Is It Legal to Put CBD in Food?

Just because hemp and hemp-derived products have been approved in the USA does not mean that it is legal to put CBD in food. The USA is still confronting one of the biggest law reforms it has ever gone through, and the FDA is still catching up with all of the regulatory changes that must accompany this law reform.

Until recently, CBD was considered a Schedule I substance because it is derived from hemp. And until the end of 2018, hemp and all of its derivatives were illegal on a federal level. However, the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill changed the federal stance on hemp and its derivatives, opening up interstate commerce and legalizing the cultivation of hemp and the manufacture of hemp-derived products. Therefore, CBD is federally legal.

But it’s not that simple. Just because a certain compound is legal, does not mean it can be added to food. The FDA has approved very specific cannabinoid-containing drugs for the treatment of very specific disease (take Epidiolex by GW Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of childhood epilepsy). The FDA also rules that a drug with a pharmaceutical application cannot be added to food, and that therefore includes CBD.

The FDA is, for the most part, not enforcing these rules. Other than sending out a few letters warning companies of making false health claims, the FDA hasn’t taken CBD-infused foods off the shelf. State governments have been at the centre of enforcement, with certain cities, states and counties banning the sale of CBD-infused edibles.

The New York City Health Department issued a warning that after October 1, it will begin sending ‘embargoes’ to companies violating the CBD-in-food rule. Los Angeles will also begin penalizing companies that are ‘adulterating’ their food with CBD. With that being said, a state-wide Californian law might overrule the Los Angeles threat and allow the sale of CBD edibles.

Just because a certain compound is legal (#CBD), does not mean it can be added to food #cannabis #foodindustry

In general, the major concerns over adding CBD to food revolve around safety and risk prevention. And when I say risk prevention, I don’t just mean the risks associated with consumers using CBD in conjunction with food. There is also the greater picture to consider, such as what happens when the FDA approves a certain drug to be added to food. There are concerns over how this may manifest in the future with other drugs, and whether it is better to “nip it in the bud” (no pun intended).

The law is pretty clear: no drug can be included in food. But the FDA doesn’t seem to be doing anything about the CBD edibles that are pretty much everywhere: in sparkling water, lollipops, cupcakes, smoothies, ice creams, gummies and the list pretty much goes on forever. I advocate for the use of CBD in conjunction with food, but it’s still alarming that the FDA is pretty much ignoring the law.


Regulation is a major problem that the cannabis industry as a whole is facing. The advent of the industry came pretty much without regulations, especially because it is still illegal on a Federal level (what a spin out). Now, the regulatory changes are forcing cannabis product manufacturers to drastically alter the way they market and label their products. It is all the more confusing for consumers, because while it’s illegal to put CBD in food, CBD edibles are on the shelves in every dispensary in the USA.

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