Hemp CBD—but not delta-8 THC—is legal for retail sale in California. Learn about the current state of cannabis legislation in California as well as the impact of medical and recreational marijuana legalization on the state’s economy and crime rate. Find out more about the different types of cannabis licenses in California
It’s official: California legalizes CBD (but not delta-8 THC)
Hemp CBD—but not delta-8 THC—is legal for retail sale in California, pending specific regulations to come from the Department of Public Health in a few months.
Blockbuster hemp ingredient CBD is now officially legal in California in dietary supplements, foods, beverages and cosmetics, as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 45 into law.
It was an arduous, three-year process for the bill to wind through the state legislature, which passed the bill on Sept. 10.
“After months of negotiation between the various stakeholders, that day is finally here,” according to an email from the Amin Talati Wasserman law firm, which represents many hemp and CBD companies. “The majority of requirements under the new law are similar to existing requirements, but some are unique to California, with possibly more on the way via future regulations—adding to the ever-growing patchwork of state laws governing hemp and CBD products.”
California has paved the way with all things cannabis. It was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, back in 1996. It wasn’t quite as fast off the draw as Colorado when the Rocky Mountain state legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but California dutifully fell in line in 2016. But even though the farm bill in 2014, and again in 2018, did its level best to legalize hemp and CBD, California managed to stay stuck in the 20 th century.
Some say it was marijuana interests that successfully lobbied the California state legislature to keep hemp and in particular hemp CBD in a regulatory gray area.
“Yet the same people hobbling California hemp for decades are behind it,” said Richard Rose, a pioneer in the hemp space. “And the OGs hate AB 45.”
Marijuana interests are definitely none too pleased with the allowance of smokable hemp—the compromise being that hemp growers can still sell out of state but not in state until the state develops a taxing scheme. This compromise is fiercely loathed by hemp farmers because the law was signed right when harvest is set to begin, leaving many hemp farmers who had been selling in state suddenly with no market.
But whatever the case, Newsom on Thursday signed AB 45, which removes much of the risk for brands and retail outlets wanting to sell CBD.
Specifics of AB45
Two things are of note.
One, the California Department of Public Health (DPH) will need to develop regulations around the sale of CBD into products for sale at the full range of retail outlets. This is expected to take several months.
“Like other states that have legalized the sale of CBD products in recent years,” said the Amin Talati Wasserman statement, “California’s law comes with its own testing, labeling, approved source and registration requirements.”
For example, the new law requires labels to include certain warning statements and a scannable barcode, website, or QR code linked to a certificate of analysis that provides specific testing information, among other label requirements.
AB45 defines “THC”—the intoxicating cannabinoid compound notorious for marijuana’s effects—to include THCA, and any THC, including delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC and delta-10 THC.
That makes California the 19 th state to restrict or ban delta-8 THC. The other states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
AB45 also authorizes the DPH to include or exclude “comparable” cannabinoids from the definition of THC, based on their intoxicating effect, or lack thereof.
In addition, the DPH may impose maximum serving sizes for hemp-derived cannabinoids, hemp extract and products derived therefrom, active cannabinoid concentration per serving size, the number of servings per container, and any other requirements it deems necessary.
What the FDA thinks about California legalizing CBD
The second notable thing about the California legalization effort is that yet another state has stepped in to issue regulations. CBD is legal to various degrees in all 50 states, with the possible exceptions of Idaho and Iowa.
The California law brings into sharper relief the fact that there is no real federal regulation around CBD.
It is the opinion of FDA that CBD is illegal under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).
Beyond FDA standing firm on its stance that CBD is illegal in supplements—which of course has not stopped more than 3,000 brands from entering the market nationwide—the agency says it is concerned about CBD safety.
To that end, pioneering CBD brand Charlotte’s Web and legacy supplements company Irwin Naturals submitted new dietary ingredient (NDI) notifications to the FDA to demonstrate safety.
This means the California market is, in theory, strictly an intra-state deal. To be sure, California rates as the world’s fifth largest economy all on its own.
FDA’s rejection of the NDI notifications, while disappointing, is seen as putting more pressure on Congress to write legislation—again, but apart from a farm bill—to legalize hemp cannabinoids.
Recently, acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock described the CBD situation as a “stalemate.”
“The law is fairly clear about this,” she said.
Federal law states that a molecule or “article” studied or approved by FDA as a drug cannot later become a dietary supplement ingredient (though it does not hold in reverse—a supplement ingredient can later become a drug, as is the case with niacin and fish oil).
But the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (under which resides the FDA) has authority (through a notice-and-comment rulemaking) to make an exception to the drug preclusion law, which is what Woodcock is referring to when she says CBD is illegal. FDA, though, has never invoked the exception or signaled it wants to do so for CBD.
Is CBD Oil Legal in California?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the active components of the cannabis plant. It is the second most predominant cannabinoid in cannabis and hemp after delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While cannabis and hemp are varieties of Cannabis sativa L., they have varying levels of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. Generally, cannabis has a higher concentration of THC than hemp. THC is the psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis that causes intoxication. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, and those found in medical cannabis are believed to be effective in treating a handful of health issues. Some of the medical benefits include the management of chronic pain and anxiety and also improving heart health. CBD is commonly used for cancer management, management of neurodegenerative disorders, management of mental health, and mood-related conditions. Some also believe that it promotes optimal skin health and boosts human immune function.
CBD exists in three forms, namely broad-spectrum CBD, full-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolates. Broad-spectrum CBD contains all the compounds found in cannabis plants except for THC, while full-spectrum CBD has all the components of cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC. CBD isolates contain purely CBD with no other compounds from cannabis plants, including THC. Widely used CBD products include edibles, topicals, capsules, oils and tinctures, and vape juices. Oils, tinctures, and vape juices are presented as CBD-infused liquids, while edibles come as ingestible CBD products. Topicals are typically ointments and are applied to the skin, while capsules are produced as CBD-containing pills.
The 2018 Farm Bill, commonly known as the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, removed CBD products and hemp from the federal list of controlled substances. The delisting changed the legality of CBD on the federal level. Consequently, under this Act, it is legal to produce, purchase, and use CBD products in the United States, provided they satisfy certain conditions. One of such conditions is that the CBD must be derived from hemp and must not contain more than 0.3% THC. In California, CBD is also legal. As such, residents can purchase and use products containing CBD.
Is CBD Oil Legal in California?
Yes. Assembly Bill (AB) 45, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October 2021, legalized CBD in California. The state considers CBD oil sourced from hemp and cannabis as legal for medical and recreational uses. Before the enactment of AB 45, California prohibited infusing CBD derived from hemp in foods, beverages, and dietary supplements in compliance with federal laws regarding CBD. Although enforcement was not strict, it was illegal to produce, purchase, or use edibles containing hemp-derived CBD. The approval of this Bill now permits hemp-sourced CBD to be included in dietary supplements, foods, and beverages in California. The state’s marijuana laws allow edibles containing cannabis-derived CBD for recreational and medical purposes.
What are California CBD Laws in 2022?
Assembly Bill 45 is the most recent state law in California about legalizing and regulating CBD. Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry sponsored this bill which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 6, 2021. This bill permits the cultivation of hemp intended for CBD production in California and its sale upon meticulous testing and the satisfaction of regulatory requirements.
AB 45 requires the California Department of Health (DPH) to develop regulations on the sale of CBD-based products within the state. While this might take some time, the DPH must prepare a report to the state legislature and governor on or before July 1, 2022, stating the required measures to allow the incorporation of hemp-sourced CBD into the cannabis supply chain. The bill prohibits the manufacture or sale of hemp products with more than 0.3% THC, in line with the 2018 Farm Bill. It requires all CBD-infused food and dietary supplement manufacturers to register with the DPH and demonstrate that the plant parts used in manufacturing are from a state that has already established an industrial hemp program.
AB 45 stipulates that dietary supplements, foods, and beverages produced and sold in California are not contaminated by including hemp-derived CBD once they meet the specified requirements. However, the bill forbids distributors, sellers, and manufacturers from misleading the public with false statements on product labels regarding the health benefits of consuming their CBD-based products. It equally prohibits the manufacture and sale of inhalable CBD products until the state enacts a tax on such products, except if they are intended for sale outside California.
What are California CBD Possession Limits?
Any person 21 years or older can possess CBD in California. However, as of November 2021, the state has no established possession limits on CBD oil or other CBD products. To use a cannabis-derived CBD oil in California, a person under 18 years requires a medical card. However, they need parental/legal guardian consent and a doctor’s recommendation to obtain such a card.
Can Doctors Prescribe CBD Oil in California?
Doctors can only recommend CBD oil or other CBD products (hemp or marijuana-derived) in California and cannot prescribe them despite being one of the states where medical marijuana is legal. Essentially, no one needs a doctor’s prescription to use any CBD products legally in the state. California treats CBD as a non-prescription medicine, and the state’s marijuana laws permit anyone of legal age to purchase and use it.
CBD oil has been proven to relieve chronic pains and symptoms of anxiety in California. Also, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a CBD-containing drug known as Epidiolex for treating certain seizures in the U.S. These include seizures associated with Dravet syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in medical patients who are at least one year old.
Do You Need a License to Sell CBD in California?
Currently, California does not require a license to sell CBD oil products, and anyone can buy them from any retail outlet within the state. However, the Department of Public Health (DPH) does not permit unlicensed retailers to sell foods, beverages, and dietary supplements containing CBD. California requires hemp growers and processors to obtain licenses to cultivate and produce hemp.
Senate Bill 153 mandates hemp growers to obtain the requisite license to farm hemp in the state and requires them to register with their counties’ agricultural commissioners. License applicants must provide their names, addresses, and other contact information during the application process. Growers can only use approved hemp cultivars to grow hemp. As such, SB 153 requires them to provide information on the cultivars they intend to use and where they will get the seeds. Senate Bill 566, otherwise known as the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, authorizes industrial hemp production. However, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is still developing a program to administer this Act, including licensing.
Distributors of CBD products in California must be aware of the state’s labeling rules regarding the products they sell. The labeling requirements for cannabis products advised by the California DPH in 2019 also apply to CBD products. Typically, a CBD product label in the state must have a primary panel and an informational panel. The primary panel holds the CBD product identity, net weight or volume, and the universal symbol for all cannabis products in California. The primary panel is usually seen on the display side of a CBD product. The informational panel is any other label on a CBD product that does not bear the product weight, identity, or the California-regulated cannabis universal symbol. The information displayed on this panel includes the date of packaging a CBD product for sale, the manufacturer’s or cultivator’s name and contact information, and the UID number. The Unique Identification Number (UID) is obtained via the California Cannabis Track-and-Trace system. This panel also contains CBD content percentage, instruction for use and any preparation needed, allergens (if applicable), and government warning statements for cannabis products. The information on CBD products labels provides details on the content, safety, and potency of such products and helps users to make informed decisions when buying them.
In California, a CBD product label must not bear any image that can attract children or contain any false or misleading information. The label of an edible product containing CBD must not include a picture of the product. Also, no CBD product label must display unproven health claims, such as claims on the ability of such a product to treat medical conditions not corroborated by scientific agreement.
Where to Buy CBD in California?
In California, CBD oil and other CBD products are publicly available in vape shops, dispensaries, wellness centers, and most retail stores. However, buyers are encouraged to be careful and consider many factors before buying CBD oil or any product containing CBD in the state. When shopping for CBD products in California, buyers should always ask to see third-party lab results before making such purchases. Any credible CBD product manufacturer will provide reports that their products have the advertised level of CBD and are free of contaminants.
Generally, there are many unknown brands selling CBD oil and products with little or no CBD. As such, due diligence is essential when purchasing one. Californians can also shop for CBD products online. It gives them the chance to access a more comprehensive range of CBD products from different retailers.