Cannabidiol (CBD) May Not be Illegal


It is hard to understand what New Jersey governor Chris Christie is thinking. Truly. Marijuana is far safer than, well, just about anything else on the planet you can name. Puppies? Disease. Pillows? Suffocation. Water on a hot day? Too much will stop your heart. Pot is about as safe as it gets. Oh yeah, and there’s a political point to Mr. Christie to be made, too: Did you forget that it is a fundamental American principle that it is nobody else’s business what another person eats, smokes, drinks or does with other consenting adults in the privacy of his own home?

The Horror of Dravet Syndrome

Marijuana is helping people overcome debilitating illnesses. Take for example, the Wilson family of Scotch Plains, NJ. Here is a couple of parents whose little girl, Vivian, has a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. By now you have probably heard of it. People who suffer from Dravet do not have anything most people would call a life. Instead, what they have is a series of seizures. Now, by this I do not mean a life, the pleasure of which is enjoyed under the constant threat of an unexpected seizure. No, that is ordinary epilepsy (and that would be bad enough). This is a form of epilepsy from which the seizure is the norm and from which there is an occasional break. If you need a visual representation of this, and an idea of what CBD can do for sufferers of Dravet, please take a moment to watch this video:

If you are already in the tank for marijuana, you probably know about CBD. But what you may not know is that CBD may not even be illegal.

The Horror of Unenlightened Governance

Although there is limited access to marijuana in NJ, the state system of production and distribution has been deliberately crippled by Governor Chris Christie. The Wilsons cannot find the high-CBD/almost-non-existent-THC strain of marijuana their child needs in their home state of New Jersey. The Wilson family is ready to move to Colorado to obtain the medicine they need for their daughter. Of course they are: they’re parents. What parent wouldn’t move mountains to cure their ailing child? But they are reluctant to leave their life–their family, friends and their daughter’s neurologist in New Jersey. It’s a terrible place to be caught. Torn by the comfort of friends, a doctor who knows your child thoroughly, routine, and familiarity of place on one hand and the innate need to defend your offspring from disease on the other. But to Chris Christie this is the Wilson’s cynical ploy to… what? Get ripped and eat Doritos without fear of legal reprisal (which, I hasten to add, should be their right anyway)? Bullshit. Let’s call this what it really is. Christie has delusions of grandeur: He wants a run at the White House and he suffers from the fear of alienating his conservative base. That means he’s an unprincipled man whose personal motivations decline his weak moral compass. If I’m wrong about that, Mr. Christie, tell me how anyone could interpret this any differently. (Give me a good explanation why a child must suffer while you protect us from ourselves and I will retract my accusation.)

Some Hope

Mercifully, the Wilsons have found a sympathetic ear in the NJ state government with Assemblywoman Linder Stender. At their urging, Ms. Stender has introduced a new bill to allow qualified NJ state marijuana patients to bring the pot they need in from other MMJ states. But Christie will have none of it.

So, here’s some possibly great news, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson: CBD, as it turns out, is not specifically prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. THC is. CBD in and of itself, if you can find it (and I have provided links below to sources for it), may not be illegal. Now, it must be free of THC, so if you’re going to import it from across political boundaries, you need to be damn sure you’re buying pure CBD, because you already know how completely heartless the government can be. I realize this may be hard to process, so here’s the source of my information. Click here and scroll down to definitions:

(16) The term ”marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

Also see schedule I.c., item 17 (hallucinogenic substances). It specifies “Tetrahydrocannabinols”, which Cannabidiol is not.

I read 16 (and, for the love of God, consult a qualified lawyer!) to be a very confused definition that in the first sentence explicitly defines everything having to do with marijuana, then, in the second sentence, walks back a lot of the first sentence.

How to make sense of this? Well, we can assume from our jail population that pot as we know it is out. But we can also assume from our hippy population that hemp fiber and hemp oil is OK. Since growing pot is in a gray area, this may mean that if a pure extract of CBD is produced either outside of the United States or even inside the US, but in a legal state, such as Colorado, AND IT CONTAINS NOTHING BUT CBD, you do not violate either the spirit or the word of these rules.

I’m not the only who thinks this. This was first brought to my attention at an investor conference by a couple of college students who had the idea to import CBD. Since then I have been poking around on the intergoogle to see what up and here’s what I have found:

  • No reference of CBD on the DEA’s list of CSA prohibited substances.
  • This great website, which has this to say:

    Q: CBD is non-psychoactive. Does that mean it is legal?

    A: Technically, CBD is forbidden in any form (pure or from a plant) in the USA, despite its total lack of addictive potential or any rational danger. Cannabidiol and all other plant cannabinoids are Schedule I drugs in the USA. The code number for cannabidiol in Schedule I is 7372. CBD is not psychoactive, but it is illegal in the eyes of the federal government. You may find it listed here: under Schedule I where it says tetrahydrocannabinols. The part saying “and others” includes all phytocannabinoids, even CBD. However there are exceptions. American scientists with a DEA license in some cases are permitted to experiment with pure synthetic CBD. Envelope-pushing medical marijuana entrepreneurs claim that it is legal to import CBD-rich oil extracted from industrial hemp grown in other countries, as long as the THC content of this oil is less than .3 percent (in accordance with federal rules regarding industrial hemp products). But this is a rather grey area of the law. Thus far, U.S. authorities have not moved against a handful of companies that purport to import “CBD hemp oil” with trace levels of THC. The situation is different in many other countries, where CBD is not controlled at all.

  • …and which posts links to CBD products.
  • Wikipedia agrees with me:

    The legal status of cannabidiol in United States is unclear. In Schedule I[79][80] there is a broad category called “Tetrahydrocannabinols”, although cannabidiol is not chemically a tetrahydrocannabinol. Cannabidiol has DEA statistical number 7372,[81] but it does not necessarily mean it is illegal.

  • High Times points out that some MMJ states have explicitly prohibited extracts, thus making CBD illegal in those states:

    [Arizona] law allows patients the use of “any mixture or preparation” made with dried marijuana flowers and allows minors into the program. Any sort of concentrated hash oil, however, is an illegal narcotic even for patients

  • …but in another article goes on to make exactly the point that CBD is okey-dokey under federal law:

    …a lawmaker in Utah is under pressure to help another little girl… who suffers the same rare form of epilepsy. Rather than force her parents… to emigrate to Colorado, Rep. Gage Froerer (R-Huntsville) has a novel idea — just redefine [CBD] oil as a hemp product, not a marijuana product.

    “It’s not a drug, it’s not medical marijuana,” said Rep. Froerer, declaring that the high-CBD oil isn’t cannabis; it should now be called “Alepsia” (from root words meaning “of a seizure”). Since “Alepsia” has the same trace amounts of THC you’d find in hemp soap or hempseed oil, Rep. Froerer believes, “They could go over to Colorado right now and bring it in,” since nothing in federal or Utah law forbids hemp products.

  • This company selling and shipping CBD chewing gum to any address in the USA

…and there are quite a few more sources and speculations on the ol’ Interwebs about CBD.

SO: Is CBD illegal? Hard to tell. But if it was my child who needed CBD and moving was undesirable, I know what I would do. Two things are certain: the Federal Government hasn’t said its last piece on this topic, and children with Dravet can’t wait around to hear it. Good luck, and talk to an attorney.


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