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Is CBD oil legal in Georgia?

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Contents

  1. What is CBD?
  2. Why is CBD sometimes illegal?
  3. Georgia CBD laws
  4. Where to buy CBD in Georgia
  5. How to read CBD labels and packaging

CBD products are legal in Georgia, with the exception of CBD in foods, beverages, animal feed, or dietary supplements. The Georgia Hemp Farming Act, HB 213, which passed in May 2019, formally legalized the commerce of CBD products that conform with federal law requirements and contain 0.3% THC or less.

Georgia has had a restricted medical marijuana program in place since 2015. Qualifying patients can access CBD-rich cannabis oil that contains 5% THC or less. Adult-use cannabis remains illegal. Several municipalities in Georgia have effectively decriminalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis.

What is CBD?

CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis and the second-most prominent in the plant after THC, which is largely responsible for producing an intoxicating high. CBD can be sourced either from marijuana or hemp plants and has a wide range of potential therapeutic benefits.

To date, researchers have identified a number of potential applications linked to CBD, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, and anti-seizure properties. Further, the chemical has shown promise in treating numerous health conditions, including seizure disorders, mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis, chronic pain, and many more.

Most raw cannabis strains on the market today contain small amounts of CBD, especially compared with THC. But since the cannabinoid has gained considerable attention for its wide range of purported therapeutic benefits, more high-CBD strains have recently been cultivated.

Laws and regulations regarding CBD are evolving nationwide. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Why is CBD sometimes illegal?

All types of cannabis, including hemp strains that don’t produce enough THC to cause intoxication, were considered illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The law categorized all cannabis as Schedule 1, which defined the plant as a highly addictive substance with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The 2018 Farm Bill re-classified hemp as an agricultural commodity and made its cultivation federally legal. Further, the act removed some forms of cannabis from Schedule 1 status by creating a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana. Hemp is cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, and marijuana refers to cannabis with more than 0.3% THC. This distinction in federal law effectively legalized CBD that is derived from cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, as long as it has been cultivated according to federal and state regulations.

The 2018 Farm Bill legislation does not mean that CBD derived from hemp is universally legal throughout the United States. According to the Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power to regulate CBD product labeling, including therapeutic claims and the use of CBD as a food additive.

The FDA has declared that even hemp-derived CBD may not legally be added to food and beverages, or marketed as a dietary supplement. Although the organization has begun to re-evaluate some of its stances on legal CBD products, the FDA has not revised its regulations. The agency also has been strict in its position against any labeling that could be perceived as a medical claim about CBD.

In addition to the federal regulation of CBD, the Farm Bill also gave states the option to regulate and prohibit the cultivation and commerce of CBD. States may regulate CBD in food, beverages, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products independently, even before the FDA finalizes its policies. Georgia is a state that closely adheres to the FDA stance regarding CBD as an additive in food, animal feed or dietary supplements.

Georgia CBD laws

Until May 2019, only CBD products with zero percent THC were legal in Georgia. The passing of HB 213, also known as the Georgia Hemp Farming Act, permitted the in-state production, processing, and sale of hemp and hemp products, and redefined CBD to match the federal definition.

Georgians can now legally purchase CBD products containing no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. The Georgia Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for the state’s industrial hemp program, has released a declaration prohibiting the sale of CBD in food, drink, animal feed, or dietary supplements.

Georgians can now legally purchase CBD products containing no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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In April 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 1 into law. Also known as Haleigh’s Hope Act, this legislation allowed the use of CBD-rich oil derived from cannabis that contained no more than 5% THC for patients with qualifying medical conditions. While the law created the skeleton of a medical marijuana program for patients, it didn’t address how low THC oil would be produced, nor did it develop regulations around the purchase or transport of such products.

Haleigh’s Hope Act ensured only that qualified patients would be safe from prosecution for possession of low THC oil. On April 17, 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 324, Georgia’s Hope Act, a bill that set up a regulatory system for the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) to license and regulate the production and sale of low THC oil for patients. The bill allows for up to six private companies and two universities to grow and manufacture low THC cannabis oil.

Pharmacies will initially sell cannabis oil, and private dispensaries can apply for a license to distribute low THC oil to patients. Dispensaries are expected to open in 2020.

Licensing requirements for CBD

The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) is responsible for the oversight of hemp cultivation and production in the state. The GDA is currently in the process of drafting regulations surrounding the licensure and rules of the hemp farming program.

Until the regulations have been released, no licenses will be issued. Only entities with a license from the GDA will be legally permitted to grow and process hemp and hemp-derived CBD. The cultivation of hemp without a license is illegal. Although the GDA is still drafting regulations, HB 213 outlines some preliminary guidelines for those who wish to cultivate hemp.

Applicants must undergo a criminal background check performed by local law enforcement. Those with convictions related to controlled substances are not eligible to apply for licenses. Applicants must be qualified with agricultural experience. Annual licensing fees cost $50 per acre, with a maximum fee of $5,000.00.

Written consent must be provided for the GDA to inspect premises where hemp is grown. Licensees must provide samples of hemp and hemp-derived CBD products through internal personnel or via independent lab testing contractors. Lab tests must prove that the sample contains no more than 0.3% THC. Crops with more than 0.3% THC must be destroyed.

Georgia CBD possession limits

Georgia has no possession limits on hemp-derived CBD products as long as the products contain no more than 0.3% THC by weight.

Georgia law authorizes the legal possession of up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC cannabis oil by qualified patients. The possession of any form of marijuana by an unauthorized person is a violation of state and federal law.

The penalty for possession of an illegal form of CBD product or cannabis scales depends on the amount in possession and whether there is an intention to distribute. Possession of more than 1 ounce is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Possession with intent to distribute is punishable by the same penalty tiers as the sale of illicit CBD or cannabis.

Where to buy CBD in Georgia

Georgia consumers can purchase hemp-derived CBD products from CBD-specific stores and health shops. While cafes and grocers may stock foods or beverages infused with CBD, the sale of these are prohibited by Georgia law.

Georgia consumers can purchase hemp-derived CBD products from CBD-specific stores and health shops. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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When purchasing from a storefront, particularly if the store specializes in CBD, you can receive guidance from an employee. Explain what you’re looking for, your reasons for consuming CBD, and they can point you in the right direction.

Georgia residents can also buy hemp-derived CBD online, usually through specific brands’ websites. You can also find verified CBD brands on Weedmaps. Reputable brands will generally provide you with essential product details, including the form of the CBD (such as oil, capsules, topicals, tinctures, etc.), the quantity of CBD the product contains, the other chemicals or ingredients present in the product, and more.

While many online checkout systems support US-based CBD sellers, some companies like Paypal consider CBD a “restricted business” and don’t support online sales. Confirm the websites’ checkout system before purchasing CBD online.

How to read CBD labels and packaging

The 2018 Farm Bill shifted the oversight of hemp and hemp-derived products from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA does not presently allow CBD-infused food, drinks, or dietary supplements to be sold, and hasn’t yet provided regulations for hemp-derived CBD products.

Still, the agency warns that regulations in flux still require companies to make legitimate claims on their labels. Buyers should nonetheless approach CBD products with caution. A CBD product should clearly state what kind of CBD is used.

Full-spectrum CBD oil means the extract contains cannabis-derived terpenes and trace amounts of cannabinoids such as THC. Broad-spectrum also includes other cannabis compounds but has had THC removed during the processing phase. CBD isolate is a pure crystalline powder containing only CBD.

Most reputable CBD producers typically include the following information on their CBD product labels:

  • Amount of active CBD per serving.
  • Supplement Fact panel, including other ingredients.
  • Net weight.
  • Manufacturer or distributor name.
  • Suggested use.
  • Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate.
  • Batch or date code.

Is CBD oil legal in Georgia? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is CBD? Why is CBD sometimes illegal? Georgia CBD laws Where to

CBD oil as medicine: The promise and the risks

Metro Atlanta resident Becky Ferguson says she started using non-addictive cannabis oil because she hoped it would ease her chronic pain.

The result was not quite what she expected.

“It might have helped a little bit [with the pain], but I am getting a tremendous reduction in anxiety,” says Ferguson, who is in her late 50s.

Ferguson says she’s calmer and better able to deal with stress than she has ever been in her life. “I have a much higher quality of life,” she says.

Yet there are also health warnings about CBD oil (cannabidiol) and hemp-derived products.

When it comes to hemp and cannabis, there is much confusion among the public about labels, because of how science and the law define these substances. For the average person, it’s almost like having too many cousins with the same first name.

Another source of confusion is that recreational use and medical use of marijuana — though they are different things — are both gaining legal and social acceptance in the United States.

CBD oil is derived from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (cannabis), it does not make a person “high.”

People generally can obtain it easily in stores across the country.

Some researchers differentiate hemp from marijuana by pointing to THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. (In other words, it’s what causes the high.) Cannabis plants that produce THC at a concentration higher than 0.3% are labeled “cannabis,” while those that produce less than that are labeled “hemp.”

The nationwide legal status of CBD changed fairly recently. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 proposed to remove hemp from the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances, making it an ordinary agricultural commodity. The act’s provisions were incorporated into the Farm Bill that became law last December.

Do you know what you’re getting?

Hemp is a promising product for farmers.

A 2018 Forbes article said that spending on legal cannabis worldwide is expected to hit $57 billion by 2027. The adult-use (recreational) market will cover 67 percent of the spending, and medical uses will take up the remaining 33 percent.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is from the largely agricultural state of Kentucky, ensured that the federal Farm Bill passed. In Georgia, another state where farming is very important, Gov. Brian Kemp supported the recent Hemp Farming Act. It allows for the production and sale of hemp products, but only by “licensed farmers.” Every state is making its own farming rules.

CBD oil is selling well in Georgia, but all of it on the market here now comes from other states. Once Georgia creates regulations, CBD can be manufactured in the state by farmers who receive a hemp growing license, which costs $50 per acre annually, the AJC reported.

As of now, Georgia’s Department of Agriculture says no licenses have been issued. The state’s hemp rules are still being developed.

In the meantime, plenty of CBD items, like CBD moonrocks, are for sale in Georgia. People can buy cannabis products from such vendors as convenience stores, mall kiosks and hardware stores, as well as from smoke shops and online vendors.

But with no regulations on these sales, what’s safe?

Buyers have little protection

Today, it’s a “buyer beware” market.

Ferguson, who lives in DeKalb County, says she found a third-party reputable laboratory to verify the contents of her CBD product. She says it’s important to research companies before making a buying decision.

Atlanta pharmacist Ira Katz says, he, too, recognized the importance of CBD for several reasons, “but only if it’s coming from a reputable company.”

As a pharmacist, Katz looks for companies with stellar reputations. And for now, he’s settled on a few products. “You can’t go to a convenience store and talk to the clerk with questions like: ‘Can I take it? How much should I take? Is it safe?’ ”

Katz also reminds his customers to beware of potentially unsafe products. Reputable pharmacists, says Katz, take the time to ask about the quality of products before ordering them, and they make recommendations based on a patient’s medical history.

Hemp products are not for everyone, and they are not the cure-all that some advertisers may suggest, Katz says. But he adds that “the beauty of it [CBD] is that it really doesn’t seem to have interactions.”

“Many people are taking sleeping products with addictive properties and far too many [take] addictive pain medications,” he says.

There are certain circumstances for which Katz might suggest a legal hemp product. For example, it can be beneficial to patients who have been on opioids for pain management to lessen their daily intake, and hemp products may enable them to do that.

A seller with a mission

“My mom had cancer when I was in my 20s,” says Joe Salome in an interview at his Sandy Springs store. Salome says he watched his mom receive relief from her medicinal cannabis years ago.

Salome believes in these products. As far as he’s concerned, “all marijuana use is medical use at the end of the day.”

“Whether we know it or not [you can call] it medical or recreational.” That’s why many states that have legalized cannabis get rid of the medical cannabis category completely as they transition, says Salome.

Salome is a partner in the Georgia Hemp Company. He says he’s seen how cannabis can help people.

Once a medical marijuana law was passed in Georgia under previous Gov. Nathan Deal, Salome went from an online distributor to a merchant with a brick-and-mortar location where he could talk to concerned consumers.

“For the most part,” said Salome, “the people that visit our store are looking for some type of relief from pain, anxiety or sleep [issues].”

“What we find is that the majority of people out there don’t want a product with even a little bit of THC — even the legal limit — because of the taste, the stigma or whatever — they don’t necessarily want it.”

“As shop owners, we are going after what CBD does about the inflammation, anxiety, pain and those types of things,” said Salome. He hopes other companies are just as concerned as he is.

Limited oversight

Federal government officials, meanwhile, have raised concerns about these products.

The FDA has issued several warning letters to firms that market unapproved new drugs allegedly containing CBD. As part of these actions, the FDA tests the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds.

Some were found not to contain the levels of CBD that their makers claimed on the packaging. “These products are [also] not FDA-approved for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease,” states the FDA.

The Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to three companies selling oils, tinctures, capsules, “gummies” and creams. In the letters, the FTC urged the companies to review all claims made for their products, including consumer testimonials, to ensure they are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

In the interim, it’s the buyer taking the risk.

Physician hopeful but cautious

Dr. Cheryl McGowan, a family medicine physician who lives in Alpharetta, says that while “some of the early research appears promising,” she’s not ready to recommend CBD just yet.

McGowan says some side effects are minor, such as fatigue, nausea and diarrhea. Others, like liver toxicity and interaction with medications, such as the blood thinner Coumadin, have the potential to be severe.

Like many other health practitioners, McGowan cautions, “Right now, we really don’t know, other than some small studies, many of which were conducted in the lab or in animal models, exactly how CBD use affects humans long-term. And what dosages are optimal for different patients and different conditions.”

Meanwhile, stores selling CBD oil are popping up all over.

Breana Holmes in her store. Photo credit: Marietta Daily Journal

The Marietta Daily Journal recently reported that Canton resident Breana Holmes had struggled with the widespread pain of fibromyalgia for years when a friend let her try some of the cannabis-derived CBD products he was selling at his newly opened CBD shop.

The results changed her life, she says.

Holmes, who said she also suffers from anxiety, said the pain she felt regularly was finally manageable and she was able to relax, the Daily Journal reported. So, she said, she set out to open her own shop, and in February, Holmes became an owner of a Your CBD Store franchise location in Smyrna.

And there are now four Your CBD Store locations in Cobb County alone, the Daily Journal reported.

Judi Kanne, a registered nurse and freelance writer, combines her nursing and journalism backgrounds to write about public health. She lives in Atlanta.

The Thanks Mom & Dad Fund supports GHN’s coverage of aging issues.

CBD oil as medicine: The promise and the risks Metro Atlanta resident Becky Ferguson says she started using non-addictive cannabis oil because she hoped it would ease her chronic pain. The