History of the Legalization of CBD Products in the US

The Long Journey Towards the Legalization of Weed in the US

The cannabis plant has over 100 cannabinoids, but only a few have been studied somewhat exhaustively. Most of us know of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), but these two are only the tip of the weed iceberg. What is known is already quite impressive as it includes the calming power of CBD and the entourage effect that THC and CBD combined bring the human brain and body, so it is safe to say weed has a lot more good to offer than bad. 

The journey to legalization in the US and most parts of the world has been a long one that continues as the feds are yet to bulge much. This article looks at the various stages of the CBD journey and what the future may hold.

What is CBD? 

It is one of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and has been studied extensively to see how it affects the human brain and body. CBD has been seen to help with anxiety, acute and chronic pain, and sleep disorders, among other issues. Its work on anxiety has especially popularized it with travelers that cannot take off without help. 

The world is yet to fully embrace CBD, even with its non-impairing qualities. Over the years, various states have eased on its use medicinally and recreationally, but there is still so much work. 

The Beginning

Weed has been around for a long time, as far back as 2727 BC, when it was solely known as hemp and mainly used for fiber. We cannot discount its use recreationally or medicinally back then, but we know it was grown vastly as a cash crop. 

The United States learned about it much later, and states such as Virginia and Georgia started growing it as a cash crop. Did you know the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper? Yeah, that was how good this product was from the jump. 

As information started coming up on the product and its use, some propagandists began rooting for its censorship, which led to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 that introduced the word CBD, among others. Some growers were experimenting with the THC-high variants of weed that have it the attention it was getting, hence the need to tame production. 

The 1930s were quite brutal to growers of the plant as many nations banned it entirely and halted its growth and use. the US was hesitant because it benefitted heavily from its commercialization. There was also ongoing research into the medicinal properties of cannabis that its ban would disrupt. 

A Brief Look into the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act: Weed was not classified as a drug like heroin and opium, but once the inquiry into its impairing properties started, the 1937 Act that would regulate the importation, use, and distribution of the product was introduced. Importers were required to pay $24 as annual tax and get the stamp and approval of the commissioner of taxes s before they conducted business. This stamp was required on imports and exports, and any product without it would be held at the port until payments were made. Violation would attract a $2,000 fine and/or a five-year maximum jail term. 
Initially, the Act was meant to tame the use of recreational marijuana but ended up affecting its commercial use, too, as hemp became quite uneconomical. This also meant research had to halt for a few decades.

Let the Tests Begin

Even with the campaigns against weed heating up, or partly due to them, some researchers couldn’t stop trying to find out what made the plant so versatile. Led by Roger Adams, an Illinois University research team started working on the cannabis plant, laying the foundation for other scientists who were just as curious. 

The team started testing the compounds on rabbits and mice, but little discovery was made due to a lack of advanced equipment. The main takeaway from the experiments was that THC was the ‘excitant’ while CBD was the compound with no effects. To date, CBD for sale clearly states that the compound is not impairing and they are not at risk of getting high. The many CBD products we have today would follow years later, but at the time, the team wasn’t even sure what it had unearthed when it found out that the plant contained several compounds that could be studied in isolation. 

The 60s had Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam and his team seeking to find out what made the compounds from the plant work as they did. The team started testing them on primates, as they are closest to human beings, and discovered THC to be the intoxicating compound while recognizing that CBD contained some essential benefits without impairing the mind. This work earned Mechoulam the title the “Godfather of Cannabis.” All this while, weed was still considered illegal in most parts of the world, and in 1972, the US placed it under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the class that is assigned substances that were not medicinally beneficial and had high potential for abuse. This remained the case until a decade ago. 

The 2018 Farm Bill

When congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, it removed hemp and CBD made from hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. That may have led to some misunderstanding since CBD products flooded the market without necessarily considering whether they were derived from hemp. A few states still regard hemp as illegal, so the growth and distribution of the plant or related products are still largely frowned upon. 

Currently, 21 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, while almost all 50 allow it for medicinal use. There are conditions to be followed, for instance, all cultivators must be licensed, and the product on the market should only come from these legal cultivators. 

The feds are yet to fully legalize cannabis or any products derived from it, but they have allowed products containing less than 0.3% of THC to be distributed. The Farm Bill allows the states to take charge of the growth and production of weed, so taxes imposed may differ from one to the other. Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is yet to approve CBD or its products as safe for use as medicine or supplements, it approved Epidiolex to combat seizures in children after an earlier study showed it to work better than anything else known. 

The bill's effects led hemp-derived CBD to be federally legal in all states, but the mandate for regulation lies with the states - meaning individual states can set the terms for the plant’s growth, use, and distribution. Nebraska and South Dakota have disallowed the growth or sale of weed, while you can only distribute cannabis with 0.0% THC in Idaho. 

The Future of CBD

It is clear that most users no longer have to look over their shoulders as they simply need to search CBD near me to find their preferred strains. What we have to concern ourselves with is the quality of weed on the market, as there is a high possibility of getting low-grade and unregulated weed. 

As per the financial outlooks, the industry is poised to keep growing, with projections showing it to reach US$82.3 billion by 2027. Currently, the 2022 market size is at US$27.7 billion, making it one of the largest in the world. There have been concerns of overproduction, with small-scale growers in California decrying high taxes and license fees that have given the large growers an edge over them. As legalization continues in the states and the world, there will be a need to regulate growth to balance demand and supply and protect smallholder farmers. 

What hope is there for marijuana? With the current ease, more research is ongoing, and scientists are likely to learn more about the known compounds and the rest – over 90 – unknowns. Recreational users may breathe better, too, as more states look positively at them. 


The cannabis plant is much more than the two best-known compounds – CBD and THC. Thanks to the lack of enough research, CBD products are not recommended for kids below two and pregnant women. One of the more important things to remember is that CBD in itself is non-impairing, so it doesn’t give a user a high like you would expect with its counterpart, THC, and as we have discussed, most US states have legalized it. It’s now up to the feds to give it a clean bill so it can be extended to all the areas it can possibly be used, including athletics.