CBD Legality Worldwide: Is CBD Legal In My Country?
Is cannabidiol (CBD) legal in the United States? Yes, but there are some caveats that we’ll get into. The legal status of CBD worldwide, however, differs drastically by country and can be classified into four areas:
- Completely banned
- Legal grey area (no clear law saying whether CBD is legal or illegal)
- Restricted use (typically means CBD is only available to medical patients)
- Unrestricted use (available over-the-counter without any prescription)
It’s easy to get confused when trying to figure out if CBD is legal in your country or one that you’re traveling to. That’s why we put together this guide with the most up-to-date information.
Read on for a detailed look at CBD’s legal status around the world.
Legal Status of CBD: Hemp vs Marijuana
To get an overview of CBD’s legality it’s important to understand that there are two main varieties of the cannabis plant: marijuana and hemp.
Marijuana is high in THC, which means it’s capable of causing intoxication. Hemp, on the other hand, is a type of cannabis with no more than 0.3% of THC, which isn’t enough to make people high.
How these two cannabis varieties are regulated has a direct effect on whether CBD is legal in a given country. That’s because CBD products are almost always made from hemp.
Many countries ban only marijuana because of its intoxicating effects but allow for the cultivation of hemp, which makes hemp-derived CBD legal.
However, some countries ban all cannabis outright, not making a distinction between marijuana and hemp. In such cases, hemp-derived CBD products become illegal by extension.
History & Current CBD Legalization in the United States
The United States government made cannabis illegal in 1937 with the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act. Although this legislation was meant to outlaw marijuana due to fears over its mind-altering effects, it also indiscriminately banned hemp.
This ban was in place until the 2018 Farm Bill that reclassified hemp as an agricultural commodity, making hemp-derived CBD legal on the federal level. It also removed restrictions on the sale, transport, and possession of hemp and hemp-derived products.
However, this legislation has several key stipulations:
- The plants must contain 0.3% or less of THC to be considered hemp
- The hemp can only be cultivated by approved and licensed growers
- The hemp must adhere to shared state-federal regulations
The bottom line is that CBD products made from hemp are legal in the United States. However, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t currently regulate the CBD industry, with the exception of the approved medication Epidiolex. Not to mention, CBD products derived from marijuana plants are a different story.
The legal status of CBD products derived from marijuana depends on individual U.S. state laws.
Some states ban marijuana completely, many allow patients access to medical marijuana, and others have made it legal for both medical and recreational use. Here’s a detailed breakdown:
States Where Marijuana-Derived CBD is Legal for Medical Use
Most American states allow for the medical use of marijuana. These 34 states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Utah.
In these states, qualifying patients with a doctor’s prescription and a medical marijuana card can gain access to marijuana-derived CBD products.
Furthermore, 17 states have special laws allowing for the medical use of CBD products with minimal THC levels: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
States Where Marijuana-Derived CBD is Legal
Marijuana is currently completely legal for both medical and recreational use in the District of Columbia and 19 U.S. states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
States Where Marijuana-Derived CBD is Illegal
Marijuana is completely banned in Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska. This means marijuana-derived CBD products are also illegal. However, these four states are expected to create medical cannabis programs in the near future.
Legal Complications of CBD
Unfortunately, legal complications can arise even in countries where CBD is supposedly legal. The United States is the best example of this, with some reports of people getting arrested and CBD businesses being raided and forced to stop selling CBD products.
For example, a CBD store owner in Iowa was arrested in December 2019 for alleged “controlled substance violations and unlawful tax stamp violations.”
The police claimed that the CBD products being sold at her store were illegal because any part of marijuana is illegal in the state of Iowa.
Meanwhile, truckers were arrested that same year for transporting hemp in Idaho because the police thought they were carrying marijuana.
Although cases such as these are rare, they still highlight the legal grey area that remains due to differences in state and federal regulations and the personal discretion of law enforcement.
CBD Legality and Shopping Online
Before we get into the legal status of CBD around the world, it’s important to mention that just because a country bans CBD, or only allows for its use through a strict medical program, doesn’t mean that you can’t buy it online. In fact, many people in these countries do just that.
Having said that, doing so does carry some risks, especially in countries with more strict cannabis laws. It’s not unheard of for CBD product packages to be seized at the border.
CBD Legality in North & Central America
CBD is legal in the three major North American countries: Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
However, the situation is more strict further south (e.g., Central America and the Caribbean), with most countries either banning all types of cannabis and by extension CBD, or restricting its use to medical patients.
The history of cannabis in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico have a similar trajectory.
Following the steps of the United States, Canada banned cannabis in 1938 but made it legal to cultivate in 1997, growing into one of the world’s major producers. In 2018, Canada became the second country to legalize cannabis, which also made CBD products legal.
Similarly, Mexico banned cannabis in 1920 but legalized its medical use in 2017, provided that it contains less than 1% THC. This effectively made CBD oil legal in the country, although the law is currently in a bit of a grey area.
Mexico’s Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that prohibiting the recreational use of cannabis is unconstitutional and the government is expected to completely legalize cannabis by the end of 2020, which would also make CBD completely legal.
CBD Legality in South America
The legal status of CBD in South America differs drastically from country to country.
CBD is banned in some countries, such as Ecuador and Suriname, legal only for medical use with a doctor’s prescription in others, such as Brazil, and fully legal in Uruguay and Colombia.
These differences aren’t surprising because the continent has a complicated history with cannabis due to the burgeoning illegal drug trade, with some countries choosing a tougher stance and others opting in favor of decriminalization and eventual legalization.
The three major South American countries — Brazil, Argentina, and Peru — only allow medical access to CBD. This means patients have to go through the appropriate application process and get a doctor’s prescription.
CBD Legality in Europe
Although there are some exceptions, CBD is legal in most European countries. There are several reasons for this but, to begin with, most European nations didn’t follow in the footsteps of the U.S. when it banned cannabis in the 1930s.
Further, Europe has a long history of hemp cultivation. Hemp is legal in the European Union (EU) and the UK as long as it contains no more than 0.2% of THC. As such, hemp-derived CBD products are legal as well.
Having said that, both the EU and the UK recently classified hemp-derived CBD with the Novel Food status, which introduces certain regulatory complexities that make it more difficult for companies to sell their products.
Regardless, hemp-derived CBD products are completely legal in Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands, which means you can buy them without a prescription at over-the-counter stores and online.
CBD products are also legal in France and Sweden as long as they’re completely free of THC. CBD is also partially legal or in a legal grey area in many other countries.
In Italy, for example, CBD oil products containing anywhere from 0.2% to 0.6% of THC are considered legal. However, the country’s Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that only cannabis products without narcotic effects are legal. This has created confusion because it’s not clear whether CBD oils with 0.2–0.6% of THC fall under this definition or not.
Spain has a similarly confusing situation. While topical CBD products are entirely legal, food supplements containing CBD, such as CBD oil, are technically illegal, even though they’re available in many places.
CBD Legality in Africa
Africa has some of the most strict cannabis laws in the world. As a result, cannabis products, including CBD, are illegal in almost all countries on the continent.
This may be because cannabis has been used for centuries for its recreational effects in many African countries.
Hemp, on the other hand, has been grown only in recent times and in a limited number of countries, so there isn’t much recognition of its value and difference from marijuana.
South Africa is one of the few exceptions, making an amendment in 2019 that allows for the over-the-counter sale of CBD products as long as they meet several requirements, such as providing doses of no more than 20 mg of CBD daily.
Other CBD products require a doctor’s prescription.
CBD Legality in Asia & the Middle East
Although hemp originated in Asia, the laws surrounding its legality vary wildly in the region. In the Middle East and some other countries such as Singapore, cannabis laws are very strict and CBD is completely illegal.
China’s case is a little more complicated. Although CBD is not strictly illegal in the county, for now, it’s only allowed to be sold in cosmetic products. In addition, you can be penalized for trying to import CBD oils and other CBD products that are considered food items.
Meanwhile, CBD in India is in somewhat of a legal grey area; there’s no official ruling on the legality of hemp and CBD, although individual states are working on creating regulations for hemp cultivation.
CBD is in a similar situation in Russia. While THC is prohibited, there are no explicit rulings for CBD. Meanwhile, in Japan and Hong Kong, CBD products are completely legal as long they contain zero THC.
CBD Legality in Australasia
CBD is legal for medical use in Australasia, the region that consists of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and some island nations.
Hemp was introduced to this part of the world by the British and when the U.S. banned cannabis in the 1930s, Australia followed suit. Today, CBD products can only be accessed through medical programs in both Australia and New Zealand.
This may soon change, however, as the Australian government is considering making low-dose CBD products legal over-the-counter while New Zealand will hold a referendum on whether cannabis should be made legal in September of 2020.
As we can see, the legality of CBD differs drastically by country.
In some places, hemp-derived CBD products are completely legal, while in others there are specific restrictions, and some places ban CBD outright.
Many countries are also stuck in a legal grey area without a clear indication of whether CBD is legal or not. There are even cases of legal complications in countries where CBD is supposedly legal due to confusing laws.
Whatever the case, we can certainly expect CBD to continue becoming legal in more countries as attitudes towards hemp and cannabis as a whole continues to change, with increased recognition of the plant’s beneficial effects.
For now, you should exercise caution and be aware of the specific laws of your country and keep them in consideration, especially if you want to purchase a CBD oil product online.