You might imagine that California’s reputation for embracing cannabinoids would be stellar.
After all, California was the first state to create a legal medical marijuana program, way back in 1996. Twenty years later, California became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana after the Adult Use of Marijuana Act passed the ballot in November 2016, starting a trend which has now been followed by ten other states.
But since the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into federal law, California’s regulations have lagged behind federal changes, leading to a complex situation with regards to CBD.
It’s still possible to buy CBD off the shelf in California. However, California’s authorities have quietly removed CBD products from some vendor’s shelves.
You can reliably buy CBD products from one of California’s many cannabis dispensaries, or easily order it online, but until changes are implemented to California state law, the type of hemp derived CBD which has become so popular in other states remains in a legal grey area.
Let’s take a look at just why this is.
The Two Types of CBD in California
Ironically enough, the reason CBD laws are so complicated in California is likely because marijuana is legal there.
It has been possible to buy CBD oils and other products -- including high CBD marijuana flowers and concentrates -- for decades in California. First through the medical marijuana program for those with a medical card and later through California’s recreational marijuana dispensaries, CBD products have been legally available in California longer than anywhere else in the United States.
However, these CBD products were created under California’s state-level laws which allowed licensed growers to farm cannabis and licensed marijuana dispensaries to distribute it.
This is a set of laws completely separate from the 2018 Farm Bill which made hemp and hemp derived CBD products federally legal. Under the new federal law, cannabis plants were divided into two distinct legal categories: hemp (defined as a cannabis plant containing 0.3% or less THC) was legalized, while marijuana -- plants with more than 0.3% THC -- remain illegal.
In most states, this opened the door for hemp derived CBD products to be sold in everything from gas stations to grocery stores. But California balked at this newfound freedom, taking the stance that hemp derived CBD could not be legally sold under existing state law.
California’s enforcement of these laws has been sporadic at best. You can still find CBD for sale in various health food stores and through supplement suppliers, but these vendors are operating in a legal grey area. Technically, under California’s current laws, CBD can only be legally sold by licensed marijuana dispensaries.
Fortunately, all of this seems poised to change very soon. A discussion of this sticky situation published by the Los Angeles Times noted that two bills related to hemp (SB 153 and AB 228) have been making their way through the California legislature without resistance.
This means that (hopefully) California will soon be adopting laws which legalize hemp and hemp derived products at the state level, bringing California state law up to date with the federal regulations enacted by the 2018 Farm Bill.
Once that happens, CBD vendors will be able to operate fully within the law and CBD will return to the shelves of vitamin shops, vape stores, health food stores, and everywhere and anywhere else interested in selling CBD.
So… is CBD Legal in California?
The complexities of CBD laws in California should really only be a concern for those hoping to sell CBD products outside of licensed marijuana dispensaries. Enforcement of these laws have only targeted CBD vendors, not individuals who use or possess CBD products.
CBD users have nothing to worry about. Everyday, thousands of Californians purchase hemp derived CBD from the vendors willing to sell it at brick and mortar shops. Similarly, individuals who order CBD online and have it delivered to their door in California are in the clear. It’s not something you need to worry about as an individual.However, if you’re hoping to avoid going to a cannabis dispensary to get your CBD in California, the best method right now is to order CBD online. Not only will ordering online get you access to the widest selection and best prices, it also saves the headache of finding a vendor willing to deal with California’s unnecessarily complex law.