Legal or Not: Quick Overview of CBD Legalization in California

How long have you been using CBD gummies, tinctures or any other CBD product? All this while, did you know that while it is federally legal, CBD in dietary supplements, food, etc. is not FDA regulated?

That’s right! You’ve been using unregulated products for so long. It may be safe and effective but the FDA has not approved any of your CBD health supplements. This leaves the question of – how could it be sold so openly? From brick and mortar stores on every street to online stores selling hundreds of CBD products, accessing CBD is very easy. How can it possibly be unregulated?

Well, such questions leave consumers in a state of confusion regarding the legality of CBD. And the recent legalization of CBD in California sparks more doubts and questions among consumers. 

So, here’s an attempt to clear some of your doubs.

The 2018 Farm Bill

Back in 2018, the then US President Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 or as we know it – the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Now, the Farm Bill includes a number of provisions to improve the state of the nation’s farmers. But for the sake of understanding CBD’s legal status, we’ll focus on the section that covers hemp legalization. 

Long before the Bill was passed, hemp fell under the same category of marijuana. Use of hemp was just as restricted and regulated as cannabis. But, with the 2018 Farm Bill, ‘industrial hemp’ and its derivatives were legalized. The catch here was that all hemp products must contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC. This allows for a clear distinction between cannabis that requires a recommendation from medical marijuana doctors and hemp or CBD that can be used without one. 

All CBD manufacturers and top brands continue to make and sell CBD products openly in the US using the ‘less than 0.3% THC’ provision in the Farm Bill.  

FDA Regulation

While hemp and hemp derivatives like CBD were legalized with the Farm Bill, the US Food and Drug Administration did not make hemp use and production that easy. 

Till today, FDA has not laid down any formal regulations on hemp or CBD products. Epidiolex is the only FDA approved CBD drug so far that is used in the treatment of seizures. But in the case of other CBD products, FDA takes its stand and considers CBD illegal as per the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

Additionally, as per the law, any dietary supplement, food, beverages or any product that is ‘intended to have a therapeutic or medicinal use’ is a drug and therefore infusing it with CBD is illegal. 

But it’s pretty clear with the continous growth of the CBD market that this isn’t being followed. 

Today, you can find all kinds of CBD products, ranging from gummies, chocolates, lemonades to tinctures, capsules and skincare. Even without the FDA regulations, the CBD market is thriving. FDA tries to play a part here by sending warning letters to some manufacturers but there have not been any strict enforcement actions yet. 

So, why are people still buying CBD?

Despite the lack of regulations, CBD manufacturers meet quality standards by incorporating third party lab testing as a crucial step of their manufacturing process. This is one of the reasons why you and millions across the globe love and use CBD. 

California Assembly Bill 45, 2021

On October 6,  2021, the California Governor Gavin Newsom approved and signed the California Assembly Bill 45 or the (AB 45). This bill takes an action on all CBD-infused products sold and used in the state. It is a revolutionary step because it contradicts the FDA regulations on CBD products. 

As per the bill:

  • All food, beverages, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and processed pet food containing CBD derived from hemp are legal for sale in California. 
  • Each product should be non-intoxicating and contain less than 0.3% THC. 


So, CBD is officially legal in the Golden State. And all the CBD products that you’ve been using are no more in the gray area of legality. 

However, legalization of CBD also means that formal regulations are in order. Some known ones are as follows:

  • THC is defined as any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-A and isomers like Delta 8, Delta 9, Delta 10). 
  • It is essential to test hemp in its raw extract form by a third party lab before incorporating it into any product to ensure absence of contaminants and THC concentration of less than 0.3%.
  • Requires manufacturers to register all hemp products. 
  • All hemp infused food, beverages and dietary supplements must have the following:
    • Label
    • Scannable barcode
    • Internet Website 
    • QR code to access COAs
    • Best by date and expiration date 
    • FDA Disclaimer
  • Health related statements on labels are prohibited. 
  • The California Department of Public Health has the authority to impose age requirements, determine serving sizes, active cannabinoid concentration per serving and similar requirements on food and beverages.

The Assembly Bill is clearly contradicting the federal law and FDA Guidance . Recognizing this conflict, the bill authorizes the Department to adopt new guidelines as necessary if and when the federal law legalizes hemp products. 

What Does CBD Legalization in CA Mean?

California has always been the forerunner of a cannabis tolerant attitude. It started with the establishment of Medical Marijuana Law California that allowed people to use cannabis medically. And today, the state is taking the steps to build a tolerant attitude towards CBD infused products. 

The most obvious effects of the Assembly Bill 45 will be on the sale and use of CBD products within California. It’ll be more regulated and may even increase sales with time. But, the most significant impact of the bill will be on the federal government. It definitely adds the extra pressure towards CBD and cannabis legalization and establishment of better formal regulations. 

Since there are already several initiatives supporting cannabis legalization at the federal level, the Assembly Bill 45 may help make it a reality soon. 

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