Is It Illegal To Add CBD To Food And Beverages?

If you live in a state like Washington, Colorado, or California with recreational marijuana dispensaries, it can be easy to forget how strict cannabis laws were just a few short years ago. Even today, in other parts of the country, cannabis regulations can still be pretty severe. Not only just for THC-rich strains of marijuana either, the more benign non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD still has a somewhat hazy legal status despite being widely available online and in physical retail locations. Let’s try and clear the air regarding the legality and regulations of CBD.

Is CBD Legal?

Is It Illegal To Add CBD To Food And Beverages?

These days CBD shows up in everything from beauty products to clothing. Such a large array of different products must mean that it’s legal, right?

For the most part, yes. In 2018 the United States passed the most recent iteration of a nearly century-old piece of legislation known as the Farm Bill. Over the past decades, several agricultural policies and subsidies have been detailed in this ever-evolving bill, including the recent legalization of hemp. Hemp, as defined by the Farm Bill, is any cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC per dry weight. There is no mention of other cannabinoids in this definition, so low THC cannabis plants that are still rich in CBD are classified as hemp. As a result, American farmers are no longer prohibited by the federal government from growing hemp with the express purpose of extracting CBD from the plant. 

However, it’s still up to the individual states to set their own laws governing the cultivation and sale of hemp and hemp-derived CBD. Fortunately for the cannabis community, most states have decided to follow the federal government’s lead in legalizing CBD. 

Is CBD FDA Approved? 

Is CBD FDA Approved?

CBD may be legal in most parts of the country, but the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon just yet. With the exception of Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical-grade CBD medicine used to treat seizures, no products with CBD as the active ingredient have been approved by the FDA.

According to the FDA’s website: “To date, the agency has not approved a marketing application for cannabis for the treatment of any disease or condition.” 

Currently, large swarths of preliminary research into the medicinal and therapeutic potential of CBD look incredibly promising. However, the FDA is unwilling to approve CBD products for medicinal use until further human clinical trials are conducted. 

FDA CBD Regulation

FDA and CBD Regulation

So while it is legal to sell CBD, it can only be marketed in certain ways. Selling a CBD product explicitly as a pain reliever or sleep aid, for example, could run you afoul of the FDA’s guidelines. There are also other FDA regulations that may surprise you. 

CBD edibles like gummies and beverages are extremely popular, but believe it or not, they aren’t technically legal. From the FDA’s website:

“Under section 301(ll) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(ll)], it is prohibited to introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food (including any animal food or feed) to which has been added a substance which is an active ingredient in a drug product that has been approved under section 505 of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 355], or a drug for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and for which the existence of such investigations has been made public.”

Consequences For Violating the FDA Regulations 

It may be illegal to market CBD as a medicine or add it into food, but that certainly hasn’t stopped people from doing it. Just take a look inside your local pharmacy or convenience store, and you’ll likely see a smorgasbord of various CBD products violating these rules.

So far, the FDA’s enforcement of its CBD regulations has been rather relaxed. The agency has only gone so far as to send warning letters to certain CBD businesses and tends to only target the most egregious offenders. How the FDA will react in the future has yet to be seen.