Is CBD oil legal in Virginia?
Yes, to a certain extent. However, it’s a little more complicated than a simple yes or no.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 legalized all industrial hemp and products made from industrial hemp containing no more than .3% THC. These products include oils, tinctures, topicals, and even certain infused edible products, as well. The US Department of Agriculture are in charge of maintaining rules and regulations regarding safety and quality standards. The US Food and Drug Administration will still maintain authority over the addition of hemp-derived CBD to food products, as well as the marketing and regulation of CBD labeling and therapeutic claims.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in both cannabis and hemp plants. After tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is the most abundant compound found in cannabis plants, although CBD derived from hemp usually only contains trace amounts of THC, less than .3% by legal definition. CBD is known to have many potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, and seizure-suppressing properties.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating substance found in cannabis. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
CBD is the yang to THC’s yin; it halts anxiety and elevates your level of chill without intoxication.
Combine THC and CBD to fully employ the entourage effect; THC and CBD work hand-in-hand to amplify each others’ effects.
What does CBD stand for? Cannabidiol.
Why is CBD sometimes illegal?
The 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) created a schedule of various drugs that are considered illegal, and their respective potential for abuse and addiction, as well as any medicinal benefits. Under the CSA, all forms of the plant cannabis sativa, including hemp, were classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, which defined cannabis as a substance with a high potential for abuse, no medicinal benefits, and a likelihood for addiction.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 legalized the cultivation and production of hemp, altering the definition of hemp to create a separate, legal pathway for hemp to be removed from the Schedule I category. Hemp is now defined as cannabis containing no more than .3%THC by weight, while marijuana is defined as cannabis containing more than .3% THC. Hemp-derived CBD was declassified from the Controlled Substances Act through the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, but CBD derived from the marijuana plant is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance and is still illegal at a federal level.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 also preserved the rights of the US Food and Drug Administration to maintain authority over the CBD labeling, therapeutic claims, and the use of CBD as a food additive. The FDA has taken a firm stance against allowing hemp CBD to be added to food or beverage products, while also maintaining that CBD should not be advertised as a dietary supplement. They are in the process of re-evaluating the regulations on hemp-derived CBD products. However, they have yet to lay out specific regulations prohibiting such measures, leading to a great deal of confusion in the market. In July of 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to hemp CBD company, Curaleaf, outlining the various ways the company was violating regulations.
Thus, even hemp-derived CBD remains heavily regulated by the federal government. Another stipulation of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 is that each state is allowed to make their own specific rules and regulations regarding the sales and distribution of hemp-derived CBD products, and state jurisdictions retain the right to restrict or prohibit the cultivation and commerce of hemp products. In addition, states may attempt to regulate food, beverages, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products containing hemp CBD, regardless of the final rules laid out by the FDA.
Virginia CBD laws
Although Virginia has always had very strict laws regarding marijuana, there has long been interest in hemp in Virginia. In 1997, Virginia passed House Joint Resolution 565, which allowed for a six member joint subcommittee to study the economic benefits of, and barriers to, the production of industrial hemp in Virginia.
After the success of HJ 656, in 1999, HJ 94 was passed to memorialize the Secretary of Agriculture, the Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to permit the controlled experimental cultivation of industrial hemp in Virginia. This was effectively a legal loophole, as federal law restricted the cultivation of hemp at the time, but by placing federal agencies in control of the program, cultivation was permitted with restrictions.
As it slowly became clear that hemp could be an economic boon for the rural communities in Virginia, the state made more moves to further the cultivation and production of hemp. In 2001, HJ 605 requested that the Commission on Rural Prosperity consider the cultivation of hemp as a means to promote rural prosperity.
As it slowly became clear that hemp could be an economic boon for the rural communities in Virginia, the state made more moves to further the cultivation and production of hemp. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
In 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Senate Bill 955 into law. SB 955 created a university-run research program and sought to redefine hemp as the plant cannabis sativa with a concentration of THC no more than .3% as allowed under federal law. The bill also directed the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to draft the relevant rules and regulations for the program and to give higher institutions the authority to establish industrial hemp cultivation programs.
Over the next few years, more legislation was introduced to further define the newly established industrial hemp cultivation program. In 2016, House Bill 699 clarified several aspects of the program: that no person with a license may be prosecuted for the cultivation, manufacturing, processing, sales, or distribution of industrial hemp products, and authorized the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt regulations for a licensing program.
In 2018, House Bill 532 was passed to further lift restrictions on the industrial hemp cultivation program, but lacked the necessary compliance with the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, so it was swiftly followed up by Senate Bill 247, which replaced the current licensing system, ensuring that Virginia was in compliance with the Hemp Farming Act.
Virginia’s Plan to Regulate Hemp Production was submitted on January 15, 2020, and is currently under review by the USDA,
Virginia Licensing Requirements
To legally possess hemp plants, hemp seeds, hemp microgreens, hemp leaves or hemp flowers in the state of Virginia, you must be a registered Industrial Hemp Grower, Dealer, or Processor, or an agent affiliated with the registrant for the purposes of growing, dealing, or processing hemp.
The registrations expire within one year of being issued, and must be renewed annually.
The Industrial Hemp Grower Application both to start and for each renewal costs $50. A registered Industrial Hemp Grower is required to submit a planting report within 14 days of planting seeds, clones, or cuttings. If you plant multiple times throughout the growing season, you will need to submit multiple planting reports.
If you are planning to add or change field locations, you will also need to submit an Industrial Hemp Registration Change Form.
To become an Industrial Hemp Dealer, you must submit an Industrial Hemp Dealer Registration Application. This is necessary for anyone who plans to buy and sell industrial hemp to a person who processes industrial hemp.
To become an Industrial Hemp Processor, you must submit an Industrial Hemp Processor Application. With this license, you may purchase industrial hemp from a licensed Hemp Dealer, and process it into hemp products.
Registered Growers, Dealers, and Processors may submit an “Agent Documentation” form for each agent working closely with industrial hemp, but this is not a requirement for the program. This is for documentation purposes and to avoid any legal difficulty.
For any other questions related to registration, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers an Industrial Hemp Registration Guide.
Virginia CBD possession limits
Virginia has a limited CBD and THCA law that allows for qualified patients to possess CBD or THCA oil that contains at least 15% CBD and THCA and no more than 5% THC in total. Any processed form of cannabis, aside from whole flower is permitted, and there is no limit on the amount allowed for possession. Although this law was initially written only for patients with epilepsy, the law was expanded in 2019 to permit any medical conditions with a written certification from their doctor. Applications to become a certified patient are available on the Virginia Department of Health Professionals website.
Any processed form of cannabis, aside from whole flower is permitted in Virginia. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
There is no limit on the amount of hemp-derived CBD that may be possessed in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Where can I buy CBD in Virginia?
CBD and THCA oil is available from five certified Pharmaceutical Processors.
Before the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, you needed an Industrial Hemp Grower, Dealer, or Processor License, to possess any hemp-derived CBD products.
However, since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Virginia Division of Legislative Services issued a brief explaining that hemp-derived CBD products are now legal in all fifty states and may be purchased at any standard brick-and-mortar store, or online without restriction.
How to read CBD labels and packaging
When purchasing hemp CBD products, one of the most important first steps to determine if this is a reputable source for high quality CBD is to examine the lab report and certificate of analysis, which is usually available on the label and packaging of the product. Most reputable hemp CBD companies will include the following information on the label:
- Amount of active CBD per serving
- Supplement Fact panel, including other ingredients
- Net weight
- Manufacturer or distributor name
- Suggested use
- Whether the product is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate
- Batch number or date code
One of the most important things to pay attention to is whether a CBD product is full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate.
Full spectrum means that the CBD has been extracted from a hemp plant along with all other cannabinoids and terpenes, including whatever trace amounts of THC the plant may have produced. Consuming full-spectrum CBD may yield better results thanks to the entourage effect, a phenomenon in which the mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes work together to produce a more pleasant experience.
Broad spectrum means that the product contains CBD and terpenes, but has undergone additional processes to strip out any THC.
CBD isolate is a product that has gone through more intensive processing to remove everything except for CBD. Consuming isolate may produce different effects than full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD, as these products do not produce the entourage effect.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the current law in Virginia regarding cannabis containing products?
In Virginia, state law allows cannabinoid oils for medical use with certification from a doctor and with guidance from a pharmacist. These oils are only available from specially licensed Pharmaceutical Processors. Flowers & leaves of plants are not allowed by this legislation. CBD oil available online or in drugstores is also not permitted..
How does a patient purchase cannabinoid oils in Virginia?
- First, the patient or patient’s guardian must obtain a written certification from a registered physician
- Next, the patient or guardian may register with the Board of Pharmacy (only after getting a certification).
- Finally, patients may visit a Pharmaceutical Processor to meet with a pharmacist and purchase products
Where can I find a doctor who can write a certification?
Patients can find a list of doctors who are registered to write certifications on Virginia’s Department of Health Professions License Lookup page: https://dhp.virginiainteractive.org/Lookup/Index. Under “Occupation” select “Registered Physician For CBD/THC-A Oil.” Currently 209 providers are registered.
What conditions may be treated with CBD/THC-A oil?
Virginia doesn’t have a list of qualifying conditions. This means that physicians may write a certification for any indication where they feel the patient will benefit.
How do I register with the Board of Pharmacy?
Information about patient registration can be found on the VA Board of Pharmacy website: https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/pharmacy/PharmaceuticalProcessing/FAQ.htm
Patients may only register after getting a written certification from a physician.
Can I buy cannabinoid-containing products at the drugstore, online, or in a different state?
No. Only these five processors are licensed to sell cannabinoid oils:
- Health Service Area 1: PharmaCann Virginia
- Health Service Area 2: Dalitso
- Health Service Area 3: Dharma Pharmaceuticals
- Health Service Area 4: Green Leaf Medical of Virginia
- Health Service Area 5: Columbia Care
Why do I need to purchase oils from a licensed processor?
Virginia’s pharmaceutical processors are run by pharmacists. The pharmacist provides education, guidance, and will meet individually with each patient on their first visit to the facility. Also, processors are required to meet rigorous quality and safety standards. Unregulated products contain varying amounts of CBD and THC, and sometimes contain more or less active ingredient than it says on the label. Virginia only allows licensed processors to produce the oils so that you and your doctor can be confident that you are getting a safe and consistent dose under the guidance of a pharmacist.
Are unregulated CBD products safe?
In addition to containing varying amounts of active ingredient, dangerous chemicals have also been found in unregulated CBD products.
I’ve seen CBD oil for sale online, or in another state. Didn’t the 2018 Farm Bill make this legal?
The Board of Pharmacy cannot advise as to whether a pharmacy may legally sell industrial hemp-derived CBD products. Board counsel recommends that pharmacies consult with their attorneys should they need legal advice on this subject.
Will Virginia law ever change to allow oils with a higher concentration of THC-A or CBD? Or different dosage forms such as edibles?
This is a rapidly-changing area of law! Healthcare providers are likely to hear frequent patient questions about this topic, and the Virginia Pharmacists Association is watching this issue carefully. Healthcare providers are encouraged to join the Academy of Medical Cannabis to receive regular updates.