An overview of the nuances surrounding the 2018 Farm Bill, which in theory legalized hemp-derived CBD products throughout the United States.

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This is part of our Taboo Series.

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill included measures to legalize hemp in the United States. In theory, this law permitted hemp-derived CBD products to be transported across state lines and sold online. As per this bill, the laws to legalize hemp pertain to those plants that contain no more than 0.3% THC. These products include clothing, ropes, paper, and building materials, as well as products for personal use such as topicals, tinctures, beverages, and food.

However, even though federal law legalized hemp, the production and purchase of such products remain illegal or restricted in a few states. Furthermore, according to cannabis lawyer Aaron Pelley, an attorney with Cultiva Law, his clients who produce hemp-derived CBD products face the same difficulties trying to launch their business as do those who work directly with cannabis plants. For example, anyone working in a business that touches a cannabis or hemp leaf often cannot obtain basic business services such as establishing an account with a traditional bank. 

According to Martin A Lee, director of Project CBD and author of Smoke Signals, cultivating hemp is not subject to the same onerous regulations and taxes as state-licensed cannabis farms, but hemp growers must keep the THC levels of their crop very low while aiming for high CBD levels. “Most of what passes for CBD-rich hemp today is actually marijuana that has been bred to express only a tiny amount of THC,” he observes. “But if the plants are not harvested before they are fully mature, the THC levels will often exceed the legal limit.” 

Some apparent loopholes could be found in the Farm Bill, and this has opened the door to the production, most notably, of Delta 8 THC products. These products are made by extracting the CBD from hemp and chemically converting the CBD into Delta-8 THC, which produces a mild marijuana-like high. Delta 9 THC is the main compound present in cannabis that makes people feel high, and it is regulated under state marijuana laws governing. 

Delta 8 THC products tend to thrive in states without a legal cannabis market. But Lee urges consumers to keep in mind that Delta 8 products are synthesized in a lab and may contain an array of unnatural and potentially harmful chemical byproducts that should be avoided. As yet, no studies have been conducted to ascertain the long-term effects of these chemicals. Lee suggests one should avoid vaping unregulated Delta 8-THC products because of concerns that have been raised regarding the presence of residual toxic chemicals.

Some states have banned the sale of Delta 8 products citing a lack of regulations to ensure product safety and label accuracy. Along those lines, on July 1, 2022, Oregon became the first state to prohibit the sale of hemp-derived CBD products outside of licensed dispensaries. 

In 2018, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approved the use of Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures, marking the first prescription drug containing CBD to be approved in the U.S. Thus far, however, the FDA has been unwilling to regulate nonpharmaceutical CBD products, which are readily available through numerous retail storefronts and online sources. Pelley and Lee remind consumers that when it comes to CBD, we’re in a situation that resembles the Wild West.

Project CBD offers a handy guide to aid those in selecting CBD products that will be safe for consumption. Among their key highlights: 

  • Look for products made by companies in states that have legalized the recreational and medical use of cannabis “since they tend to have stricter standards.”
  • Choose “full spectrum” CBD-rich oil extracts, not isolate, distillate, or products labeled “pure CBD” or “no THC.” Full spectrum means it includes numerous cannabis compounds, including a small amount of THC. If THC is completely illegal in your state, opt for so-called “broad spectrum” CBD oil products that include other cannabis components but no THC. 
  • Look for product labels that indicate the amount of CBD and THC per serving—not just the total cannabinoid content for the entire bottle.
  • Beware of companies that make explicit health claims about CBD products (this is not allowed by the FDA).
  • Check the Certificate of Analysis (COA) to verify that a product has gone through independent lab testing for quality assurance. 
  • Avoid CBD hemp oil vape cartridge products with toxic thinning agents (such as propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol), flavor additives, and other harmful ingredients.
  • Avoid poor-quality CBD-infused gummies made with corn syrup and artificial colors.
  • Think twice about brands that claim their CBD is derived from the seed and stalk of the hemp plant. CBD is not present in hempseed and barely any CBD is present on the stalk of the hemp plant.
  • Beware of multilevel marketing schemes and companies that seek to sign you up right away for recurring purchases.
  • Contact the CBD companies directly and ask questions.

Even though cannabis (marijuana), hemp, and hops all come from the Cannabaceae family, each product is viewed differently according to federal law. As noted in an earlier feature for Only Sky media, the complications of legalizing cannabis make it tricky to navigate how to use cannabis without facing consequences.

As a freelance writer with dual MDiv/MSW degree from Yale Divinity School and Columbia University, I focus on the rise of secular spirituality, religious satire, spiritual health & wellness, faith...

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