Is CBD Legal in the United States? – CBD & Marijuana State Laws

Is CBD Legal in the United States? – CBD & Marijuana State Laws

CBD From Hemp Vs. CBD From Marijuana  Hemp or Marijuana can both be used to source CBD. US CBD laws differ between Hemp derived CBD and Marijuana derived CBD. Even though they are chemically the same, Marijuana derived CBD can contain up to 30% THC, while CBD derived from Hemp contains less 0.3% THC.  THC is the compound

CBD From Hemp Vs. CBD From Marijuana 

marijuana plant

Hemp or Marijuana can both be used to source CBD. US CBD laws differ between Hemp derived CBD and Marijuana derived CBD. Even though they are chemically the same, Marijuana derived CBD can contain up to 30% THC, while CBD derived from Hemp contains less 0.3% THC.  THC is the compound that gets you high and in the reason for marijuana being in the Federal Governments  Schedule 1 Drug category.

Its impossible to decipher  whether or not CBD came from Hemp or Cannabis, but if your CBD is high in potency, it probably came from the cannabis plant.

Marijuana can produce up to 400% more CBD than hemp, making it the go to option for any business trying to make a profit.

Knowing the laws behind both sourced of CBD is essential for anyone looking to be involved or around the substance.

Legality of Hemp Derived CBD

hemp plant

Hemp derived CBD is legal in all 50 states. This is because it the Hemp plant possesses no psychoactive effects and won’t yield more than 0.3% THC, no where near enough to get any sort of high.

Even though Hemp derived CBD is legal, there is still some stigma against it, and it is often associated with the cannabis plant. Although, from a legal perspective it is completely legal.

CBD / Marijuana History, Politics, and Law

Medical marijuana and CBD have garnered a great deal of public attention over that last three decades. However, cannabis has a rich and storied past that stretches back thousands of years. Its uses and medicinal properties have been documented over many time periods and in a variety of places and cultures. Let’s take a look back at the beginnings of CBD and marijuana throughout the world and examine the debate as it has unfolded in the United States.

Medical Cannabis in the Ancient World


The medicinal use of cannabis was first described almost 5000 years ago, in ancient China. It was described in 2730 B.C.E. as one of the five “noble” herbs by the Emperor Shennong (often romanized to Shen Nung) in his work The Divine Farmer’s Classic Materia Medica. Cannabis was used to treat rheumatism, gout, poor memory and malaria.


In ancient India, cannabis has appeared in sacred Hindu texts that were compiled between 2000 and 1400 B.C.E. It was used for pain relief, anxiety and as a part of religious ceremonies. Cannabis use in India has been continuous since these ancient times and is still in practice today.


Around 1550 B.C.E., the Ebers Papyrus was written in Egypt. It was a comprehensive medical textbook that described, among other things, the use of cannabis to relieve inflammation and pain. There may have been even earlier medicinal use in Egypt for conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and cancer, but they have not been sufficiently confirmed by archeologists.


Influenced by Indian medical texts and techniques, the peoples of Azerbaijan have used cannabis to treat stomach ailments, pain, inflammation and breathing problems since the 8th century B.C.E.


The Greek historian, Herodotus, mentioned the cultivation of cannabis by the Scythians during the 5th century B.C.E. The Scythians were a group of nomadic tribes that originated in what became modern day Iran but they migrated to the Eurasian steppes. They used cannabis as an anesthetic and pain reliever.

Galen of Pergamon

Galen of Pergamon was a Greek physician and philosopher living under the rule of the Roman Empire in the second century. He referenced using cannabis for conditions like ear aches and stomach upset.

Medical Cannabis in Medieval Times


In medieval times, the Azerbaijani used every part of the cannabis plant for medicinal purposes. The leaves were dried and ground into a fine powder. They were used to treat loss of appetite, colds, skin ailments, intestinal issues, dysentery and hysteria. This powdered leaf was soaked in wine to make a drink called lutkiGanja, the same term used by Indians, was the flowering top of female plants. Charas was a concentrated resin made from cannabis flowers, leaves and trichomes. It was often used for rheumatic pain. The roots were boiled or ground into a powder. They were prized as a way to reduce infection or bring down a fever. The Azerbaijani also used the dried seeds and seed oil for stomach and intestinal ailments, ear aches, nerve pain, abscesses and tumors of the skin.


While the teachings of Greek and Roman scholars were lost in much of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, these texts were largely preserved in the Byzantium. Learning from the writings of Galen of Pergamon, Islamic physicians used hemp seed oil for ear aches or to get rid of intestinal parasites like tapeworms. Hemp seed oil and the juices of fresh leaves were used to treat skin conditions, including leprosy and hair loss. In the 10th and 11th centuries, the juice of cannabis leaves was used to treat people with epilepsy. Hemp seed oil was also prescribed for people with nerve pain and to treat the fevers associated with malaria.


In the 11th century, a Persian physician, Abu Ali al-Ḥusain Ebn Abdullah Ebn Sina, wrote the most influential medical texts of the medieval period. Known as Avicenna in the West, his work, The Canon of Medicine, was studied and used throughout the Arab and European worlds until the 18th century. Avicenna advised to use Cannabis sativa for eye irritation, severe headaches, bone and joint pain, swelling, infected wounds, gout and uterine pain. The Canon of Medicine, and the herbal remedies that it put forth, were put to the test by a team of researchers in 2015. They concluded that Avicenna’s prescriptions of cannabis were indeed useful for many of the ailments described in his text. They especially noted modern studies that found cannabis useful in treating the symptoms of migraines, spinal disc degeneration, endometriosis and cancer that back up Avicenna’s claims.

The Modern Era

Dr. William Brooke O’Shaughnessy

O’Shaughnessy can be credited with bringing knowledge of medicinal cannabis back into the forefront of Western medicine. During the mid-nineteenth century, he worked in India for the East India Trading Company in Calcutta. There he began to study the properties of medicinal plants from that region. Cannabis indica came to his attention since it had been used in India continually since ancient times. He wrote of his findings and how cannabis was very beneficial for painful conditions and treating seizures.

Dr. John Russell Reynolds

In the latter half of the 19th century, Sir John Russell Reynolds lived and worked in London. He studied extensively on all manner of nervous disorders. He also espoused the benefits of Cannabis indica for severe headaches, seizures asthma and depression.

From the research and writings of these two men, medicinal cannabis and its possibilities to help treat a myriad of conditions began to be considered again in the West.

Medical Cannabis in the United States

19th Century

Medicinal cannabis became very popular in the United States after 1850. It was used to treat a variety of symptoms like epilepsy, ear ache, uterine bleeding, headaches, infection, inflammation, tuberculosis, dysentery and rabies. It was available over the counter from many drug and patent medicine manufacturers.

Doctors in the United States were eager to explore the potential of cannabis as a medicine. Picking up on the research performed by O’Shaughnessy, Dr. RR M’Meens reported in 1860 that Cannabis indicawas a powerful tool to combat many painful conditions without the unwanted side effects of opiates. Dr. HA Hare reported that cannabis was a great way to help patients with chronic conditions, allowing them to forget their pain for a time. He also reported that cannabis could be used as an anesthetic for the mouth and tongue, something often practiced by dentists.

Near the end of the 19th century, medical cannabis began to decline in popularity. It was difficult for manufacturers to produce a reliable product since, at that time, the properties and percentages of cannabinoids was not yet understood. This was especially true of cannabis ingested orally, since this takes longer to take effect and can have unpredictable results. There was also a rise in popularity of synthetic opiate drugs to treat pain and the invention of the hypodermic needle meant that medicines like morphine could now be delivered straight to the bloodstream.

Early 20th Century

The most rapid decline in the use of medicinal marijuana started shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Patent medicines, including those that contained marijuana, came under greater scrutiny. Many patent medicines contained some form of opiate, and as a result, an estimated 2-5% of the population had become addicted. There was no regulation as to what these medicines could contain, no requirement to label ingredients and manufacturers were allowed to claim that they cured any kind of condition. Some even claimed they could revive someone who had just died.

The American Medical Association became concerned by the claims and ingredients of patent medicines. Journalists, such as Samuel Hopkins Adams, began publishing articles exposing the patent medicine industry, calling it, “The Great American Fraud.” Public opinion began to build that the federal government should step in and regulate matters of public health.

This public outcry led to the creation of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which also established the FDA. Products containing marijuana were not specifically mentioned, but the fact that ingredients like morphine and other opiates were now controlled by doctors led to a shift in public attitudes towards intoxicating substances.

Harrison Act

The Harrison Act was passed in 1914 and was the first federal law banning recreational drug use. The original version of the bill was set to ban non-medicinal use of cocaine, opiates, chloral hydrates and cannabis. At that time, doctors actually argued against banning marijuana and the final bill omitted cannabis. But, this was the beginning of federal drug laws as we know them today. It began the idea that all drug users are maniacal menaces to society that endanger life as we know it.

Reefer Madness

As the 20th century progressed, attitudes toward cannabis continued to degrade. An influx of Mexican immigrants brought recreational marijuana use with them. Fueled by racism, the social impacts of marijuana use began to be greatly inflated. Prohibition was in full swing, so many people, looking to unwind, turned to recreational marijuana that was cheaper and easier to come by than illicit alcohol.

In 1936, the iconic film Reefer Madness (originally titled Tell Your Children) was commissioned by a church group to inform youngsters that smoking cannabis would cause them to become psychotic killers and rapists, bent on destruction. Reefer Madness, and subsequent anti-marijuana films, had the desired effect, scaring the general public into thinking that marijuana was extremely dangerous.

1937 Marihuana Tax Act

By this time, 23 states had passed laws banning cannabis. However, the Marihuana Tax Act mostly obliterated medicinal cannabis in the United States. The law didn’t ban the prescription of medicinal marijuana, but since it taxed anyone who grew, prescribed, compounded, bought or even gave away marijuana, it made it cost prohibitive. Penalties were set so high that it also scared physicians and farmers from wanting anything to do with cannabis. The AMA again argued against this law, to no avail, stating that it would be better for cannabis to now be included under the Harrison Act instead of adding such harsh financial measures against growers, doctors and patients.

Cannabinoids Discovered

Researchers discovered CBD in 1940 at the University of Illinois, but it was not fully understood until 1963. Meanwhile, THC was discovered in 1964 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970

The final nail in the coffin for medicinal cannabis in the United States came with the passage of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, signed into law by President Nixon.

Nixon was strongly anti-cannabis. He ignored the recommendations of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse that had researched the issue. Also known as the Shafer Commision, they had originally set out to show the evils of marijuana. However, after conducting their research, the commision actually recommended that marijuana should be made legal or at the very least, decriminalized. Nixon denounced the findings and had marijuana placed as a Schedule I drug. Under this classification, marijuana is legally considered to have no medicinal value and has a high potential of abuse. It is considered by the federal government to be as dangerous as drugs like heroin and LSD.

After the Controlled Substances Act

Despite the heavy restrictions placed on cannabis research in the US, research did continue. There were landmark legal cases where patients, like Robert Randall and Irvin Rosenfeld, were allowed to legally use marijuana for medical conditions like glaucoma and cancer starting in 1976.

In 1990, scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system, the part of the central nervous system that interacts with cannabis, and began researching it. As the 90s progressed, more researchers, scientists and doctors began to reexamine using cannabis as a medicine, culminating in California becoming the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana. Over the next four years, seven more states followed suit. Studies continued to prove that medical cannabis improved patients’ quality of life. Now 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized at least some form of medicinal cannabis.

The Times They Are a Changin’

All this mounting evidence has led to where we find ourselves today, with the first ever FDA approved drug that is derived from a cannabis plant, Epidiolex. It can now be prescribed for two rare forms of developmental epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. This CBD based medication is the first non-synthetic cannabinoid to ever be approved for prescription nationwide. As more studies are compiled, it may very well not be the last. Although marijuana currently remains a Schedule I substance, research continues to mount, public attitudes continue to sway, and the availability of medical cannabis seems likely to grow.

History section written by Katherine Morgan

If you’d like a more in depth description of your states EXACT US CBD and Marijuana laws, click on your state above.,8599,1931247,00.html

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