Is CBD illegal? Despite widespread usage, CBD’s legal status hangs in the balance.
New regulations, FDA warning letters, and a host of other concerns have made the practice of buying CBD feel like a last-chance occurrence. But, is there really reason to ask, “Is CBD illegal?” After all, it’s available everywhere. That question is about to become much more relevant in 2020. Just like the alcohol prohibition, which canceled previously legal sales all across the country, the nation could be facing a raft of cannabis laws and regulations that effectively outlaw CBD as we know it.
The Trump administration recently released a thorough list of regulations for hemp farmers farmers, the plant that most CBD comes from. The new regulations are meant to clarify some of the rules around CBD — but it also makes clear that many of the CBD programs put in place in 2014 will expire in 2020. Who knows what new rules will pop up by then? By this time next year, asking the question, “Is CBD illegal?” could have a very different answer. And not in our favor.
Many Groups are Suddenly Turning on CBD
In November, the United States Air Force announced it would no longer allow airmen to use products containing CBD.
The Air Force framed this as both an issue of military justice and a matter of common sense. According to Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, service members are prohibited from consuming what the federal government deems controlled substances. While CBD does not officially fall in that list (THC is a schedule I narcotic), the USAF urges caution.
“It’s important for both uniformed and civilian Airmen to understand the risk these products pose to their careers,” said Maj. Jason Gammons, Air Force Office of The Judge Advocate General spokesperson in the press release. “Products containing unregulated levels of THC can cause positive drug tests, resulting in the same disciplinary actions as if members had consumed marijuana.”
Gammons pointed to this study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2017), which found that about twenty percent of CBD products contained higher than the 0.03 percent. Service members who fail THC drug screenings are usually subjected to court martials.
The USAF is not the only service branch to officially declare CBD off limits to its members. The U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard enacted similar measures this summer.
Of course, this isn’t really about CBD, which isn’t against any drug rules. Instead, these groups and others are using CBD as a Trojan Horse to continue anti-THC policies. And they’re not the only ones.
Is CBD Allowed in Professional Sports?
The question of CBD’s legality may be more apparent in athletics than any other venue in American life. While many organizations, like the World Anti-Doping Agency, have ruled that CBD is not illegal, and many professional athletes have touted the benefits of the cannabinoid, it’s still the subject of much consternation among American leagues.
The first professional sports league in America to allow CBD consumption was BIG3, a three-on-three basketball league that employs many former NBA ballers. It made the announcement in June 2018. About a year later, the NFL followed suit.
However, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) lists “cannabinoids” on its list of banned substances. It’s unclear if CBD applies to this or not, and not many college students want to be the guinea pigs to test the rule.
So when it comes to sports, the answer to “Is CBD illegal” is: “Sometimes.”
The Pushback From Voters
But, just as some organizations are tightening the reins on CBD consumption, others are trying to loosen the regulations around this cannabinoid.
For one pair of Oregon senators, the question “Is CBD illegal?” isn’t worth asking. They’re far more interested in helping hemp farmers grow high-quality plants. Now, they’re lobbying the government to clarify some of the hemp regulations ahead of the next growing season.
So, is CBD illegal? At the state level, it’s not just legal — politicians champion it.
But Wait — is CBD Illegal Now or Could it be?
Yes and no. CBD is a controlled substance at the federal level. CBD from cannabis is Schedule I. CBD that has been approved by FDA (read: pharma) is Schedule 5. The FDA has recently given notice to fifteen CBD companies to stop marketing and/or producing their improperly labeled products.
Theoretically, a pure CBD product would be perfectly to sell in the U.S. — as long as it doesn’t make claims about its efficacy in treating disease or identify itself as a health supplement. Those claims require prior approval by the FDA.
When CBD products claim to ease pain, it’s the truth (according to a massive scientific consensus). But companies aren’t legally able to tell the truth without clearing it with the government first, and the powers that be aren’t convinced by science.
Because of that mindset — a disregard for science — the future of legal CBD is still precarious. There is no telling what politicians who don’t listen to scientists will do when it comes to science policy.
But there is reason to stay optimistic.
Voters are clearly on the CBD train, and its increasingly popular position in American life means it should be well protected. But just in case, don’t forget to let your representatives know that CBD is a medicine and a gift.
It’s too important to leave up to whims of politics.
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