California Isn’t as Cool with CBD as You Might Think


California has usually been pretty cool with pot. Back in the ‘90s, it became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. And at the start of this year, California joined the small but growing number of states that have legalized recreational cannabis as well. But just because weed is legal, the state wants people to know that it still draws the line in certain areas, and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently put its foot down when it comes to cannabidiol, also known as CBD.

As attitudes around marijuana have become more lax in recent years, CBD has become a hot topic, since many believe that the compound lives in a bit of a marijuana gray area. The general consensus is that while CBD may have therapeutic effects, it is not psychoactive (unlike THC, which is marijuana’s main psychoactive compound).

Both CBD and THC can be derived from marijuana; however, CBD can also be derived from marijuana’s less intoxicating cannabis cousin, hemp. Since hemp has a different legal status than marijuana, some CBD-savvy businesspeople have been deriving CBD from legal hemp and then attempting to sell it as an additive in things like food and drinks, in part piggybacking off marijuana’s growing buzz.

The existing legal web is difficult to interpret: As The Cannifornian wrote last week, “Even cannabis industry attorneys can’t agree on whether CBD derived from hemp is legal.” But earlier this month, the CDPF issued a revised FAQ on the legality of CBD in food products, and the state agency made its opinion very clear: “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.”

In making this distinction, the state specifically spoke about jurisdiction. Marijuana products, which are intended to be used medically or recreationally, are controlled by the CDPH Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch; meanwhile, industrial hemp, which isn’t intended for these purposes, is overseen by the Food and Drug Branch. To put it another way, licensed cannabis sellers using CBD in cannabis edibles is one thing, but once you leave the cannabis shop, federal rules apply.

Of course, the state reaffirming its stance is one thing; keeping people in line with those rules is another. As the site Canna Law Blog writes, “How exactly CDPH-FDB plans to enforce its FAQ is not clear given that hemp CBD products are already rampant in California.”



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