Hemp Policy

Federal Hemp Policy in the United States

Is CBD actually legal?

That’s a very tricky question.  CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid found in cannabis plants.  It is similar in structure to THC, which is the compound that produces the high synonymous with marijuana.  CBD, however, doesn’t produce a high.  In fact, it reduces the high of THC when the two are simultaneously ingested.  

CBD is present much more abundantly in certain breeds of cannabis that have low concentrations of THC.  Its legality depends upon the definition of the various species of cannabis, which has been confusing throughout history.  This is especially true considering that hemp has been bred for different uses over thousands of years, which led to divergent traits present among members of technically the same species.  

In general, cannabis is grouped into three species: c. indica, c. ruderalis, and c. sativa.

Indica has been bred over centuries to have a high concentration of THC.  

Ruderalis is a wild variation that grows small, and produces little to no valuable fiber or cannabinoids.

Sativa, on the other hand, has been bred into several distinct subspecies, and the differentiation of c. sativa is very important when considering the legal standing of CBD products.

What is sativa?

The two most common subspecies of sativa are marijuana and industrial hemp.  The defining difference between these two variants is the presence of THC.  Sativa marijuana has been bred, like indica, to produce a high percentage of THC by weight, but it also has many other cannabinoids that indica does not have including high levels of CBD, which make it ideal for medical applications.  This is also one of the reasons why sativa users report a more subdued, full-body high compared with the cerebral “head high” of many indicas which is produced by a THC-dominant cannabinoid profile.

On the other hand, industrial hemp by definition cannot contain more than 0.3% THC by weight; a negligible amount of the high-producing cannabinoid (in WV it is defined as having less than 1% THC by weight). Nonetheless, most industrial hemp strains still contain an abundance of other cannabinoids, especially CBD.  For this reason, CBD products that are extracted from industrial hemp are 100% federally legal in the United States.  This is provided that the plant material or final product was imported rather than grown here, as domestic cultivation of industrial hemp is still legally questionable.  

Industrial hemp vs. marijuana

Some industry experts have put forth the idea that industrial hemp should be granted its own distinct species classification, to separate it further from the stigmatized nature of marijuana (strains of indica and sativa with high levels of THC).  The blight of cannabis, and by extension its immense medicinal value, has to do with the grouping together of these functionally distinct genetic variations of the cannabis plant.

In 1937, the marijuana tax act, which effectively banned the growth of marijuana in the United States, was enacted.  This law was heavily lobbied by big business, including those with interests in the energy, printing, and textile sectors among many, many others.  Due to the threat of hemp rendering their corporations obsolete, William Randolph Hearst (a paper tycoon), Andrew Mellon (a financier of many industrialists), and Harry Anslinger (nephew of Mellon and inaugural director of what is now the DEA), effectively buried the immense value of industrial hemp within the dense foliage of intoxicating marijuana propaganda.  

The general public was surreptitiously duped into believing that cannabis induces a furious rage within those who consume it, and the prohibitionists used the mexican slang term of "marijuana" to refer to it rather than the household terms hemp or cannabis, which had none but positive connotations.  Thus, the general public endorsed prohibition rather than remaining indifferent let alone fighting it.  This lie was spread so much so that an army general presented a policy to his superiors that suggested providing soldiers with marijuana prior to battle in order to fill them with rage.  When he was informed of the true nature of marijuana’s effect on users, he rescinded his petition and was told not to speak of the matter again.

Now, hemp cultivation is still largely prohibited, but 26 states have passed legislation for specific research or commercial production of hemp.  These states are paving the highway to the future by spreading awareness that hemp is an incredibly valuable resource for humanity and many of our current global problems could be solved by implementing hemp-based replacements for standard practices, including:

  • oil-based non-biodegradable plastics,
  • rope and clothing
  • paper
  • building materials and insulation
  • non-carbon-emitting fuels,
  • and most importantly, natural, side-effect free medical remedies for an endless litany of conditions and illnesses.