Is Hemp Legal? What You Need to Know
With the passing of the Farm Bill in December 2018, hemp became federally legal in the United States. And with it, the floodgates opened. Whether it’s jelly beans or gummies infused with CBD, vaping pens, or full-spectrum hemp extract, or other CBD products, there’s good reason for all the interest. Hemp and its array of phytocannabinoids offer an impressive number of health benefits.
Also known as the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act, the Farm Bill allows Americans to grow and sell hemp — which was not allowed before. The law also allows consumers to buy, consume, and bring hemp products, like hemp extract or CBD, across state lines.
This is a huge deal! However, there are some caveats you need to be aware of. If you want to buy hemp or CBD, there are questions you may want to have answered: Is hemp fully legal? Can you take CBD or hemp products on a plane or to a concert or ship it in the mail? Do laws vary by state? Read on to learn more.
With the sudden change in legal status and booming interest in hemp, thousands of companies have jumped on the bandwagon. However, most new companies do not have a high level of experience in sourcing, testing, and producing a quality herbal product. Finding a reputable supplement company is critical to getting a quality product.
What Is Hemp?
Hemp is Cannabis sativa that contains less than 0.3 percent THC. While hemp and marijuana both come from Cannabis sativa and their leaves, flowers, and seeds look similar, they are different. Because of its low THC levels, hemp doesn’t get you high. Hemp typically has high levels of CBD or cannabidiol, a beneficial plant compound with many health benefits.
The hemp plant grows tall and its stalks are strong and used in many consumer and industrial products, from shirts to jewelry to building materials. People around the world have long used hemp as a crop — early Americans regularly used it as a fiber. Hempseed has been a popular nutritional ingredient for many years, as well.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Although hemp and marijuana are both derived from Cannabis, they have distinctly different characteristics. As mentioned, hemp must contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be legal in the U.S. or Canada. While it does not have psychoactive properties, it contains a wealth of beneficial phytocannabinoids with helpful health benefits. Hemp's health benefits include bringing a deep sense of calm, better sleep, and relief from joint and body discomfort.
In contrast, non-hemp Cannabis is often bred for high THC; people use it recreationally or therapeutically. While Cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC is legal in several states to varying degrees, it remains federally illegal.
The Cannabis Family
Marijuana can come from two species, either Cannabis indica or C. sativa, while hemp is always C. sativa. Another species, C. ruderalis, is native to eastern Europe and Russia and is sometimes grown or hybridized with other Cannabis plants. Early religious texts around the world have referenced hemp for hundreds of years.
The Difference Between CBD and THC
CBD and THC are two phytocannabinoids found in Cannabis. They have similar chemical structures but have quite different effects on the body. CBD not only helps you relax by calming your mind and body but it also supports the immune system, brings overall body balance, and eases joint discomfort. It can even help you sleep better and lower the daily stresses of life.
THC is psychoactive, resulting in a “high” feeling, but also leads to an overall body relaxation. At low levels, THC can have positive calming effects, especially when taken in a full-spectrum hemp product that contains all of the naturally occurring chemical compounds from Cannabis.
Is Hemp Legal?
Yes, hemp is federally legal in all 50 states, but it is still regulated. The main regulation that affects consumers is that hemp products cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC. Otherwise, it becomes subject to completely different laws. Each state may have its own specific regulations and laws that you should be aware of.
This legal change is not only huge for farmers but also for all consumers. The law explicitly allows the production, sale, and transport of hemp-based products in the United States. But it’s a bit more complex than that. Let’s dive in to learn about the nuances and details around these laws.
Farm Bill Act of 2018
The 2018 Farm Bill, otherwise known as the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, legalized hemp production nationally in the United States. Hemp is now considered an agricultural crop and regulated by the USDA.[3, 8] The law explicitly allows the sale, transport across state lines, and possession of hemp-derived products, as long as THC levels are under legal limits.
Before 2018, you may have noticed that you could purchase hemp products, such as hemp hearts (edible hempseed) at grocery stores or hemp fabric clothing. That is because the U.S. did allow imports of some products.
An earlier version of the legislation, the Farm Bill of 2014, initially relaxed hemp restrictions by allowing hemp research and pilot hemp cultivation programs in certain states. The updated 2018 Farm Bill has created a thriving industry, with CBD and hemp oils widely available in grocery stores, nutrition and lifestyle stores, and online.
Hemp State to State
As a result of the legal change from the 2018 Farm Bill, you can now buy hemp oil, hemp extract, or CBD in most parts of the U.S. Even Utah, one of the states with the strictest stances towards Cannabis, no longer requires a prescription to purchase hemp-derived CBD oil. (See our article Everything You Need to Know About Hemp vs. CBD if you're curious about the differences).
States share in the regulation of hemp under the Farm Bill and must create state regulatory programs, or have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) impose their own. Many states are in the process of submitting regulation plans to the USDA. Expect things to change, as this is a very active area where entities are trying to determine the best way to regulate a booming hemp industry.
As a consumer, these state regulations do not affect your day-to-day use of hemp products. However, it’s a good idea to stay mindful of your state’s laws and any changes that may come about.
Note that if you buy hemp products in a state where non-hemp Cannabis is legal and you purchase a product from a dispensary or small local establishment, you could end up buying a hemp product that has greater than 0.3 percent THC. That could spell legal challenges if you take these products on an airplane, send them in the mail, or bring them in public — so be mindful to buy from a reputable, established supplement company that focuses exclusively on legal hemp products.
There are tens of thousands of industrial uses for hemp! Hemp is an amazing material and has been used as a traditional crop around the world. Examples of products that can be made from industrial hemp include paper, cardboard, bioplastic, building materials, and fabrics. Hemp has even been developed as biofuel, which can reduce reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels.
The Farm Bill not only opened the door for more of these industrial and consumer products, it also made it easier for Americans to create booming businesses, which grows the economy. Previously, companies imported hemp from other countries.
Certified Organic Hemp Farming
The Farm Act set aside significant funding for organic farmers, about $400 million. Once a farmer is registered and approved to grow industrial hemp, then they can also begin the organic certification process. The tests include soil examinations, seed selection, pest management, and even the types of tools and fencing used on the premises. Organic certification helps hemp farmers reach more conscientious buyers. It allows consumers to buy products free of toxic chemical pesticides.
Hemp Lifestyle Considerations
Now that you are more comfortable about buying hemp and using it from the comfort of your home, you may have other questions. For example, can you take it out and use it in public? Will it show up in a drug test? As with any product with a new regulation status, we recommend being mindful of these considerations.
Drug Testing for Hemp
Standard drug tests look for the presence of THC — which is high in non-hemp Cannabis. CBD extracts typically do not contain any THC, and some broad-spectrum products have THC removed. Full-spectrum hemp products, however, do contain very low levels of THC (less than 0.3 percent), and these trace amounts will not usually show up in a drug test, but there are no guarantees. If you consume more than the recommended dose for either pure CBD or hemp extract daily, there may be a higher chance of a positive drug test. Check with your employer about their policies.
Also, there is a chance that your supplement could have higher doses of THC than legal if you don’t select a reputable company. When selecting a product, look for a report or statement of the levels of various cannabinoids and other constituents in each serving.
Traveling with Hemp
If your hemp is in the form of rope or textiles, then you’re definitely okay traveling with it. However, the question of traveling with potent CBD oils or full-spectrum hemp oil or extract has more nuance to it. According to federal law, you can transport hemp across state lines, but states themselves are actively updating their laws to reflect the federal changes. It’s definitely a good idea to know your local and state laws when traveling with hemp supplements. It is also a good idea to bring any additional information provided by the manufacturer of your legal hemp extract when you travel, just in case any law enforcement would like to see more information about the product than what is stated on the label.
Flying With Hemp
The U.S. Transport & Security Administration (TSA) updated their website following the Farm Bill Act of 2018, indicating that otherwise-legal hemp products are allowed in both checked and carry-on luggage on domestic flights. The final decision on whether to allow you to travel with any item rests with the TSA officers, however.
It is best not to risk flying out of the country with hemp products. Even though CBD oil is now legal in the United States, there are many countries where it is not. Navigating foreign laws can be complex, and getting involved with foreign governments legal systems is even more so.
Hemp at Popular Attractions
While CBD oil is now legal across the country, some attractions may still not permit it. Companies running events and attractions can set their own rules on what they allow in. For example, all forms of Cannabis are currently listed as prohibited on the Disney Parks website and on many cruises. It seems that many institutions are still adapting their rules around this relatively new law. It may be best to leave your CBD oil at home when heading out to a major attraction for the day.
Know Your Rights
Hemp legalization has left a lot of people confused, even some law enforcement divisions and officers. Knowing the legality around hemp is important and empowering. You can review your home state’s laws to make your own decisions regarding CBD oil and other hemp products. You find your state's laws online. Be mindful until your state’s laws have had time to catch up to the changed federal law.
Sources of Hemp
When choosing a provider of CBD oil or hemp extract, pick a supplier that is reputable and transparent. Toxins or pesticides may be present in lower quality oils, and almost certainly are if your product is not organic. Unless you go with an established supplement company, it may be difficult to know exactly what you are getting.
Quality Hemp Supplements
So what is a quality hemp supplement? Choose a certified organic product that has gone through recognized certification and quality testing. Finding a company with years of experience with natural health supplements ensures you get one that has well-established sourcing, quality control, and production processes. Look for the following when choosing a hemp product. A full-spectrum hemp product includes all the natural phytocannabinoids found in hemp, offering you greater health effects than CBD alone.
Find a company that does in-house and third-party testing to assure products are free from harmful levels of contaminants, including pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and residual solvents.
Look for labels that contain clear, transparent information about the servings for each ingredient. Full-spectrum hemp means that it contains all the naturally-occurring cannabinoids found in the plant, including CBD, THC, and also others like CBC, CBG, CBN, and more. Components in a natural product may vary by batch. A good company will make this information available so that you know what you are buying.
Certified Organic Hemp Extracts
Choosing a certified organic provider ensures that no heavy toxic chemicals are entering your body. The organic certification process holds suppliers to a high standard of purity.
Points to Remember
The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized hemp federally, which means it can be grown, consumed, and sold in all 50 states. Hemp is Cannabis with 0.3 percent or less THC. However, growing hemp still isn’t as easy as growing sunflowers. Hemp must adhere to strict federal rules and regulations as well as state laws.
While you can fly with hemp products in the U.S., avoid taking it overseas, and check rules before bringing it to any parks, concerts, or other attractions. You can also ship it in federal mail, as long as you are mailing in the U.S.
You will want to ensure you buy a hemp product that has been quality-tested and provides you with details of its component ingredients. Buy from a supplement company with experience in producing quality herbal supplements.
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.
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