The Legal Status of CBD 2024: Exploring The Current State of the CBD Market

In 2018, the US Farm Bill effectively legalized hemp-derived CBD at the federal level. But since then, changes in state laws and a delayed 2023 Farm Bill have many adults questioning CBD’s legal status in 2024. 

The 2018 Farm Bill led to seismic changes in the hemp industry, paving the way for a billion-dollar, federally legal market, but the bill’s murkiness has created lasting confusion and—what some experts argue—an underregulated market; this is what many hope the 2023 Farm Bill resolves. 

For those who’ve had their fingers on the pulse of the CBD market, you might be keyed in on the latest federal and state policy changes surrounding the hemp plant—and all of its novel, alternative cannabinoids. But if you are a more casual CBD enjoyer, one who relies on hemp-based products for a wide range of therapeutic and recreational benefits, you probably aren’t up-to-date on all the changes at the federal, state, and even local levels. 

You might just want to know that your CBD use is within the lanes of the law, that your CBD gummies won’t get you into any legal trouble, and that you’re buying the best, highest-quality CBD products on the market.

At CBD.co, we strive to give all of our customers the clearest, most up-to-date information regarding the ever-changing laws and regulations around hemp. Here, we’ll discuss the current state of the legal hemp market, we’ll give you a little historical insight into how we got here, and we’ll prelude one of the most pressing issues for the legal hemp industry: the delayed 2023 Farm Bill.

But, before we dive into those topics, let’s set the scene and define two of our key players: hemp and marijuana. 

Hemp vs. Marijuana: An Important Distinction

When you imagine a cannabis plant, the classic five-fingered, green leaf found on stickers, hoodies, and billboards, you may actually be picturing two different plants: hemp and marijuana. These two plants look almost identical, with their signature perforated leaves. On the outside, hemp is taller with skinnier leaves, while marijuana’s shorter stems bud thicker, stouter leaves. Both require temperate, sunny conditions to grow. Both carry the same types of organic compounds, called cannabinoids. And both are cultivated into a honey-hued oil before being infused into a wide range of products, from gummies to vape juices and more. 

To see the difference between these two cannabis plants, we need to look at their cannabinoid profiles. Cannabinoids are a family of organic compounds native to all cannabis plants. When ingested or inhaled, these compounds mimic your body’s own endocannabinoids and provide a long list of psychoactive and non-psychoactive benefits, thanks largely to the two most abundant cannabinoids: CBD and THC.** 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is famous for its calming, wellness-boosting benefits that don’t elicit euphoric, intoxicating effects.** Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), on the other hand, does elicit psychoactive effects—ones that are mostly commonly associated with cannabis’ notorious “high.” When looking at the current federal cannabis laws, THC appears to be the deciding factor—the troublemaker, if you will.

Marijuana plants naturally have higher THC levels than hemp plants. In some strains, marijuana’s THC levels can reach upwards of 20% of its entire cannabinoid profile. While in hemp, nature regulates THC levels considerably, capping them off at less than 0.3% as measured by dry weight. A pretty dramatic difference, isn’t it? Many pro-hemp advocators thought so, too—for the last century, in fact. 

A Brief CBD History Lesson

Cannabis plants grew untamed for millions of years, having only been domesticated roughly 12,000 years ago in East and Central Asia.1 The raw plant’s robustness led humans to utilize it for many industrial purposes, like making ropes, woven clothes, and heavy-duty sheets of paper. But that’s not where its uses stopped. Cultures also relied on the plant’s rich oil for relieving minor pain and deepening sleep—two uses that have followed the plant into the modern age.

Around the mid-1930s, the cannabis plant found itself in the national spotlight, thanks in part to a smear campaign championed by Andrew Mellon and the DuPont family, two influential figureheads in the petroleum industry. Their campaign fought to sway public opinion around cannabis, outlaw it, and prime multiple industries for their new petroleum-based invention: nylon—a more expensive alternative to cannabis-based industrial fibers. 

To achieve this, their campaign capitalized on a growing racist resentment surrounding Mexican immigrants in the early 20th century. Among the public discourse, the Spanish-Mexican term for the plant, “marijuana,” became associated with cannabis’ intoxicating effects, earning damaging press like “reefer madness” and “the devil’s lettuce.” Faced with a surge of mounting public pressure, the federal government passed the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which effectively made all types of cannabis illegal in the U.S., even low-THC hemp. 

The age-old plant now sat behind legislative bars as a Schedule 1 substance, deemed illegal in all fifty states and having no medicinal value whatsoever. 

The 2018 Farm Bill: A Modern Take on Hemp

And then, around the mid-to-late 20th century, public opinion started to shift. Research into the plant found a diverse pool of cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, and uncovered a cell-signaling network of receptors in humans and animals uniquely equipped to process cannabinoids: the endocannabinoid system. Researchers found evidence that cannabinoids like CBD offered a wide range of therapeutic benefits. With a growing defense of scientific research, the cannabis plant slowly began making a comeback.

Then, in 2018, a new US Farm Bill defined the difference between high-THC marijuana and low-THC hemp, using this distinction as the legislative redline for what constitutes federally legalized hemp cannabis. And now, half a decade later, we have a roaring hemp market that eclipsed $1.9 billion in 2022.2 But even after the 2018 Farm Bill transformed the hemp industry, we are still wading through a market with ever-changing laws—ones that may be confusing for some users. 

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol, CBD, is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in hemp plants. Found in popular products, like CBD capsules, CBD gummies, CBD vape pens, and CBD bath bombs, cannabidiol has become a household supplement, helping adults enjoy a long list of wellness-boosting benefits.** CBD, like other cannabinoids, achieves its effects on the mind and body by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system.3 

Your endocannabinoid system acts sort of like an orchestra conductor, directing different organs and systems to work together in harmony and maintain homeostasis or balance within the mind and body. When this system is out of sync, so too are its directions to different parts of your mind and body. When you take CBD, the cannabinoids bolster the system’s functions, leading to various wellness benefits.**

Types of CBD

CBD comes in different forms, not just different products. And not all forms of CBD are legal in all fifty states. This is where CBD’s legality gets a little murky. Even though a CBD product is hemp-derived and follows the 2018 Farm Bill’s guidelines, it still may not be legal in your state. So, part of being a responsible CBD user is knowing just what type of CBD is in your chosen CBD product.

Full Spectrum CBD

When companies take raw hemp plants through a carefully calculated extraction process, their first pass yields full spectrum CBD, the most complete form of CBD. Think of full spectrum CBD as a clear snapshot of the hemp plant. This snapshot fades with every subsequent type of CBD. Full spectrum CBD carries hemp’s signature terpenes and flavonoids, the two aromatic compounds responsible for the plant’s iconic flavors, colors, and scents. These compounds also add to full spectrum CBD’s relaxing wellness benefits.** 

A potential problem with full spectrum CBD, in terms of legality, comes with its THC percentage. Since it’s derived from hemp, full spectrum CBD has less than 0.3% THC by dry weight, which you can verify by checking a product’s third-party lab tests (Certificates of Analysis). According to the 2018 Farm Bill, this type of CBD is effectively federally legal, because it is derived from hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. 

But select states have taken action in the last few years to modify the 2018 Farm Bill within their state lines, prohibiting the sale, possession, or use of CBD oil with any detectable amount of THC. Full spectrum CBD products may be heavily regulated in your state. So, it’s always best to check your state laws before purchasing a CBD product. 

Broad Spectrum CBD

CBD companies make CBD products with non-detectable amounts of THC. Broad spectrum CBD, for instance, carries all the organic compounds of full spectrum CBD (terpenes, flavonoids, and over a hundred cannabinoids), but its THC levels have been whittled down to undetectable levels. You can find, and prove, a product’s THC amount by looking at its Certificate of Analysis. 

CBD Isolate

The last type of hemp-derived CBD is the purest form of cannabidiol, CBD isolate. This type of CBD contains 99% CBD, and its THC percentage has been cut down to undetectable levels, like broad spectrum CBD. This type of CBD is ideal for those who want to steer clear of THC entirely and enjoy the isolated wellness benefits of CBD.** 

The Hemp Market Post-2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill accomplished quite a few feats, like giving many adults in the United States unbridled access to effective, high-quality CBD health supplements. Never before could users shop the worldwide web for legal, hemp-derived CBD products. 

But how has the market shifted since the 2018 Farm Bill? 

Billion Dollar Industry

The legal hemp market is only a few years old, and yet it’s already amassed over a billion dollars. This once small, niche market has found ways to introduce millions of Americans to a wide variety of hemp-based products, not limited to just CBD health supplements. And with this growing market, there are more hemp-derived products to browse, from exciting new cannabinoids, like delta 8 and delta 10, to new types of CBD products, like CBD dog treats. So, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, we have a healthy, blossoming market for CBD and hemp-based products. 

But not all states see it that way. As we mentioned before, some states have adopted the new federal legislation around hemp, while others have sought to set their own state-imposed restrictions. This shifting legal landscape has left many users confused about the current legal status of CBD. While some types of CBD products are legal, others might not be—even though they’re hemp-derived and contain less than 0.3% THC. So, if you’re ever in doubt, always make sure to verify CBD’s legal status with your state and local governments. 

Calls for Stronger Regulations

While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the agricultural production, distribution, and sale of hemp nationwide, it didn’t add much in terms of regulation. Hemp is naturally a very absorbent plant. This means it absorbs just about every compound it’s grown around, including healthful nutrients … but also toxic agricultural chemicals from the soil. If the hemp plant isn’t cultivated properly, and extracted through safe, solventless filtration procedures, toxic, harmful chemicals can linger in the finished product, which can pose a serious risk to users. Experts seem to agree that what the 2018 Farm Bill lacked in terms of regulation, the 2023 Farm Bill is set to make right.4

The 2023 Farm Bill

And that brings us to the delayed 2023 Farm Bill. (Don’t worry, this isn’t the first time a Farm Bill has been postponed.5) Congress releases a Farm Bill every five years. This sweeping agricultural bill sets policy and funding levels for farm, food, and conservation programs. While hemp was a star in the last Farm Bill, many reports show it could be a major player in this next one, too. The 2023 Farm Bill was expected to be passed towards the end of 2023, but it has been pushed back more than a few months. So, unfortunately, we don’t have much to add in terms of a satisfying update. But until then, you, us, and the entire hemp industry are eagerly waiting.

Navigating a Blossoming CBD Market

If you’ve learned anything from this comprehensive guide to CBD’s legality in 2024, hopefully, it’s that the answer isn’t as clear-cut as many think. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD and low-THC hemp at the federal level, but recent changes at state levels have muddied the waters, leading to a market that’s ripe with confusion. So, how do you navigate this industry with changing laws and regulations? 

We’re here to help!

Buy From Trusted CBD Brands

At CBD.co, we’ve carefully curated our selection of brands, opting for ones that make CBD products with organic hemp and all-natural ingredients. These brands all follow the list of gold-standard cultivation and extraction processes, creating some of the purest, highest-quality products on the market. And they prove this by publishing third-party lab tests alongside their products. So, you know exactly what you’re buying. 

Check the Certificate of Analysis

A Certificate of Analysis is a third-party lab test that lets users verify a product’s potency and purity. Here, you can find just how much THC is in your chosen CBD product, plus any other cannabinoids and additional ingredients. Having a product’s Certificate of Analysis handy can help you better discern which side of the law your chosen CBD product falls on. 

Know Your Local and State Laws

Here’s the most important advice of all: Check your local and state laws. Since multiple municipalities may have differing views on hemp and a product’s THC percentage, it’s always best to go straight to the source and check with your state and local governments before purchasing a CBD product. 

  1. Ives, Mike. “Where Does Weed Come From? A New Study Suggests East Asia.” The New York Times. July 18, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/18/science/asia-marijuana-cannabis-weed.html 
  2. Hall, A. (2023, June 22). CBD Statistics, Data And Use (2024). Forbes Health. https://www.forbes.com/health/cbd/cbd-statistics/#cbd_statistics_at_a_glance_section
  3. Crocq M. A. (2020). History of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 22(3), 223–228. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2020.22.3/mcrocq
  4. Yarrow, Grace. “How the 2023 Farm Bill Could Change the Game for THC Products.” The Hill, 21 Mar. 2023, thehill.com/policy/future-of-farming/3903815-how-the-farm-bill-could-curb-the-chaos-around-hemp-products/.
  5. “Farm Bill Could Pave the Way for Billion-Dollar Hemp Industry.” MJ Biz Daily, 5 Feb. 2014, mjbizdaily.com/farm-bill-could-pave-the-way-for-billion-dollar-hemp-industry/.