CBD Is Still Banned in States With Legal Weed

California Public Health officials confiscated $140,000 worth of cannabidiol-infused beverages from an LA warehouse.


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As more states legalize recreational marijuana use, another part of the cannabis plant has found a market niche. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a molecule that can be derived from hemp or cannabis.  It doesn't contain THC, so it won't get you high.

The compound has become a common ingredient in trendy wellness products because of its purported therapeutic benefits.  

"I became really like obsessed with CBD," says Jonathan Eppers, founder of Vybes beverages. "I always tell people it's like liquid yoga."

Eppers, whose company makes CBD drinks that are sold in nearly 250 U.S. grocery stores, coffee shops, and hotels, says that he launched the beverage startup in 2017 after using CBD oils to treat his own anxiety. But the products that he sells are illegal—even in states like California where recreational marijuana is now widely available.

"I didn't really didn't think too much about the regulations around CBD because CBD oil was being sold in grocery stores here in LA," Eppers says.  "But once I got into it we sort of realized we were in a gray area with CBD."

In January 2019, Eppers said officials from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) showed up to one of his Los Angeles warehouses and confiscated $140,000 worth of Vybes beverages. Eppers says state officials put an embargo on his product and went after a company that helps package his products in Northern California.

"Basically for two months, we haven't been able to sell Vybes which is costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars," states Eppers.

California is just one of many states where CBD sales are legally murky. The law clearly allows for the sale of cannabis-derived CBD products, but items that contain the hemp version of the molecule are prohibited.

"The Department of Public Health here is of the view that CBD can't be put in foods, beverages, animal foods you name it," says Griffen Thorne, a cannabis lawyer with Harris Bricken. "It is kind of interesting that you have marijuana, which is still federally illegal and there's a path towards sales for companies that want to actually make and sell marijuana products. Whereas CBD is derived from a plant that's no longer federally illegal and there are a ton of roadblocks and there's zero clarity on how to do it for many products."

Just months after Eppers launch his company, the CDPH released an FAQ document that echoed the Food and Drug Administration's stance on CBD, stating that products containing the compound could not be sold by unlicensed retailers. But the document contained no guidance for enforcement, and many retailers—unaware of the state's stance on CBD—have continued selling the product to consumers.

"I was confused because CBD had been sold in California for several years and it's only getting bigger," Eppers says.  "And all of a sudden they were coming out and saying we couldn't put this in food and beverages. So it was like what changed?"

While continuing to sell his product, Eppers asked the state for legal clarification. He was hopeful that passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, removing hemp from the Controlled Substances list, would establish that his products are fully legal. But he soon discovered that wasn't the case.

"It wasn't until after the Farm Bill passed that California became a lot more aggressive and actually [started] going after companies here in California that were producing CBD products," says Eppers.

Kenny Morrison, a cannabis industry veteran who runs VCC Brands and serves as president of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association, sees parallels between today's CBD market and the early days of recreational marijuana.

"It's all just layovers from prohibition," Morrison states. "The retail model of cannabis being sold at a storefront, in order for that to become accepted and commonplace people had to sort of break the law or interpret the law in a new way. And we're seeing that with CBD as well. So it's kind of ironic that now cannabis is super regulated and CBD isn't. Yet cannabis paved the way for CBD."

With consumer sales of CBD products projected to top $2 billion by 2020, lawmakers in several states, including California, are pushing for bipartisan legislation that would legalize the use of CBD in food, beverage, and cosmetic products.

California's CBD bill, AB 228, is currently making its way through the statehouse, a move Eppers and others hope will clean up the regulatory mess left over from prohibition.

"What's happened with the state kind of clamping down on this is it's really brought the industry together," Eppers says. "The state will fix this legislatively."

Produced and shot by Alexis Garcia. Additional camera by Zach Weissmueller, Paul Detrick, and Justin Monticello.

Photo credits: Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Jens Kalaene/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom, Michal Fludra/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS/Newscom, Jevon Moore/SplashNews/Newscom, and Vybes. Additional footage provided by the Drug Policy Alliance.

Deep Space by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

Ghost Dance by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

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  1. True, LP spoiler votes forced the looters to lighten up on killing over plant leaves. But asset forfeiture is as good as looting after an earthquake by their lights. Kleptocrats will sooner throw race suiciders and One True Faithers under the bus and legalize reproductive rights than face liability for asset forfeiture looting. That’d be like… like repealing the 16th Amendment! Thoughtcrime!

  2. products containing the compound could not be sold by unlicensed retailers

    So what does the law actually say? The headline says it’s “banned” – does that mean illegal to possess, illegal to manufacture, illegal to sell? If the CDPH (another in a long list of agencies mostly unknown to the public issued guns and badges and authorization to shoot your ass) seized the goods from his warehouse, what is the wording of the law he is actually being charged with breaking? Is “intent to distribute” covered under the criminal code or are they just making shit up as they go along?

    1. CBD is an unlicensed (in colloquial terms unapproved) food additive. If California’s law is like that of other states, getting it licensed would mean going thru approximately the same process Searle did to get aspartame (Nutrasweet) licensed by FDA for marketing in interstate commerce, i.e. a long petition process of testing and review to prove that it was safe. A sponsor would have to do this either via FDA or by the state’s board in charge of such determinations. Or they could assert as a matter of fact that it’s generally recognized as safe by experts qualified to judge such things; an advisory panel of such experts convened by FDA would be sufficient, albeit theoretically not necessary, because this such an assertion is supposed to be a matter of fact to be merely acknowledged by FDA, not a matter of FDA’s making it so, but the latter is how it always plays out.

      As it is right now and for years, it’s legal to market hemp oil that contains CBD; it’s just not legal to label or advertise it as containing CBD, or to sell it as a food additive. It’s legal for someone who manufactures food to use hemp oil as a food ingredient, which is effectively the same as a food additive, and then sell the food; they just can’t say it contains CBD.

      1. Heh…I just realized the humor in having CBD declared GRAS.

  3. Pelosi played this perfectly. Because she didn’t commit to impeachment before the Mueller Report was finished, now Republicans have no basis to claim she was always going to impeach regardless of the report’s conclusions.

    Pelosi Pressured as Progressives Demand Impeachment Post-Mueller

    It’s a good thing we have a #BlueTsunami House. I know they’ll do the correct, patriotic thing.

  4. Meanwhile our Seasteading friend has made national headlines now.

    I may have judged him too harshly. Perhaps he is just a foolish guy who actually believed in this dream of his. Not Seasteading itself which is an interesting concept but this project which never stood a chance. There are still a lot of inconsistencies here.

    They never even checked with the legal issues? The bigger Seasteading .org that Thiel is involved with has written about all of that and knows you can’t do this without dealing with the local government. Then all of the practical issues they just ignore.

    Anyway it seems that the Thai government is not so much concerned with the structure. They do want it removed because of shipping hazard. They are pissed because Chad stupidly openly declared his intent to establish a micro nation 19 miles off their coast. You do not need to be a legal expert to know that isn’t going to go over well.

    Hopefully he will get this resolved. His visa has been revoked so it looks like he will need to leave Thailand at least.

  5. Fifty-seven articles about weed for Hitler’s birthday. Wonderful.

  6. Moron, I mean more on, the Kate Smith controversy (the late “God Bless America” singer is accused of racism and her statue in Philly is covered up):

    “But recently the Yankees became aware that Smith sang a 1931 song, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which opened: “Someone had to pick the cotton, Someone had to pick the corn, Someone had to slave and be able to sing, That’s why darkies were born.”

    “The song was considered a satire of racism in its time, with civil rights activist Paul Robeson also having recorded a version.

    “Smith also recorded a song called “Pickaninny Heaven,” and her likeness appeared in an ad for baking powder that featured a “mammy” character.”

    OK, that third paragraph sounds bad, but the first two paragraphs don’t sound damning at all if true.

    1. But judge for yourself by looking at the rest of the song. Satire or not?

      …Someone had to laugh at trouble
      Though he was tired and worn
      Had to be contented with any old thing,
      That’s why darkies were born;
      Sing, sing, sing when you’re weary and
      Sing when you’re blue
      Sing, sing, that’s what you taught
      All the white folks to do;
      Someone had to fight the Devil,
      Shout about Gabriel’s Horn,
      Someone had to stoke the train
      That would bring God’s children to green pastures,
      That’s why darkies were born.

      1. Alternatively, if it was racist, maybe we can finally get rid of those Paul Robeson statues and busts which are scattered around the country.

        1. OTOH, here’s some contemporary evidence
          that some saw the song as racist. This was only one year after the song was published, so I give the criticism more weight than if it were just 21st century whining.

          1. It is racist even for the day.

            Anyway there is a much better song. Should be our national anthem. The incomparable Ray Charles.


            1. The song sounded so over-the-top that it seemed like postmodern sarcasm, and the article I found said it was considered satire at the time…but looking at this non-amused article from that time, apparently it was taken as racist *when it came out,* not as elaborate sarcasm (despite Paul Robeson’s efforts).

      2. Maybe she was saying that “darkies” were really good at math.

    1. Good for her.

      I have known a few people who got into med school or law school by very nontraditional methods. She is just going to skip law school altogether Why not? Nothing there you can’t learn on your own with a little help.

      Legally brunette?

      1. She’s also the daughter of an attorney who in his lifetime was a celebrity in his own right. One of O. J.’s lawyers.

        1. Someone mentioned her to me as an example of someone just born lucky.

          Yea she was, she came from a famous family with money and she has looks, I said, but don’t kid yourself. She is very smart, works hard and generally has her act together.

          My understanding is her interest in law comes from her advocacy for prison reform. Nobody can accuse her of riding on daddy’s coat tails if she passes the bar on her own, right?

          1. It’s too early to discuss her possible legal career, but of course she has an advantage from being the daughter of a big shot lawyer – more money, more familiarity with the law – and this doesn’t bother me since one reason people work so hard is to give their kids and grandkids a leg up, and if that should happen to work out here that’s great.

            If this were some socialist hellhole which achieved the “egalitarian” dream of putting everyone back to Square One in each generation, we’d have to get ready for people being lazier – why put in the extra effort if you kids and grandkids can’t take advantage of it?

            1. And of course, if you want to found a family dynasty able to sustain a lot of unworthy, idiot offspring for generations, you better be a special kind of rich – not just well-off.

              Here I’m not thinking of the Kardashians but of another family beginning with “K.”

  7. My last month paycheck was for 11000 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour…

  8. weird.
    CBD is legal in Texas, but not in Commiefornia…. but the weed that gets you high is legal in commiefornia but not in Texas.

  9. Well, so much for the argument of “medical marijuana” having any real validity for lawmakers. Apparently, the only way the government approves of extracting benefits is by the most dangerous method possible: smoking. Henry Waxman owes the nation a giant apology for his grandstanding on tobacco in that light, and nobody in Sacramento is fit to serve.

  10. Just doesn’t make sense, should be legalized everywhere.

  11. If you want to learn more about CBD and it’s impact on the body, Stoners Rotation has a great article!

  12. Purchasing CBD is federally legal as long as it doesn’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC, but some state laws have put restrictions on buyers. For example, Virginians can only buy and possess CBD if they have a prescription.
    You can check about CBD products at

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