Legal Tips

The Legal State of Hemp and CBD After the Farm Bill

If you’ve delved into any of the properties of cannabis, it can, to say the least, be confusing. There’s hemp vs. cannabis, and CBD vs. THC. The swarm of letters and percentages is enough to make your head spin.

If you’re starting a business selling any cannabis-derived product, the intricacy of the laws only increase that confusion. And after the recent passing of the Farm Bill, there’s plenty of new material.

We sat down with an attorney in our network, Dawn Friedman, who’s an expert in the field. (You can watch our full webinar with her here). Dawn spent most of her career in the entertainment industry but has extensive experience in the cannabis business.

Here are a few top things we learned from talking with Dawn:

THC is intoxicating; CBD is not

The biggest misconceptions surrounding cannabis-based products is whether or not they will get you high. But it’s important to understand that not all products do. Hemp, for example – which the Farm Bill details – has extremely low levels of THC, the intoxicating property that’s found in marijuana. However, a lot of products on the market today include CBD, which is a non-intoxicating derivative of cannabis. Just because something has CBD (or even low levels of THC) does not mean that product will produce a high.

What does the Farm Bill actually do?

With the passage of the Farm Bill, industrial hemp is now no longer considered a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This now makes federal research into hemp legal. Hemp – a type of plant in the same plant family as cannabis – is now considered an agricultural product. It can be used for textiles, fuel, and a myriad of other uses.

Now the hemp is no longer considered a federally illegal drug, this makes it possible for people who grow hemp to qualify for insurance, loans, and other things they weren’t able to attain when hemp was illegal. This opens the doors for people to truly go into business around hemp now.

If you’re starting a business in this industry, don’t make any medical claims

It’s important to note that the Farm Bill only affects how industrial hemp is perceived and regulated – not CBD. Still, CBD products continue to flood the market. Since CBD is still technically considered an illegal drug not approved by the FDA, it’s not technically legal to include CBD in products meant for consumption (like those CBD cookies you see at coffee shops). CBD regulations vary wildly state by state.

Some studies have shown that CBD has the potential to have physical and mental benefits. However, it’s still not legal for store owners and operators to make medical claims about their CBD products – at least until the FDA can step in and start to make some kind of regulations.

Regulation is … lax

Since the products and state laws vary so much – and since there is even so much confusion at the national level – regulation hasn’t been strong so far.

“The FDA is supposed to be coming out with some regulations with CBD in food and things you would consume,” Dawn said. “They know it’s sort of urgent. But at the current time, people are just continuing what they’ve been doing. Others have taken a step back and are kind of waiting to see what the lay of the land is before they step into it.”

Overall knowledge of CBD products is also lacking

Since hemp- and cannabis-derived products have, for so long, been classified as Schedule 1 drugs, no federal money has gone towards research into their potential benefits. What few studies are out there have not been nearly as extensive as necessary to truly understand the benefits or risks associated with using products that come from the cannabis family.

That lack of research affects the medical claims store owners can make. But there’s also a general lack of awareness of what is actually in the products available for purchase. Since there is no federal regulation, it’s hard to be sure of what’s in what you buy.

“Once there’s more research, I would absolutely consider it,” Dawn said. “But I would also be very careful about what I bought, where I bought it, making sure it had been lab-tested, that each dosage was clearly marked. Anything that’s ingestible I would be extremely nervous because you just don’t know what’s in there without the regulation.”

Don’t try to figure it all out on your own

If we learned anything from our time with Dawn, it’s that we don’t have all the answers. There are so many questions, regulations (or lack thereof), and loopholes out there that it can be hard to sort through. That’s why it’s important that if you’re thinking about taking advantage of the Farm Bill and starting a business around hemp-based products, you should consult an attorney with some expertise in the field. There are way too many rabbit holes that are too easy to fall into when it comes to this topic.

Dawn is a veteran attorney in the entertainment industry focusing on new media and television and recently a lawyer for cannabis businesses. You can read more about her on her WMN / WRK profile here.

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