Disclaimer: The information below is fully based on our independent research. While our team does everything in their power to provide accurate and current information from credible state-run websites and resources, we are not lawyers or legal experts. As such, none of the following information should be interpreted as legal advice. Content on these pages is provided for informational purposes only and those with legal concerns should consult experts within their state.
Cannabis products of many kinds are all legal within the state of California. This includes cannabidiol (CBD) products, whether derived from hemp or marijuana. CBD is a nonintoxicating cannabinoid, and the second most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana after THC. It is also found in great quantities in industrial hemp, which is closely biologically related to marijuana.
However, no matter where you are, it’s always worth looking into the legality of products like CBD before buying. Laws throughout the country have changed rapidly. This is what we know right about about the question, “is CBD legal in California?”
Is CBD oil legal in California?
Cannabis, including marijuana-based CBD products, are available throughout the state of California to people who are 21 and older. Additionally, hemp-derived CBD can be purchased at both dispensaries and at other retail locations.
However, the state does have some limitations on the sale of CBD products. For instance, you won’t legally find CBD oil pizza or smoothies in California at this time. Representatives from the state say that they will not allow CBD to be added to food or drinks until the federal food and Drug Administration has determined that this is safe.
What are the current CBD laws in California?
California has long been at the forefront of the country’s efforts to legalize cannabis products, including options such as CBD.
Industrial hemp, which is often used to make CBD products because of its inherently low THC levels, was first cultivated for fiber in California as early as 1795. In 1810, the state produced 220,000 pounds of the stuff. However, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970, hemp production became illegal along with all other marijuana production in California, and throughout out the US.
Marijuana was already illegal in the state under California’s Poison Act, passed in 1913. The first cannabis raid occurred in the state just a year later in Los Angeles.
However, legal challenges to prohibition came earlier in California than in many other states. Proposition 19, also known as the California Marijuana Initiative, was on ballots in the state in 1972. The ballot measure failed to pass, with only 33.5% of Californians voting in favor.
Laws were, however, loosened in 1975 with the Moscone Act. This law decriminalized marijuana. People who were caught with quantities under an ounce were subject to fines instead of imprisonment. Further reforms involved Proposition 36, which called for first and second time offenders to be referred to drug treatment programs instead of trial. In 2000, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed State Senate Bill 1449, which reduced possession of quantities less than an ounce from a misdemeanor to an infraction on the level of a traffic ticket.
Despite marijuana and hemp remaining Schedule 1 illicit substances on the federal level, Californians started a movement for the legalization of medical marijuana in the early nineties. In San Francisco, local voters approved Proposition P by a 79% margin. This proposition called for state lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow for the therapeutic use of cannabis.
After other municipalities passed similar legislation, the state of California acted. In 1994, cannabis was reclassified as a Schedule II drug at the state level. The next year, Assembly Bill 1529 was approved. This law allowed for patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis to use cannabis at their doctor’s recommendation.
By 1996, advocates for therapeutic uses of marijuana were tired of the slow pace of legislation and took the question to the voters. Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, passed with 56% of the vote. This law legalized the possession, use and cultivation of marijuana by patients who had a recommendation from their doctors. The list of conditions that could be treated legally with marijuana included AIDS, cancer, anorexia, chronic pain, arthritis, migraine or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.
Twenty years later, the voters took legal cannabis a step further. In 2016, Californians voted on Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This law, which allows for adults over 21 to purchase marijuana recreationally, passed with 57% of the vote.
While the legalization of marijuana products, including high CBD-low THC products, gave far more access to CBD products, many people, for a variety of reasons, prefer to use hemp-based CBD products over marijuana based ones. Despite California’s full recreational legalization, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Individuals who are concerned about possessing illegal marijuana products, despite those products containing little or no THC, often prefer hemp CBD products instead.
The California Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 helped make these products more available to Californians. The act went into effect in 2017 due to a provision in the state’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Under the law, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has established an Industrial Hemp Advisory Board to create regulations regarding the cultivation, processing and sale of hemp products in the state.
Under state law, industrial hemp must contain no more than .3% THC on a dry weight basis. Under state law, registered growers are allowed to grow specific strains. They are also, with special licensing, allowed to breed new strains of hemp.
People who wish to grow hemp must register at the county level and pay a registration fee each year. The hemp they grow must be sent in for lab testing to show that THC levels are within legal limits.
Unlike many other states, there are no laws limiting who can sell CBD in California. The only requirements are that the CBD be made from hemp and that it contain less than .3% THC.
Additionally, the sale of CBD-infused food and beverage products are banned outside dispensaries. The state declared in 2018 that CBD-infused drinks, food and dietary supplements could not be sold by unlicensed retailers. While registered dispensaries are permitted to put CBD (as well as THC) into baked goods, candies and beverages, regular retailers are not. The state is expected to revisit the law regarding CBD in food products in the near future. However, in the meantime, many observers have seen that CBD edibles remain available, despite laws against them. The only real restriction appears to be a warning against them. As of this writing, no actions had been taken against businesses that sold food or supplements that contain CBD.
Can I purchase CBD in California?
Yes, CBD can be purchased at a wide array out outlets in California. Those who are over 21 and who prefer cannabis-based CBD can purchase theirs at any dispensary, without a prescription. Hemp-based CBD can be purchased at all sorts of retail outlets, and is available everywhere from natural food stores to boutiques to gas stations.
Many people in California choose to purchase CBD oil and other CBD products online. This often gives them a chance to get better prices and a wider selection of options.