Is CBD Oil Legal In California

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Hemp CBD—but not delta-8 THC—is legal for retail sale in California. Is CBD Oil Legal in California? We cover the legality of CBD in the state and laws that you need to be aware of before you buy.

It’s official: California legalizes CBD (but not delta-8 THC)

Hemp CBD—but not delta-8 THC—is legal for retail sale in California, pending specific regulations to come from the Department of Public Health in a few months.

Blockbuster hemp ingredient CBD is now officially legal in California in dietary supplements, foods, beverages and cosmetics, as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 45 into law.

It was an arduous, three-year process for the bill to wind through the state legislature, which passed the bill on Sept. 10.

“After months of negotiation between the various stakeholders, that day is finally here,” according to an email from the Amin Talati Wasserman law firm, which represents many hemp and CBD companies. “The majority of requirements under the new law are similar to existing requirements, but some are unique to California, with possibly more on the way via future regulations—adding to the ever-growing patchwork of state laws governing hemp and CBD products.”

California has paved the way with all things cannabis. It was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, back in 1996. It wasn’t quite as fast off the draw as Colorado when the Rocky Mountain state legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but California dutifully fell in line in 2016. But even though the farm bill in 2014, and again in 2018, did its level best to legalize hemp and CBD, California managed to stay stuck in the 20 th century.

Some say it was marijuana interests that successfully lobbied the California state legislature to keep hemp and in particular hemp CBD in a regulatory gray area.

“Yet the same people hobbling California hemp for decades are behind it,” said Richard Rose, a pioneer in the hemp space. “And the OGs hate AB 45.”

Marijuana interests are definitely none too pleased with the allowance of smokable hemp—the compromise being that hemp growers can still sell out of state but not in state until the state develops a taxing scheme. This compromise is fiercely loathed by hemp farmers because the law was signed right when harvest is set to begin, leaving many hemp farmers who had been selling in state suddenly with no market.

But whatever the case, Newsom on Thursday signed AB 45, which removes much of the risk for brands and retail outlets wanting to sell CBD.

Specifics of AB45

Two things are of note.

One, the California Department of Public Health (DPH) will need to develop regulations around the sale of CBD into products for sale at the full range of retail outlets. This is expected to take several months.

“Like other states that have legalized the sale of CBD products in recent years,” said the Amin Talati Wasserman statement, “California’s law comes with its own testing, labeling, approved source and registration requirements.”

For example, the new law requires labels to include certain warning statements and a scannable barcode, website, or QR code linked to a certificate of analysis that provides specific testing information, among other label requirements.

AB45 defines “THC”—the intoxicating cannabinoid compound notorious for marijuana’s effects—to include THCA, and any THC, including delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC and delta-10 THC.

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That makes California the 19 th state to restrict or ban delta-8 THC. The other states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

AB45 also authorizes the DPH to include or exclude “comparable” cannabinoids from the definition of THC, based on their intoxicating effect, or lack thereof.

In addition, the DPH may impose maximum serving sizes for hemp-derived cannabinoids, hemp extract and products derived therefrom, active cannabinoid concentration per serving size, the number of servings per container, and any other requirements it deems necessary.

What the FDA thinks about California legalizing CBD

The second notable thing about the California legalization effort is that yet another state has stepped in to issue regulations. CBD is legal to various degrees in all 50 states, with the possible exceptions of Idaho and Iowa.

The California law brings into sharper relief the fact that there is no real federal regulation around CBD.

It is the opinion of FDA that CBD is illegal under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

Beyond FDA standing firm on its stance that CBD is illegal in supplements—which of course has not stopped more than 3,000 brands from entering the market nationwide—the agency says it is concerned about CBD safety.

To that end, pioneering CBD brand Charlotte’s Web and legacy supplements company Irwin Naturals submitted new dietary ingredient (NDI) notifications to the FDA to demonstrate safety.

This means the California market is, in theory, strictly an intra-state deal. To be sure, California rates as the world’s fifth largest economy all on its own.

FDA’s rejection of the NDI notifications, while disappointing, is seen as putting more pressure on Congress to write legislation—again, but apart from a farm bill—to legalize hemp cannabinoids.

Recently, acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock described the CBD situation as a “stalemate.”

“The law is fairly clear about this,” she said.

Federal law states that a molecule or “article” studied or approved by FDA as a drug cannot later become a dietary supplement ingredient (though it does not hold in reverse—a supplement ingredient can later become a drug, as is the case with niacin and fish oil).

But the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (under which resides the FDA) has authority (through a notice-and-comment rulemaking) to make an exception to the drug preclusion law, which is what Woodcock is referring to when she says CBD is illegal. FDA, though, has never invoked the exception or signaled it wants to do so for CBD.

Is CBD oil legal in California?

California makes cannabis legal to possess and buy for adults 21 and older, and cannabidiol (CBD) oil products are widely available at dispensaries and over-the-counter at other retailers. However, state law prohibits CBD oil derived from hemp from being added to foods and drinks until the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines it is safe.

California is known as one of the most liberal states in the nation — and so it makes sense that it’s also been one of the strongest supporters of cannabis legalization. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana when it passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. And 20 years later, the state passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalized cannabis for recreational purposes.

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What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis. It is the second-most-abundant cannabinoid in the plant after THC. CBD is also purported to showl therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, seizure-suppressing, and anti-anxiety properties.

Why is CBD sometimes illegal?

Hemp strains don’t produce enough of the cannabinoid THC to cause intoxication, but all types of cannabis, including hemp, were considered illegal under the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act. The legislation swept all cannabis under the Schedule 1 umbrella, which defined cannabis as a substance with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a likelihood for addiction.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation and created a clear pathway to remove some cannabis from Schedule 1 status by creating a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana. Under the new legislation, hemp is classified as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight, while marijuana is classified as cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC. As a result, hemp-derived CBD was descheduled by the bill, but because marijuana is categorized as a Schedule 1 substance, CBD that is derived from the marijuana plant is still considered federally illegal. While hemp is now considered an agricultural commodity under the 2018 Farm Bill, it still must be produced and sold under regulations that implement the bill. The USDA has yet to create these regulations.

New formulations of CBD allow the cannabinoid to be used in a variety of ways. Photo by: (Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

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The Farm Bill also endowed the FDA with the ability to regulate CBD’s labeling, therapeutic claims, and presence in foods or drinks. Despite the Farm Bill’s passage, the FDA has issued a directive that no CBD, not even hemp-derived, may be added to food or beverages or marketed as a dietary supplement. As time passes, the FDA has begun re-evaluating that stance on CBD products but has yet to revise rules or specifically regulate CBD products. The FDA’s slow movement has created further confusion on the state level.

The FDA has historically been strict when it comes to health claims or content that could be understood as medical advice — and makes no exception for CBD.

Hemp production and sale, including its cannabinoids and CBD specifically, remain tightly regulated federally. The Farm Bill provides that individual states may also regulate and even prohibit CBD cultivation and commerce. States may attempt to regulate CBD in food, beverage, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products independently of the FDA’s rules.

California CBD laws

Currently, California’s definition of CBD is consistent with the federal definition. According to a letter issued by the Attorney General’s Office, “although California currently allows the manufacturing and sales of cannabis products (including edibles), the use of industrial hemp as the source of CBD to be added to food products is prohibited. Until the FDA rules that industrial hemp-derived CBD oil and CBD products can be used as a food or California makes a determination that they are safe to use for human and animal consumption, CBD products are not an approved food, food ingredient, food additive, or dietary supplement.”

After the 2018 Farm Bill passed, the state introduced AB 228, which would have clarified CBD legality and legalized hemp-derived CBD to be included in food, beverage, and cosmetics products without restrictions, but the bill was held. Until the bill is passed and signed by the governor, California’s laws surrounding hemp-derived CBD and CBD oil remain consistent with the FDA.

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Licensing requirements for CBD

The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which authorized the commercial production of industrial hemp, went into effect in early 2017. The act, SB 566, authorizes the commercial production of industrial hemp in California and became effective on Jan. 1, 2017. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is developing a program to administer the new law.

CBD oil usually comes with a dropper to allow consumers and patients to measure out their dose. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Cultivation Requirements

All growers of industrial hemp for commercial purposes must register with a county agricultural commissioner prior to cultivation. Registration applications are available on the CDFA Industrial Hemp Program web page. The annual registration fee is currently $900.

Labeling Requirements

While the hemp program is still being developed by the CFDA, the California Department of Public Health has clear labeling regulations around cannabis products, which includes information regarding the products’ origins, expiration, ingredients and amounts of THC and CBD. Labels also may not contain any misleading information, make unproven health claims, or be designed in a way that is attractive to children.

Testing Requirements

Hemp growers must also submit samples for THC concentration testing no more than 30 days before harvest. Registrants must submit their registration number, name and contact information, anticipated harvest date, name of the seed cultivar(s), physical address, Global Positioning System coordinates, general description of the location, and acreage of the crop, and the name and contact information of the laboratory to conduct the testing for THC content.

Once that information is received, samples will be collected by the commissioner or an approved third-party for testing. All labs must have an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) / International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 17025 accreditation and use a validated method for total THC analysis. Any industrial hemp crop that doesn’t meet testing requirements will be destroyed.

California CBD possession limits

Currently, there are no clear possession limits on CBD oil in California.

Where to buy CBD in California

While hemp-derived CBD cannot be used in food, beverages, or dietary supplements in California, you can still find a variety of CBD products, including CBD oil, in both retail stores and online.

Because the manufacturing and sale of CBD products is still unregulated, it’s important to do your research and make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable source.

How to read CBD labels and packaging

Though California’s product label guidelines have been delineated, there remain some questions about how they apply to hemp-derived CBD products. It’s important to have the information necessary to make an informed decision about the ingredients, efficacy, and safety of the CBD products you purchase. Most reputable CBD producers will typically include the following information required by the California Department of Public Health on their CBD product labels:

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