The 2018 Farm Bill did a lot of things, but it’s fair to say that many of them weren’t originally intended. They thought they were legalizing “rope, not dope,” and acting on CBD’s already-accepted medical value, but instead opened the floodgates for all manner of rare cannabinoid products, like delta-8 THC, CBN and CBD. Delta-8 products, for example, were originally legal, at least kind of, but the situation has never been particularly clear and is constantly-evolving.
If you’ve picked up on the hype surrounding CBG – poetically called the “mother of all cannabinoids” – you might be wondering where it lands in terms of legality. We’ve gone through the law and spoken to a legal expert to find out.
Is CBG Legal in the US?
Yes, the Farm Bill (the Agriculture Improvement Act, 2018) essentially legalized CBG at the federal level under certain restrictions.
However, the extent of those restrictions and the specific stance they will take isn’t really known. Griffen Thorne, a cannabis law expert and attorney from Harris Bricken, stressed this uncertainty when we asked him:
“There’s not really a short answer, yes or no. I think it sort of depends who you ask. Let me back up a little bit in 2018, a law was passed in the United States that removed hemp and its derivatives from the Controlled Substances Act. So theoretically at that point, hemp and anything derived from hemp was no longer controlled.
But the FDA retained authority over certain products and has exercised that authority to say that CBD (not CBG, but CBD) is not legal in foods and beverages and what-not. A lot of states do various things for the time being, I don’t think the federal government has addressed CBG specifically.”
RELATED: What Is CBG, and How Is It Different from CBD?
CBG Should Be Legal Under the Farm Bill
Griffen references the Farm Bill, which defines hemp as:
“The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
The important part of this definition is “all… cannabinoids … whether growing or not with a delta-9 [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent.” This says that the bill applies to any cannabinoid in hemp provided the delta-9 THC level is very low. The basic application of the law, then, says that CBG is legal at the federal level.
CBG and the FDA: Where Things Get Complicated
While the Farm Bill made CBG legal in the basic sense, as Griffen Thorne pointed out, there is much more to consider than just that.
One of the big issues with CBD products is the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FD&C Act), in particular section 201 (ff)(3), which basically states that the only way something that’s an approved new drug (or under public investigation for medical uses) can be used in food is if it already was before it became a drug.
“So, you couldn’t take – I don’t know – Tylenol, and put it in a soda.” Griffen explains, adding that, “By the time the 2018 Farm Bill happened and hemp was legalized, or at least removed from the Controlled Substances Act, we had Epidiolex. It was an approved drug for epilepsy and other stuff like that. It contains CBD and so under US law that once a drug has been approved or even investigated under some circumstances it generally can’t be marketed in a normal product.”
Epidiolex was officially approved back in 2018, after many years of investigation into CBD’s medical properties. An influential New England Journal of Medicine paper (Devinsky et. al., 2017) for instance, had been published before the 2018 Farm Bill was even introduced. So this would imply, since CBG hadn’t been investigated for medical use at this point, that this law wouldn’t apply.
Griffen was still skeptical that this means CBG products would be fine with the FDA:
“Well, I mean that’s the yes and no, right? They couldn’t go after it on the basis of the drug exclusion rule. As I know from previous experience with other things, though, the FDA has a wide net of things it can do. And it just really depends on its appetite.”
He draws on the example of Kratom, which is neither a listed controlled substance nor approved for medical usage, but where the FDA still have had many things to say, “What the FDA does is instead they say kratom is an adulterating substance, it’s harmful, blah, blah, and they just embargo it all the time.”
Will the Federal Government Crack Down on CBG Products?
It’s unlikely that there will be a crackdown on CBG products from either the DEA or FDA, at least if companies are careful about how they market CBG.
As well as CBD, the other cannabinoid that’s caused a stir recently is delta-8 THC, but the reason for this is that delta-8 – unlike CBG – is intoxicating. It may technically fall under the Farm Bill, but the fact that it’s an intoxicating product means that agencies will do whatever they can to stop it. It increases their appetite for enforcement.
Griffen Thorne said this makes things a bit more hopeful for CBG:
“And the reason I don’t think [CBG] is gonna fall in the same camp as either delta 8 or CBD is because my understanding is that it’s not intoxicating. So I don’t think that the federal government – the DEA specifically – cares as much given that it’s not intoxicating. And then on the CBD side, I don’t think the FDA would care so much as they do with CBD because there is no approved drug.”
RELATED: CBD, Delta-8 and the Future of the Hemp Industry
However, one thing that could change this quite quickly is if people make medical claims about what CBG can do:
“One thing that happens a lot is like a social media account will link – not even referring to their own products – but will say, ‘Hey, there was this study published recently. This study says that CBD is good for x disorder.’ Again, not linking it to their own products, but like the simple citation of these things has been enough for the FDA to send warning letters.”
He adds, “The first thing I’ll tell them is, don’t make any health claim. And by health claim, I mean any claim. About sleep relief… the word ‘relief’? Anything like that. You’re running the risk. The FDA will do a warning letter and it’s almost like they just roll dice with who they send these things to.”
In short, if companies are very careful with how they market CBG products, they could just get away with minimal scrutiny and continue to do business as usual. However, it’s not difficult to find examples of the type of thing that could get companies into trouble.
For instance, CBD American Shaman writes, among other things, that CBG is good for “Managing daily stress levels” and that it “Supports healthy sleeping patterns at night.” They include an asterisk that leads to a statement that “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” but it’s not exactly clear that this will be a sufficient defense.
Tips for Buying CBG Safely and Legally
The most important thing to check about any CBG product is that it’s within the 0.3% delta-9 THC limit established by the Farm Bill. You can look at the lab report – Certificate of Analysis (COA) – for the product to find out.
Jennifer Carlile, co-founder of the Rare Cannabinoid Company, commented to us that, “If you’re looking to buy CBG, or another rare cannabinoid (CBDV, THCV, CBN etc.), always check the product label and lab report carefully to make sure you’re really getting CBG and not just a full spectrum CBD oil. Please, please check the milligrams of specific rare cannabinoid, not just how many gummies you’re getting or the quantity of tincture oil.”
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Looking at the lab report tells you two crucial things. Firstly, as Jennifer points out, you will know exactly how much you’re getting, which will be useful for dosing. Secondly, and more important from a legal perspective, you will see that the products you’re buying are within the 0.3% delta-9 THC legal limit.
You aren’t really at risk as a consumer, though, because even in the worst case scenario the company would be misrepresenting their products as legal.
Despite some uncertainty about how the FDA would respond to a CBD-like explosion in CBG products, the cannabinoid is legal for sale at the moment. Companies need to be very careful, though, because anything beyond 0.3% delta-9 THC, anything supported by a medical claim and possibly any attempt to get CBG into a food product would attract the attention of the FDA. If you’re buying, you’re free to get what you can, but if you’re selling you need to know exactly what you can and can’t say.
View All References (4)
- Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (US) § 10113. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2
- Devinsky, O., Cross, J. H., Laux, L., Marsh, E., Miller, I., Nabbout, R., Scheffer, I. E., Thiele, E. A., & Wright, S. (2017). Trial of cannabidiol for drug-resistant seizures in the Dravet syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 376(21), 2011–2020. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmoa1611618
- Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 9 (2012) https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/COMPS-973/pdf/COMPS-973.pdf
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018). FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-drug-comprised-active-ingredient-derived-marijuana-treat-rare-severe-forms