January 06, 2021 7 min read

A map showing California and surrounding states

CBD has gained popularity for managing conditions like anxiety and insomnia, but federal and state regulations have mostly failed to keep up with demand. Because every state is responsible for creating their own laws about CBD, it can be difficult to determine where CBD is legal and where it’s restricted.

You may assume that CBD is legal in states like California where cannabis is approved for both medical and adult use, but the hemp industry isn’t that straightforward.

With that in mind, you’re probably wondering—Is CBD legal in California?

Technically the answer is yes, but the state has heavier restrictions regarding the non-psychotropic cannabinoid than most. If this is surprising to hear, you’ll probably want the details on California CBD laws.

Here’s what we know:

Table of Contents
Legal Concerns About CBD
What are the CBD laws in California?
How is CBD regulated in California?
Does California have a CBD possession limit?
Can doctors prescribe CBD in California?
Where is CBD available in California?
Can minors buy CBD in California?
Is CBD legal in all 50 states?
Resources

Disclaimer: We’re always working to stay informed on the latest CBD laws and research. However, state laws are subject to change and we advise that you do your own research to verify the information you find in this article. This is not intended as legal advice.

Key Takeaways

California imposes very few regulations that affect CBD consumers, but they prohibit the use of CBD in foods, drinks, and dietary supplements in certain situations. Many businesses have still been able to manufacture and market these products, which highlights the state’s lack of true CBD regulations.

The state has attempted to enact CBD law, but the bills have not yet been passed. The state seems to be waiting on the FDA to provide regulations for CBD as an ingredient in food, drink, and dietary supplement products.

The state also has no minimum age requirements, but it may not be easy to access CBD in stores for consumers who are under 21.

Doctors in California may recommend CBD, but you don’t need a prescription to access it.

CBD may be accessible at a variety of locations in California, but it is unclear if these products are legal in California. Thanks to a lack of regulation, the quality of CBD products made in California is in question. Certain practices, like buying CBD online and properly vetting your CBD brand, may reduce the risks of buying low-quality formulas.

Legal Concerns About CBD

It’s true that CBD gained its federal legal status in 2018. The Hemp Farming Act effectively removed industrial hemp and its natural derivatives (like cannabinoids) from the Controlled Substances Act.

But there’s a catch, and it complicates things:

Legal CBD products must come from industrial hemp.

This classification is designated to hemp material that meets a strict set of standards. The most significant is that it contains less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. If CBD products are made from any cannabis strain that contains more than 0.3% THC, it is not a federally legal product.

That’s not all—

The final product must contain less than 0.3% THC, too.

That means that even if a brand starts with legal hemp material, they need to carry out careful manufacturing procedures to produce a legal end product. It’s possible for certain cannabinoids to be “concentrated” during the extraction process, leading to higher THC concentrations than in the original material. Proper manufacturing and careful testing need to be employed to avoid this issue.

Because there is very little regulation in the CBD industry, it’s important to evaluate a brand carefully before you buy. It can be hard to tell if a CBD product is made from a legal hemp source and meets the federal guidelines for legal hemp products. The best way to ensure that your CBD products are legal is by checking the third-party lab tests for cannabinoid potency.

Of course, these regulations only apply on a federal scale. You must also ensure that your products meet the standards laid out by federal guidelines and those set by your state.

Two CBD oil tinctures, which may be classified as a dietary supplement in California.

What are the CBD laws in California?

Assembly Bill 228, introduced in early January 2019, aimed to iron out the legal status of CBD in food and cosmetic products. However, the bill failed to pass and is now at a standstill, leaving the state of California in an unclear position on the topic.

On January 24, 2019 the State of California’s Attorney General’s Office released a document to clarify the legal status of hemp-derived CBD in the state. The document verified California’s differentiation between cannabis and hemp products based on a definition that looks much like the federal definition. Industrial hemp products include any part of the Cannabis Sativa L plant that contain less than 0.3% THC.

The letter included no finite ruling on CBD’s legality, but it did outline multiple instances in which CBD is not approved. California aligns with the FDA’s ruling that CBD has not been regulated for use in food and dietary supplement products, but fails to outline when CBD counts as a food adulterant.

Therefore, according to the FDA and the state of California, CBD is prohibited as an ingredient or additive in any foods, beverages, and animal foods, and these products cannot be sold by an unlicensed seller. However, these “rules” do not point to any existing California state laws, rather they are a vague interpretation of federal rules.

Additionally, products derived from hemp cannot be sold in state-licensed dispensaries, but CBD products made from marijuana are approved. Similar laws can be found in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington, and multiple other states.

Similarly to states like Arkansas and Alabama, there are no consumer-centric laws that prohibit the use of these CBD products in California, and most of the CBD laws in place affect growers, manufacturers, and sellers. Currently, there is no information available that would define CBD as illegal for consumer use in the state of California, meaning that the state falls back on federal regulations.

Products that contain more than 0.3% THC are classified as cannabis products, which are legal for adult use and medical use in the state of California. However, cannabis products are subject to different restrictions and laws that do affect consumers.

How is CBD regulated in California?

After SB 566 took effect in 2017, California began developing their plan to regulate the commercial production of industrial hemp. Although it is unclear at this time exactly how CBD products are regulated, the regulation of all hemp products fall under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

In general, California does not impose strict regulations on CBD products except for prohibiting their use in food, drinks, and dietary supplements. This lack of regulation may put consumers at risk, so it’s important to take special precautions when buying CBD in the state of California.

Does California have a CBD possession limit?

To date, there are no possession limits for CBD products that meet legal guidelines. CBD products that contain over 0.3% THC may be classified as cannabis products, which are legal in California, but are subject to their own possession limits.

Can doctors prescribe CBD in California?

In California, you do not need a prescription to access CBD products. In fact, doctors typically cannot “prescribe” CBD products that are sold over the counter, rather they may “recommend” them. Even in states like California where medical marijuana is legal, access usually requires a doctor’s recommendation, not a prescription.

CBD is still new, and only one CBD product has been approved by the FDA to date. This product, GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, is designed to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy. Aside from this product (which comes with stringent usage guidelines), many doctors are still learning about CBD. If you’re interested in the benefits of CBD, you may need to spark a conversation with your doctor.

Where is CBD available in California?

A handful of CBD softgels, a popular type of CBD product despite legal confusion in California.

In California, state laws prohibit the use of CBD in foods, drinks, and supplements. Otherwise, the state has very few regulations on the sale of CBD. Despite these legal caveats, many businesses still sell CBD as a dietary supplement or food additive, which could spark legal issues. Because regulations are scarce, you can get CBD in grocery stores, convenience stores, and wellness markets all over the state.

However, this lack of regulation can be risky.

Buying CBD online is a suitable option for most consumers. When you buy CBD online directly from the brand, you get better oversight of the brand’s manufacturing practices. Looking at the brand’s hemp source and lab testing procedures can help ensure that the CBD products you choose are clean, potent, and meet legal guidelines.

Buying CBD directly from a brand instead of from a third-party market may also be less costly since you won’t have to pay the extra fees that are often tacked on by the middle man. Of course, premium CBD can be expensive to manufacture, so you should also be wary of products that offer low-ball prices.

Finally, buying CBD online may be the best way to access many different types of CBD. The most common type of CBD product is an oil tincture, but you can find a variety of CBD edibles, topicals, and other specialty products when you shop online.

For more information on how to find high-quality CBD products, check out our CBD Buyer’s Guide.

Can minors buy CBD in California?

The legal age to buy CBD is unclear on state and federal levels. In theory, CBD should be accessible to people of all ages, especially since it gained its popularity as a treatment for various childhood illnesses. Of course, some products may not be suitable for people of all ages, like smokable hemp flower or CBD vaporizers.

In California, there are no statewide regulations regarding the legal age to buy CBD. Instead, these laws may vary by jurisdiction and are more heavily impacted by the seller. The state requires consumers purchasing legal cannabis products to be at least 21 years old, but it’s unclear if CBD falls under these same age restrictions.

Many CBD brands allow customers who are 18 or older to order online and will ship legal CBD products to California.

Is CBD legal in all 50 states?

Thanks to federal updates, CBD has the potential to be legal in every U.S. state. There are no laws that prohibit the use of CBD in California, but every state has different regulations regarding the manufacture and sale of CBD. Click here to find out where CBD is legal.

Resources

  1. “H.R.5485 - Hemp Farming Act of 2018” https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5485
  2. “AB-228 Food, beverage, and cosmetic adulterants: industrial hemp products.” https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB228
  3. “Update on Legal Status of Products Containing Cannabidiol (CBD), In Light of Federal 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills” https://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/laws_regs/cannabidiol_letter3_original.pdf
  4. “SB-566 Industrial hemp.” https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB566

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