The Latest on Shipping CBD Oils and Other CBD Products
As the Green Rush gains momentum, it’s a good time to be a seller of CBD oil and other hemp-based products, especially since the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp on a federal level. However, as companies are ramping up to capitalize on this marketing opportunity, there remain many questions about warehousing and shipping CBD oil and other hemp-based products.
We’ve put together this review to help you determine what’s possible and permissible right now based on our own experience as a CBD fulfillment provider, as well as recent conversations with transportation carriers and trade association officials.
More questions than answers
When it comes to marketing, packaging and shipping CBD products, some of the most important guidelines have yet to be ironed out, while others can be easy to misinterpret, including:
- Can local or state officials prohibit or restrict delivery of CBD oil and other hemp products in their areas now that CBD has been legalized on a national level?
- Do CBD and other hemp products require special parcel packaging or shipping protocols – and are these subject to change?
- Which states seem to be more CBD friendly than others – and how does this impact logistics activities such as inbound shipping, warehousing and fulfillment?
On July 12, the FDA’s Acting Chief Information Officer promised timely answers to some of these concerns, tweeting that, “[the] FDA is expediting its work to address the many questions about cannabidiol (CBD).” Here are links to recent articles from the FDA:
As CBD laws and regulations are ironed out, state by state, one thing is certain: You still have a business to run – and CBD/hemp products that you need to store, fulfill and ship as efficiently and compliantly as possible.
That’s where this Q&A comes in.
What’s exactly are CBD, hemp and cannabis? And how are they different from marijuana?
Hemp and marijuana are both part of the cannabis sativa plant. But they are actually two distinct species of that plant.
Hemp is one type of cannabis plant – one that’s known for producing very high levels of the chemical CBD, which is known (among other things) for its anti-inflammatory qualities and other healing properties.
By contrast, marijuana is another type of cannabis plant altogether – one that contains high levels of the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, which is also known as THC. It is THC that is known for producing that well-known “high.”
Because the hemp species of cannabis plant products is so high in CBD, it’s become the main source of CBD products, including CBD oil. (Hemp does contain THC, but only in very small amounts.)
By contrast, because the marijuana species of cannabis plant is so low in CBD, it is rarely if ever used to produce CBD products.
Of course, the other big difference is, the hemp plant is now legal at the federal level, while marijuana is not.
Can all of the national U.S. parcel carriers (DHL, Fed Ex, UPS and the USPS) ship CBD oil and other hemp products?
All of them can, but as of this writing only three do.
UPS, DHL and the U.S. Postal Service all allow customers to ship CBD oils and other products provided they meet the following criteria:
- All products shipped must contain less than a 0.3% THC level (anything more is considered by the government to be marijuana, which would make shipping it illegal)
- Shippers must ensure they’re compliant with all federal, state and local laws, including those pertaining to the production, processing, distribution and sales of hemp
- Shippers must maintain compliance documentation that shows they’re compliant with the above laws for two years
DHL also requires that all hemp shipments be sent in a box that does not contain any branding or labeling that reveals what’s inside the package.
Per the latest from FedEx, CBD is a prohibited item right now.
Doesn’t the USPS also require some additional documentation?
For a while, the USPS required all companies shipping CBD oil to include a signed statement printed on their letterhead that committed them to the False Statements Act. But as of the most recent guidelines, which were released June 6, 2019, this is no longer a requirement.
If the Farm Bill says that hemp-derived CBD is now legal, why are we still hearing stories about the seizure of packages or truckloads containing hemp in some states?
Even though the Farm Bill now permits industrial hemp nationwide, it doesn’t supersede any state or local laws. And much like some local municipalities have laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol (despite its longtime legal status), some states or cities still can – and do – exercise strong restrictions against the sale or transportation of hemp within their borders.
Other states are more amenable to working with hemp businesses in general, which is something to keep in mind as you choose the most optimal locations for your CBD fulfillment operations.
From a retail perspective, how many states are actually hemp- and CBD-friendly?
According to research compiled by a major hemp retailer, approximately half of all U.S. states are hemp-friendly to some degree because they have laws in place that either allow retailers to sell hemp products or they’ve made a legal distinction between Farm Bill-compliant hemp and marijuana. Meanwhile, approximately 18 states lie somewhere in the middle, because their laws neither explicitly prohibit the retail sale of industrial hemp nor have any exemptions in place that officially say they consider hemp-derived products to be legal.
But perhaps most important to your business, eight states lie in the zone of concern because of recent law enforcement or legislative activities, including Alabama, Arizona, California, Michigan, Nevada, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
Bear in mind, however, that this landscape is constantly changing, so we encourage you to monitor the latest reports from key lobbying and industry groups such as the National Hemp Association or from leading hemp industry news outlets – or to consult one of the industry’s compliance experts.
For another perspective on the same question (one that also includes the latest on which states have embraced the legalization of hemp’s famous cousin, marijuana,), check out this interactive map from the National Cannabis Industry Association or this overview of state-by-state hemp statutes from the National Conference Of State Legislatures.
Do CBD oils and other hemp products require special material handling, parcel handling or fulfillment protocols and are these subject to change?
It depends on whether or not the CBD or hemp product you’re selling is ingestible. Currently, the FDA forbids the use of CBD in ingestible products such as food and dietary supplements. But the Hemp Industry Daily reports that the FDA has only sporadically enforced its ban, and some states have given CBD manufacturers express permission to make and sell CBD foods, drinks and dietary supplements.
Yes, it’s confusing.
In general, food-grade products need to be stored at a food-grade warehousing facility, which is a special breed of distribution center that’s subject to higher standards of maintenance and cleanliness. The facility should also have advanced systems that enable inventory management protocols like first in/first out and the ability to trace a product location in case there is a problem or recall.
As a general rule, we also recommend that companies consider adopting some of the smart practices that are often used for the shipping of high-value products – including use of tamper-proof packaging materials, and working with providers whose employees have been carefully screened and background checked. In addition, it makes sense to use a warehouse and fulfillment partner that already has experience working with CBD products, especially as the regulatory landscape continues to shift.
It also might be smart to consider housing your product with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) that can provide value-added services like product kitting and packaging. That way if federal, state or local authorities require you to make a modification to your product packaging or labeling, these 3PLs can switch your packaging out in the warehouse rather than having to ship it back to you so you can do the same.
And yes, all requirements for storing and shipping CDB oil and other CBD-infused products are indeed subject to change. This is, after all, the hemp/CBD industry.
Marketing claims and labeling compliance
The FDA is paying close attention to CBD product manufacturers that make unsubstantiated claims about treating diseases or medical conditions. In fact, in July 2019 the FDA issued a warning letter to a manufacturer for selling unapproved products on line.
As for labeling requirements for your CBD product, the proper approach depends on many factors, including container size, serving size and marketing claims. New Hope Network has a useful article on how to label your CBD product correctly.
From a logistics perspective, what else do CBD/hemp businesses need to know?
When it comes to shipping CBD oils and related products, we’ll continue to see changes as federal and state authorities define their regulatory stance. Amware Fulfillment will continue to closely monitor the landscape, and we’ll share updates with you as circumstances merit.
We’ve put together this review to help you determine what’s possible and permissible right now when it comes to shipping CBD oils and other products.
CBD Shipping 101: Can You Ship CBD and Who Will Ship It?
GET THE FULL CBD GUIDE
Ready to learn how to navigate the legal gray areas of CBD? Download the complete guide to selling CBD online.
Please note, all references to “CBD” or “CBD products” within this post refers to hemp-derived CBD, not marijuana-derived CBD.
The CBD industry is having a moment. It shouldn’t take you long to notice that it’s one of the fastest-growing categories, with products ranging from CBD-infused water and toothpaste, to CBD dog treats and even activewear.
From supermarkets to teen brands, you can find these products seemingly everywhere today. With increased legalization and awareness, it’s not just large retailers cashing in. Both local brick-and-mortar shops and online stores are also making moves.
The stats speak for themselves:
- The U.S. CBD market as a whole (both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived, where legal) is expected to reach $20 billion by 2024.
- More than one quarter of Americans have tried a CBD product. Of those people, one out of seven use CBD products everyday.
- 49% of consumers have purchased CBD products at a drugstore, and 43% have purchased from online retailers.
With the continuous growth in the industry and a market proving it’s more than just a trend, it’s tempting to break into the CBD business yourself. But before you do, you must do your research, know the legalities and safety protocol, and understand the ins and outs of selling and shipping CBD.
To start, CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the active components of cannabis. CBD is thought to alleviate symptoms (e.g., users say it helps ease pain or soothe anxiety — though the FDA will step in if false claims are marketed), without any psychoactive effects from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the component of marijuana that gets you high).
Cannabis containing THC above 0.3% is illegal in many countries, including the U.S. as well as U.S. states. However, cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC (known as “hemp”) is legal at the federal level, but legality differs across states. When it comes to selling CBD products, you’ll want to check the state-specific laws around CBD.
Products that include hemp, like alcohol, have legal limits on the quantities of certain ingredients that can be included in products — specifically, THC.
For some states within the United States, the limit of THC in hemp products is zero. This means any products that contain hemp-derived CBD must contain zero THC. In other states, you can use hemp-derived CBD if the THC content is under 0.3%.
This is because of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp production at the federal level across the United States. The Farm Bill states that as long as your hemp-derived CBD products contain less than 0.3% THC, the product is not a federally controlled substance.
In this article, we’ll cover how to ship CBD in a way that’s safe and legal for you and your customers.
Note: This article is solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal or financial advice.
Is CBD Legal to Ship? 4 Factors to Keep in Mind
Even though hemp-derived CBD is much more widely accepted and legalized than marijuana-containing products, CBD is still closely monitored and regulated. Here are the factors that will help you understand whether your supplier’s CBD is legal to ship.
1. Potency of CBD and THC.
The CBD you ship must have THC levels below 0.3%, and you must be able to verify in writing the CBD and THC levels of the products you are shipping.
2. Origin of plant.
The CBD you sell should come from (extracted from) hemp plants, not marijuana. Talk to an attorney if your CBD comes from synthetic sources, but the THC level must still be below 0.3%. If you’re working with any partners, like a supplier, you’ll need to keep close tabs to make sure that the products consistently hit this standard.
Whether you use a CBD supplier or grow it yourself, any CBD product must come from a licensed grower. In other words, you can’t just ship your uncle’s experimental cannabis plants he grew in his shed. You may be able to legally import into the U.S. a CBD product, but you should consult an attorney.
Both you and your supplier can face legal challenges and risk getting arrested or shut down for selling illegal products. Being a licensed grower means a state government official has oversight over the production of the hemp crop.
4. Testing requirements.
Your CBD-containing products must be third-party tested to demonstrate the chemical makeup of the products you’re selling, including the THC content. Third-party testing may be a prerequisite for some of the above requirements.
Can You Ship CBD?
Shipping CBD is a somewhat complicated matter, as you not only have to comply with any shipping carrier requirements but also ensure it’s legal to ship from the place of origin and legal to receive the product at its destination. Let’s look at who can and can’t ship CBD.
1. Yes: Your CBD business complies with the applicable laws.
You are a considered a “compliant” CBD business if you:
- Have all required licenses — including a grower, processor, or retail license,
- Only sell CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC,
- Only source from growers operating a legitimate, licensed business,
- Have a third-party testing process, and
- Have documented results from this testing.
If you meet all of these requirements, you should be able to ship CBD to locations where it’s legal (with the approved carriers listed below).
2. No: You have anything less than the above requirements.
If you can’t 100% prove that you have met all the prerequisite requirements above, you have a good chance of violating the terms and agreements of the approved carriers below.
If you attempt to ship CBD with a THC level greater than 0.3%, you may face consequences, including arrest, for sending illegal substances through the mail. At the very least, your products can be destroyed in transit upon discovery.
Top Carriers Who Accept CBD Shipments
Shipping carriers have adapted what they consider acceptable goods to ship over time. You can ship CBD if it is legal, sent only to places that allow it, and if it conforms to the regulations of the following shipping carriers:
USPS allows you to ship CBD if you have signed a self-certification statement that helps ensure you are selling legal CBD, that your CBD supplier uses only hemp plants and has a license, and that your CBD is derived from industrial hemp with no more than 0.3% THC concentration. You also have to maintain the supporting documentation for at least two years after the date of mailing.
Here’s what that states:
“I certify that all information contained in this letter and supporting documents are accurate, truthful, and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information or omits information relating to this certification may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties, including fines and imprisonment.”
To ship CBD with UPS, you must be able to identify where the raw materials grew, how they were processed, and how they were obtained (or who shipped the product to the supplier and how that supplier got it to the customer after the fact).
DHL can ship CBD products as long as the shipper meets these requirements:
- The shipment contains hemp or hemp-based products that contain less than 0.3% of THC on a dry weight basis.
- The shipper complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws.
- The shipper retains records establishing compliance with such laws, including laboratory test results, licenses, or compliance reports.
- The packaging does not contain any branding or labeling that indicates the content of the item.
Note: Shippers are not required to present documentation at the time of shipping, but documentation such as certificates may be requested at any time.
Don’t Try Your Luck With This Carrier
At this time, FedEx does not allow hemp plants, hemp oil, leaves, hemp seed, or CBD derived from hemp as noted in its Service Guide.
3 Considerations Before You Start Fulfilling CBD Orders
Now that you have the basics down for shipping CBD legally, there are some other things to consider to make sure you’re dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s.
1. Slow down on international shipments.
Many countries outside of the United States classify marijuana and hemp-related products as illegal and can press charges or destroy products if you try shipping a dangerous substance to their country.
Make sure you fully understand the destinations to which your business is allowed to legally ship CBD products. Even if CBD is legal in a certain country, you may have trouble shipping items to that country. If you are located in the United States, for example, it may be wise to ship exclusively within the states before expanding anywhere else.
2. Consult your legal team.
If you have a legal team, make sure they read over your statements and clearly identify where you intend to send your CBD products. The CBD industry has become really popular, really quickly — with a lot of ambiguity across borders and even state lines. When in doubt, it’s best to consult your lawyer. Although CBD products are not considered controlled substances at the federal level, each state has its own individual laws and rules.
3. Double-check your suppliers.
If you don’t run your own farms or processing/manufacturing facilities and instead work with a supplier, make sure they are not violating any rules or shipping regulations, whether it be related to potency, location of where their CBD is grown, or anything else.
Logistics Partners Who Can Help with CBD Fulfillment
Now that you understand how complex shipping CBD can be, you need to determine how you will fulfill customer orders. If you don’t want to fulfill CBD products yourself, you can partner with a company that takes care of some of these challenges for you so that you can focus on your business — not packing boxes or shipping CBD.
You can outsource CBD shipping to a third-party logistics (3PL) company like ShipBob, a premiere fulfillment partner of BigCommerce. ShipBob works with CBD businesses to store their inventory, pack their orders, and ship their CBD products from their network of fulfillment centers across the United States.
Combined with proprietary technology, ShipBob’s ecommerce fulfillment services help get your CBD products delivered to customers quickly and safely.
CBD company Nature’s Ultra is able to provide 2-day shipping to all of its U.S. customers using ShipBob, so that they can compete with the convenience of Amazon Prime delivery standards. This has allowed them to scale up and become successful — Nature’s Ultra went from $70,000 in sales in 2018 to over $7 million in sales in 2019.
“We were managing shipping and logistics ourselves via USPS, but we didn’t understand just how massive and difficult fulfillment was. Now that we’re working with ShipBob, we can easily ship our CBD products to all 50 United States with ease.”
— Andrew Hardy, COO of Nature’s Ultra
Shipping CBD products is one piece of running a successful CBD business. You also need everything from legal payment processing to creative hemp marketing tactics that follow various regulations and policies set out by everyone from governmental agencies to tech giants like Facebook.
Selling CBD is a lot more complex than selling apparel or a novelty product, and the industry is moving fast and constantly evolving. There have been governmental and societal changes recently, but don’t expect it to stop there. Be sure to stay up-to-date on CBD regulations across the globe as well as carriers’ CBD shipping policies to keep a close eye on what changes.
The above does not constitute legal, tax, professional or financial advice and BigCommerce disclaims any liability with respect to this material. Please consult your attorney or professional advisor on specific legal, professional or financial matters.
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Does your company ship CBD products? Learn to navigate the legalities of shipping CBD and ways to ship hemp products effectively.