is illegal.  

Michoulam’s Epilepsy Research

In the 1980s, Michoulam teamed up with scientists in Brazil’s Sao Paulo Medicine Faculty of Santa Casa to conduct a double-blind study using CBD. The study included 16 individuals, most of them children, suffering from severe epilepsy. All 16 subjects showed significant relief from seizures and exhibited few side effects.

The stigma around hemp and marijuana still active, the results went virtually unnoticed despite the profound medical benefits for people, in particular children, for the reduction of seizures.

Medical Marijuana Becomes Legal in California

In 1996, public support for medical marijuana was strong. The voters answered and medical marijuana became legal. Dispensaries in California began to pop up, and people started supplementing with cannabis to relieve health conditions like chronic pain, cancer, arthritis, and epilepsy.  Even though medical marijuana is now available, CBD is not legal yet without a prescription.  However, this paved the way for additional research and the possibility of a constitutional change for CBD. Other states like Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Maine, and Nevada began to legalize marijuana, showing that others were sure to follow soon.

Patent on CBD

U.S. Department of Health Services in 2003 issues a patent on CBD for neuroprotectant therapy, but doesn’t remove it as a Schedule I narcotic. What this does is basically say CBD has therapeutic benefits but still isn’t legal and carries heavy sentences for production or possession. In other states like West Virginia, North Dakota, and Rhode Island began to legalize marijuana or allow for hemp CBD for medical conditions.

The Groundbreaking Case of Charlotte Figi

Charlotte Figi suffered from acute grand mal seizures, sometimes 30o or more per week. She was born with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. This type of epilepsy is untreatable by seizure medications, but through CBD concentrates her seizures all but disappeared. Federal law then approved a high-cannabidiol, low THC cannabis strain, called Charlotte’s Web and labeled as a dietary supplement in 2014. Charlotte’s Web named after Charlotte Figi revolutionized the cannabis industry and began the journey to CBD legalization.

2018 Farm Bill

Perhaps, one of the least known inclusions in the 2018 Farm Bill was the federal government approving hemp production. Farmers are allowed to grow hemp plants in the United States. Hemp-derived products include everything from textiles to CBD oils. Even though cannabis hemp is allowed for cultivation, marijuana, including CBD, is still considered a Schedule I drug. More states are passing laws approving medical marijuana and recreational use, but the food and drug administration still considers the use and possession illegal. Despite this legality, CBD derived from hemp is legal in all 50 states.  You can now purchase hemp oil, CBD vape oil, CBD edibles, and CBD capsules without fear of the law.

It only took a few years (80 give or take), but CBD has finally made its way into the mainstream medical community. Now that CBD is finally legal in all 50 states, CBD’s therapeutic benefit for many health concerns small and large is a viable option. And as people begin to understand that CBD has no psychoactive outcome, but all the health benefits, more will turn to it for relief.

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