Yes, cannabidiol (CBD) oil is currently legal in the state of Colorado — and, unlike many other states, Colorado allows for hemp to be used as a food additive.
Colorado is one of the country's most progressive states on legalizing cannabis. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2000, and in 2012, Colorado voters legalized adult-use marijuana.
The state takes a similarly progressive stance toward industrial hemp and hemp-derived products, including CBD oil. While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, it also left unanswered questions about CBD's legality.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid found in cannabis. CBD is the second-most-prominent cannabinoid found in the plant, after THC. CBD is non-intoxicating and doesn't produce the high associated with THC. It also shows significant promise as a therapeutic treatment because of its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties, as well as its potential to suppress seizure activity.
Why is CBD sometimes illegal?
Hemp strains don't produce enough of the cannabinoid THC to cause intoxication. However, under the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act, all types of cannabis were considered illegal. The legislation categorized all cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, defined as a substance with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a likelihood for addiction.
In 2018, Congress passed the Farm Bill and legalized hemp cultivation, creating a pathway to remove cannabis from Schedule 1. The Farm Bill defined hemp as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight and marijuana as cannabis with more than that amount. Hemp-derived CBD was thus removed from its Schedule 1 designation. However, CBD derived from marijuana is considered federally illegal because marijuana remains federally illegal. Hemp is considered an agricultural commodity, but still must be produced and sold under specific federal regulations, which were not finalized when hemp was legalized.
The Farm Bill also endowed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the ability to regulate CBD's labeling, therapeutic claims, and presence in foods or drinks. Despite the Farm Bill's passage, the FDA has issued a directive that no CBD, even hemp-derived, may be added to food or beverages or marketed as a dietary supplement.
As time passes, the FDA has begun re-evaluating that stance on CBD products but has yet to revise rules or specifically regulate CBD products. The FDA's slow movement has created further confusion on the state level. The FDA has historically been strict when it comes to health claims or content that could be understood as medical advice — and makes no exception for CBD.
Hemp production and sale, including its cannabinoids and CBD specifically, remain tightly regulated federally. The Farm Bill provides that individual states may also regulate and even prohibit CBD cultivation and commerce. States may attempt to regulate CBD in foods, beverages, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products independently of the FDA's rules.
Colorado CBD laws
Industrial hemp cultivation in Colorado is regulated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA).
In 2018, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed SB 18-205 which clarified regulations on hemp as an agricultural commodity. The state revised laws to allow all parts of the industrial hemp plant to be used as a food ingredient if manufacturers conform to specific rules. To use industrial hemp as an ingredient, manufacturers must register with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CPDHE) and must be able to demonstrate the following:
- All parts of the hemp plant utilized in food come from a state with an established and approved industrial hemp program, or a country that inspects or regulates hemp under a food safety program, or equivalent criteria to ensure safety for human consumption.
- The producer or grower of the industrial hemp must comply with any governing laws within the state or country of origin.
- The hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC.
- The use of the plant other than seeds and their derivatives will have lab test results that indicate the levels of THC are below 0.3%.
Licensing requirements for CBD
Under Colorado's current industrial hemp program, growers must have a state-issued certificate authorizing them to cultivate on authorized lands.
Applications are accepted at any time and take up to 30 days to process. The application fee is $500 per application with an additional $5 per acre or 33 cents per 1,000 square feet for indoor grows. Currently, there are no area minimums or maximums. Certifications are valid for one year.
Testing requirements for CBD
All manufacturers registered with the CDA and CPDHE are subject to lab testing to ensure their hemp products don't exceed 0.3% THC. If selected, manufacturers are contacted by a CDA agent to schedule an inspection, when a sample is collected from the flower, buds, and the top two inches of foliage leaf material. Samples are then sent to a lab for testing.
Any hemp found to contain more than 0.3% THC must be destroyed. If a test comes back with THC levels above 0.3% but below 1%, the crop must be destroyed or disposed of or growers could have their certificates suspended or revoked. If the crop tests above 1% THC, it is categorized as an illegal marijuana grow and growers may be subject to prosecution.
The current fee for hemp testing is $150 per sample, plus $35 per hour and 25 cents per mile for drive time.
Labeling requirements for CBD
According to the state of Colorado's current industrial hemp policy, all hemp-derived products, including CBD oil, must be labeled to conform with state and federal labeling laws, including:
- Clearly identify hemp as an ingredient.
- Clearly identify CBD and the amount of CBD if added as an isolate;
- Include a statement that the FDA has not evaluated products.
- Contain no therapeutic or nutritional benefit claims.
Colorado CBD possession limits
CBD oil is fully legal in Colorado and currently, there are no defined possession limits.
Where to buy CBD in Colorado
Because hemp-derived CBD is legal in Colorado, consumers can purchase CBD oil and other products from retail stores and online. However, it's important to research CBD products and ensure that they are from a trusted, reputable source.
How to read CBD labels and packaging
Colorado has clear labeling requirements for CBD products, but most reputable CBD producers will typically include the following information on their CBD product labels:
- Amount of active CBD per serving.
- Supplement Fact panel, including other ingredients.
- Net weight or volume.
- Manufacturer or distributor name.
- Suggested use.
- Full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate.
- Batch or date code.