Personal Freedom

Illegal CBD Oil is Saturating Utah


I’ve seen many stores and companies offering CBD (cannabidiol) oil for sale in Utah over the past year. While quickly spreading in popularity, these purveyors of cannabis derivatives often do not realize that they are breaking the law—and so are the people who buy them.

First, a quick explanation—what is CBD oil? Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a component inside cannabis—it’s a “cannabinoid” molecule much like its more popular counterpart, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive; it won’t make you feel “high” or impaired. And like THC, CBD appears to show significant medical benefit for varying conditions.

So why do I say it’s illegal? Well, it is.

Let’s start with the federal government. Congress and the various federal agencies regulate drug possession and consumption under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Different substances are placed on different “schedules” that purport to represent their varying degrees of risk for abuse. Cannabis is a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government asserts there is “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The government has placed synthetic THC on a lower schedule; your physician can prescribe pure THC. For some people it helps, and others have an adverse reaction to this substance. (Many find that a natural blend works far superior to this synthetic pharmaceutical.)

As for CBD, some of its proponents argue that because certain hemp can be imported from foreign countries, this low-THC strain is a-okay to manufacture and market—and possess and use. One producer, for example, claims it is “legal at the U.S. federal level because hemp consumer products are legal at the federal level.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration disagrees. They recently responded, in part, as follows:

“Media attention has focused on a derivate of marijuana that many refer to as ‘Charlotte’s Web’ or ‘CBD oil.’   At present, this material is being illegally produced and marketed in the United States in violation of two federal laws:  The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).  Because it is illicitly produced by clandestine manufacturers, its actual content is uncertain and will vary depending on the source of the material.  However, it is generally believed that the material is an extract of a variety of the marijuana plant that has a very high ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) to tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).  Because this extract is a derivative of marijuana, it falls within the definition of marijuana under federal law.  Accordingly, it is a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA.”

You can’t blame people for believing it’s legal when the media helps perpetuate the problem. For example, a news agency in Bismark, North Dakota, emphatically proclaimed that CBD oil is “an all natural product and legal in all 50 states.”

The agency interviewed the manager of a grocery store who said, “It is from the hemp plant and that is different from the medical marijuana plant because of the amount of THC in it. So because it contains less than .3% THC that makes it legal for us to sell it.”

This false information led the same agency to report, just two weeks later, on a law enforcement sting of a tobacco shop in town whose owner now faces up to 40 years in prison for selling these products.

“He tells us he thought everything on his shelves was legal to sell,” the media station reported. They continue:

[The owner] says he’s spoken to all of the companies that sold him the products tested, and they are all outraged over the process and have told him the products were legal for sale, and they will help him in the legal process.

Here in Utah, a local businessman opened shop saying he was “ready to go” in providing CBD oil to Utahns in need. “It has some amazing anti-pain, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety benefits, but without any kind of high,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune two years ago. “It doesn’t put you to sleep. It calms you down. It allows you to deal with things.”

Separate and apart from the DEA and the other federal agencies weighing in, the Food and Drug Administration has a problem with business owners like this one who make unverified medical claims about, in this case, illegal substances. A presentation of their enforcement actions made last year specifies that they are concerned:

We can also address the legal claim this way: if CBD oil is legal for everybody, why have legislatures around the country gone to the trouble of legalizing the oil for use by epileptic individuals?

Why did Utah, after significant controversy and compromise, pass a legal program for people with epilepsy to obtain legal access to CBD oil?

This brings us to the second part of the answer, and one that stands independent of the federal law. Assume for a moment that these claims were correct—that the federal government had indeed given approval for CBD oil to be manufactured, sold, possessed, and ingested by people countrywide.

That federal legalization would have no bearing on Utah; the state legislature could still deem it illegal. And it has. Regardless of federal law, Utah has its own Controlled Substance Act, in which we find the following definition (with my emphasis added):

 “Marijuana” means all species of the genus cannabis and all parts of the genus, whether growing or not; the seeds of it; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or resin.

The statute goes on to impose various criminal consequences for the possession of marijuana.

The law does carve out possession of CBD for those involved in an authorized (and limited) research program, or those who have a card from the Utah Department of Health and physician approval for intractable epilepsy. But that’s it.

For everybody else, CBD—like all cannabis—is outlawed in Utah. It doesn’t matter whether the federal government has legalized CBD or not (and they haven’t). There’s another layer of government to deal with.

Law enforcement, for now, appears mostly ignorant of or indifferent toward CBD oil. We have yet to hear reports of manufacturers or distributors in Utah being targeted, or the many Utahns who have been buying CBD products from a variety of stores and websites. But there have been legal problems elsewhere, and Utahns who buy and sell this prohibited product run legal risk, as do all patients using other forms and elements of cannabis.

Of course, it’s ridiculous that a non-psychoactive oil is deemed illegal in the state—or anywhere. It’s also absurd to threaten violence against peaceful people merely trying to relieve a headache or reduce inflammation in their sore back.

This situation is further evidence supporting the case for legalizing medical cannabis broadly in Utah.

  • godzillalotus
    • cboyack

      Sorry, but this is a stretch. Ninth circuit rulings don’t apply nationally (the ruling is not “good federal law,” as the letter asserts) and informal settlements hardly change what federal code says.

      But even if I agreed with the letter’s author that CBD is federally legal—and I don’t—that does nothing to address state law and its ban on “marijuana.”

      • godzillalotus

        Don’t forget that there is a distribution exemption under Utah state law which allows for distribution of cannabinoid products pursuant to an approved study. Check out the exemption: https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title58/Chapter37/58-37-S3.6.html By the way, there are many farms across the country which have been approved to conduct research studies (including marketing studies,) and track the seed to sale of the end product. This means that CBD distribution has built-in protection so long as it is compliant with the 2014 Farm Bill. Surely there are many CBD companies operating in a manner fully compliant with this exemption. Therefore, your title is incendiary and misleading and should be changed; bordering on fear-mongering.

        For you to end your article by saying “Of course, it’s ridiculous that a non-psychoactive oil is deemed illegal in the state” seems to mean that you are in favor of these products being available. The problem is, people aren’t going to read your article, they’re just going to see the headline and be deterred from extremely helpful CBD products because of the fake news you report. I wish you would change the headline to be a bit more reflective of the tremendous amount of gray area in this issue.

        • cboyack

          “Don’t forget that there is a distribution exemption under Utah state law which allows for distribution of cannabinoid products pursuant to an approved study. ”

          I didn’t forget. I mentioned it in the article.

          “This means that CBD distribution has built-in protection so long as it is compliant with the 2014 Farm Bill.”

          Again, even if federal authority exists—something you concede is a “tremendous amount of gray area”—it is not legal in Utah for retail sale and possession/ingestion outside a research program or participation in the Department of Health program for those with intractable epilepsy.

          Not sure how many times I need to restate this point… and, because the point stands, the title is valid. The CBD oils/products being sold at retail throughout Utah are in violation of the law.

          It’s a stupid law, but the point here is that people are being led to believe something is legally acceptable when it’s not. The law should change—and our organization has been leading that effort—but meanwhile, buyers should beware… which they can’t if they’re told false information.

          • godzillalotus

            There’s an entire list of exemptions in Utah statute which allow CBD to be sold so long as it meets certain criteria. We could roll over to the vape store right now and buy CBD which is perfectly legal– to you, to me, and to law enforcement. Check the exemptions! Your article is disingenuous to the max. You’re doing more harm than good, if good is your goal.

          • cboyack

            “There’s an entire list of exemptions in Utah statute which allow CBD to be sold so long as it meets certain criteria.”

            By all means, enlighten us. Because if you’re right, then the legislature went through a circus for precisely zero reason in exempting individuals with intractable epilepsy from the marijuana possession restrictions.

            So, you have an open invitation to back up your assertion for all to see. (Other than suggesting I or others “check the exemptions!”)

          • godzillalotus

            You’ve decided to hang your hat on a very strange issue. While we debate the minutiae of CBD, an utterly harmless molecule that actually helps, the children of this country are being introduced into a paradigm of prescription medicines that has reached epidemic proportions. Prescription overdose is the number one cause of accidental death in the U.S. You’ve seen the recent data, of course, that CBD causes for a large segment of users to significantly reduce the amount of prescription medications that they take. It’s beneficial for a bunch of people who suffer greatly– cancer patients, epileptics, sufferers of chronic pain– people who have suffered more than you or I ever have.

            You’ve written an article, supplied it with a shameless Buzzfeed title, and defended it passionately. And I’m saying there are better places to hang your hat.

            Forgive my imprecision in the argument. None of this has anything to do with me. I’m merely a passerby who thinks your equivocation is ignorant and evil.

            But for the sake of argument, some statutes:

            https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title58/Chapter37/58-37-S4.3.html?v=C58-37-S4.3_2016051020160510#58-37-4.3(2)(b)

          • cboyack

            “You’ve decided to hang your hat on a very strange issue.”

            No, our “hat is hung” on legalizing medical cannabis broadly. We’ve been pushing for it for years, and now there’s a ballot initiative that has a very real chance of of passing. We strongly support, and are ardently working towards, fixing the law to shield patients who need cannabis.

            But I don’t like seeing misinformation spread around whereby supporters are duped into thinking they are legally compliant in obtaining and using something that is in fact not legal. The point of this post is not to “debate the minutiae” but to clarify a misunderstanding and offer yet another example—as I said at the end of the post—as to why the law should be fixed.

          • cboyack

            And thanks for providing “some statutes.” Unfortunately this does not support your point—it supports mine.

            The statute you cited above is for those with intractable epilepsy that I already mentioned in the article. This does not cover retail sale. In fact, the hemp extract that is legal must meet specific criteria that retail CBD oil does not.

            So, again, the title is not “shameless Buzzfeed” but is in fact accurate. CBD oil sold via retail establishments to the general public is in fact illegal.

          • godzillalotus

            How do you look at that entire page and only see “intractable epilepsy”? There are a number of exemptions on that page which actually make it legal for the vast majority of products you will find in the store. Have you no shame? How can you claim to be doing good, yet so disingenuous?

          • cboyack

            Sir, it’s clear you don’t understand how to read the law. Let me help.

            (2) specifies that certain people will be exempted from the penalties associated with marijuana possession IF they meet certain criteria, listed in (a) through (d).

            But here’s the kicker — all of those items must be fulfilled for the exemption to apply. In other words, the person must match (a) and (b) and (c) and (d).

            In other words, this exemption only applies if:

            (a) the hemp extract is to treat intractable epilepsy;
            (b) the hemp extract is provided in a specific container and label;
            (c) the hemp extract is accompanied by a certificate of analysis;

            AND

            (d) the person has a card issued by the Utah Department of Health.

            Obviously, people buying CBD oil at the store do not meet this criteria, and thus do not get the exemption.

            So no, there are not “a number of exemptions on that page which actually make it legal for the vast majority of products you will find in the store.”

            Not at all.

          • cboyack

            And it’s funny you ask, “Have you no shame?”

            Yet you’re the one with an agenda here. You work for HempLucid, a Utah company producing CBD products.

            Your company’s FAQ page claims this:

            “The FDA of the United States considers hemp oil (and it’s derivative CBD) to be a dietary supplement (not a medication), since they are made from industrial hemp plants. If you live in the US, this means you don’t need a prescription and can legally purchase and consume Cannabidiol in any state.”

            And as I’ve explained in this article (and comments), this is false.

          • godzillalotus

            I chose to delete my comments because you have very little journalistic integrity, whether you are correct or not, and I did not want to contribute any more clicks to your fake news / clickhole article than I had to.

            But guess what? You’re not correct. You cherry-picked from a Salt Lake Tribune article to try and prove a (poorly written) point, but you actually didn’t read the article. Here’s a telling quote:

            (http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=2064054&itype=CMSID)

            “But the legality of CBD products is not crystal clear. Calls to the Utah Attorney General’s Office for clarification were forwarded to the Utah Department of Health, then the Utah Department of Agriculture and finally the Salt Lake City office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

            DEA spokeswoman Nicki Hollmann said she was not familiar with Dose of Nature. But she said federal law could potentially allow for the sale of a product that contains negligible THC and doesn’t require the transportation of marijuana across state lines.

            “If there’s no THC, then it’s not a violation of the controlled substance act,” she said.”

            Your lack of nuance proved to be the seed of your undoing, which is beautifully ironic. What is not beautiful is that you very possibly deterred people from buying these legal products– people who really need it. It’s not snake oil– it actually works for a lot of people– and according to the DEA in Salt Lake City, it’s perfectly legal within certain parameters.

            Change the title of this article to reflect the truth: “Legal CBD Oil is Saturating Utah”. Update the information to reflect that some people are having their lives saved– literally– by locally-sold legal CBD products. (By the way, interestingly, this same article was posted nearly three years ago. These companies have been operating in the open. Dose of Nature is still in business. The call never came.)

          • godzillalotus

            But why can you not see the issue with the incendiary title? and acknowledge that that particular title is not helpful to the position you claim to take. It’s being buzzfeedy and clickbaity and you overestimate your audience if you think they’ll actually base their opinions on your wide argument. A small percentage might see this discussion. Most– the vast majority– will only see that title. That’s reality. They will see the title in passing, and it will cause further equivocation– and what is genuinely needed is unity around this issue. It’s problematic, but if you were truly in the fight for good– you would call out the pharmaceutical industry for the demonstrated will to make the people of this country sick. Or Orrin Hatch, for that matter. Instead, you spread misinformation by proxy, since you use a buzzfeedy title that is designed to get clicks at any cost. You’re not fighting the good fight. Consider that, Libertarian.

  • Todd Moon

    Thank you Conner for this article. My son is one of the few that meets all of the requirements and uses medical grade CBD that has 0.3% THC. We have also travelled to Colorado and use CBD oil that has a 1 to 1 ratio of CBD to THC and found it to be more effictive in treating his seizures. The CBD products that are being sold in Utah contain lower amounts of CBD and do not contain THC which is vital to most seizure patients. It is sad that Utah has been unwilling to expand access to CBD to more patients and it infuriates me when so many people are making unsubstantiated claims and taking advantage of patients in dire need and putting them in legal jeopardy selling them a inferior product when compared to medical grade CBD oil.

    • Roxanne Benton

      CBD from Industrial Hemp isn’t illegal in Utah, or any other state. His article here in incorrect.

  • Hellen Bakas

    Conner your article only speaks of CBD derived from marijuana but you are referring to companies that are producing hemp oil, rich in CBD but also all the other compounds found in hemp. These companies follow a strict procedure and only use hemp that has been Imported. This source is 100% Federally Legal and has been since 2004 under the Bush Administration. Only and again I repeat only Imported Industrial Hemp is exempt from the definition of marijuana and that is why companies can say they are 50 state legal because they are. When the hemp is imported it crosses the border and is checked by many agencies such as Homeland Security and Border Control to ensure its legality. Only Farm Bill ( US ) Hemp is not legal in all 50 states providing it meets the requirements – this is still very grey area and a bit of a sore subject. Again don’t take my word for it just read this, it clearly states what is the exemption of marijuana. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/marijuana/m_extract_7350.html

    • cboyack

      Hemp is cannabis, so the same laws apply. Utah law does not make any distinctions for imported cannabis to be legal to possess and use in Utah.

      • Hellen Bakas

        I understand but after carefully reading the bill, one comes to the conclusion that it talks about Farm Bill sourced hemp and although it doesn’t make a distinction there is a federal definition that one would think should be taken seriously. It states ” The CSA states: “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.” 21 U.S.C. § 802(16).”
        Again remember that this form of hemp oil is a supplement and not for medical use and should never been seen as such. So question the ” hemp seeds” and “oils” sold in Sprouts or Wal-Mart are under Utah law illegal as well?

  • Roxanne Benton

    You’ve “cherry picked” your facts here to support your case. CBD from Industrial Hemp is indeed legal in all 50 states, thanks to the Farm Bill (Hemp Association vs DEA 2004).

    Additionally, the DEA cannot make law – or change Federal Law. http://kightoncannabis.com/dea-clarifies-marijuana-extract-rule-and-cbd-legality/

    Yes – I do own a CBD company, and know much about how it’s to be sold and such.

    One cannot make “structure function” claims, just as essential oil companies can’t. Utah is the mothership for EO companies, and as I’m also in that industry, I do know that the same rules apply.

    That Indiana case has been rectified, the people got their inventory back and are again selling it on their shelves.

    Seriously – if you’re going to be a reporter, get all your facts straight – unless of course, you’re just writing a one-sided op-ed piece, which this seems to be.

    • cboyack

      Utah having many essential oil companies is completely irrelevant to the law that specific prohibits cannabis and its derivatives, and makes no distinction for “CBD from industrial hemp.” I’ll say the same thing I said to the gentleman who above—he’s also in the CBD industry in Utah, and ended up deleting his comments. Even if I were to agree on your understanding of the (vague, changing, and self-contradictory) state of federal law on this matter, nothing you’ve argued points out how or where such products are exempt from Utah’s law.

      • Hellen Bakas

        The link that you provided for the definition of marijuana : https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title58/Chapter37/58-37-S2.html?v=C58-37-S2_2015051220150512
        goes on to acknowledge the exception of the term : ” The term does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks, except the resin extracted from them, fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination.” They are following federal law and are correct in doing so.

        I guess the point I am trying to make is that the state does recognize that there is a difference and it states it in its legislation, it is making it very clear by acknowledging hemp products derived in this manner are exempt. Legitimate Hemp companies only use the mature stalk and seeds to make products. These companies are Legal, unfortunately there is misconceptions and understanding of the laws. The company you used as a picture above only uses Imported Industrial hemp and does it’s extraction process from mature stalk. So why all the fuss…

      • Roxanne Benton

        Medical Cannabis in Utah
        As of now Utah has in place a CBD-extract only medical cannabis law. This extremely limited and highly restrictive cannabis law, enacted on July 1, 2014, only applies to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy who are certified for treatment by a neurologist. Under the law, qualified patients can legally access cannabis extracts that contain less than 0.3% THC and 15% or more CBD by weight. Unfortunately, the law provides no direction for how the cannabis oil should be obtained, as it’s still illegal to produce in the state. While this law does bring relief to a small segment of potential medical cannabis users, a much greater population is still looking for relief.

        While Utah does not currently have a comprehensive medical cannabis law in place, activity among lawmakers over the past two years indicates new policy could be arriving soon. Senate Bill 259, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, fell just one vote shy of Senate approval in early 2015. Two similar bills were again introduced in the Utah Legislature in 2016. Despite none of the bills passing, close votes and repeated efforts by lawmakers suggest that there is significant support for medical cannabis in the state legislature, and advocates are confident that reform is coming.

        CBD from Hemp Oil in Utah
        Consumption of CBD hemp oil is federally legal, as CBD hemp oil falls under the same importation and commerce laws as other hemp products. However, because Utah has passed a CBD hemp oil-specific law, it is unclear whether the state’s law would protect those not registered with the state’s medical program.

        …again – you’re not listening to Federal Law. I was recently in Utah, and spoke with the owner of a chain of vitamin/health food stores. She assured me that CBD is indeed legal in Utah, as she carries it in all of her locations.

        • Hellen Bakas

          Roxanne, Utah is following federal law, they even have it in their state legislature. It’s in the link Connor provided for the definition of marijuana, however he omitted the part that exempts hemp extracted from mature stalks….. etc. Utah lawmakers get it I don’t understand why people need to complicate, scare and confuse things.

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