Many people consider cannabinoid (CBD) a miracle drug. But the federal government considers it an illegal substance.

CBD has proven effective in treating a number of medical conditions, including seizures, pain and anxiety. Articles touting CBD have appeared in mainstream publications. For instance, the Washington Post that called it “the new ‘it’ drug.”

Robert Scott Bell is a homeopath and a leading voice for health freedom and healing liberty. He’s hosted his syndicated radio show for nearly two decades and has touted the benefits of CBD for years.

“Cannabinoids are proving to be both powerful and safe in reducing reliance on dangerous and addictive opioids, easing pain, anxiety and other, previously untreatable neurological disorders. CBD is invaluable in helping children overcome treatment-resistant seizure disorders and even shows promise for children on the autism spectrum,” Bell said. “My wife is alive today because of the pain and anxiety relief she received from CBD over the last 5 years from a dental injury that the FDA approved painkilling drugs could not touch.”

CBD is derived from cannabis. But since it’s generally processed from industrial hemp, it does not contain high levels of THC – the active ingredient in marijuana that makes people high. As a result, many people mistakenly believe CBD is legal. In fact, many mainstream articles claim it is “legal in all 50 states.” But the federal government begs to differ. In fact, the DEA considers CBD a schedule 1 drug and as such, generally illegal across the country.

A drug called Epidiolex just approved by the FDA June 27, 2018, to treat seizures in a rare form of epilepsy is the only CBD product federally-legal, and then only with a prescription.

People in the cannabis industry who argue that CBD is legal over the counter rely on the “hemp amendment” in the 2014 farm bill. But the law only legalized hemp production for limited purposes. It “allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.”

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Drug Enforcement Agency released a “statement of principles” to guide interpretation of the hemp section in the Farm Bill. It states, “The growth and cultivation of industrial hemp may only take place in accordance with an agricultural pilot program to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp established by a State department of agriculture or State agency responsible for agriculture in a State where the production of industrial hemp is otherwise legal under State law.”

In short, the current federal law authorizes farming of hemp – by research institutions, or within state pilot programs – for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited.

The definition of “commercial” remains murky and has created significant confusion.

The statement of principles also asserted that industrial hemp programs are limited to fiber and seed. It didn’t mention CBD oil or other edible hemp products. The DEA has interpreted that to mean they remain illegal. According to the DEA, CBD cannot be sold under any circumstances.

An Indiana TV station interviewed DEA spokesman Rusty Payne.

“It’s not legal. It’s just not.”

Payne says cannabis plants are considered a Schedule I controlled substance, and medicinal oils derived from cannabis plants are illegal according to two federal laws: the Controlled Substance Act and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. He said confusion surrounding the Agricultural Act of 2014 (better known as the “Farm Bill”) is frequently cited as legal justification by those who want to manufacture, sell or use CBD oil. The DEA believes the Farm Bill permits only CBD research — not CBD marketing and sales.

“Anybody who’s in violation [of the federal laws] always runs that risk of arrest and prosecution,” he said.

Nevertheless, people across the country are selling, buying and using CBD, and nullifying the federal law in practice and effect.

In fact, Robert Scott Bell called CBD “the great disruptor to centralized control of disease management by the federal government bureaucracy.”

Ignoring federal prohibition, a number of states have authorized the sale of CBD oil through their hemp pilot programs. Other states, such as Oregon and Kentucky, have ignored federal law completely and allowed the sale of CBD oil in a commercial setting. In fact, more than half of Kentucky’s hemp acreage has been cultivated for CBD.

“Despite federal prohibition, the people and the states are acknowledging the benefits of hemp-derived CBD as it has become the fastest growing category of the dietary supplement industry in history,” Robert Scott Bell said.

In fact, you can walk into JuiceCrafters in Downtown Los Angeles and find CBD mixed into a cold-pressed greens juice. Specialty grocer Lassen’s Natural Foods in Echo Park has an entire display case dedicated to CBD products. The store even has a web page dedicated to CBD. As Tenth Amendment Center executive director and LA resident Michael Boldin noted, buying CBD is often no different than purchasing Tylenol at your local grocery.

“This is far different than what even legal marijuana retailers do. They require you to stop at a security station and show your ID.  They log you in whether you buy or not.  Marijuana is on heavy lockdown.  But these companies and stores selling CBD – they’re doing it in the open, with displays for the general public.”

And the feds aren’t doing anything about it. Even DEA spokesman Payne admitted the agency isn’t enforcing federal law. The WTHR reporter asked him what he would do if he was in the position of a mother who found CBD helped her child deal with excruciating pain related to cancer treatment. He said he would do the same exact thing — without hesitation.

“I cannot blame these people for what they’re doing. They are not a priority for us … it would not be an appropriate use of federal resources to go after a mother because her child has epileptic seizures and has found something that can help and has helped. Are they breaking the law? Yes, they are. Are we going to break her door down? Absolutely not. And I don’t think she’ll be charged by any U.S. Attorney.”

As a recent Forbes article put it, “at the end of the day, CBD is not legal in all 50 states — even though it is widely available.”

That being the case, is the federal law really even relevant?

Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at and like him on Facebook HERE

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