With all the ambiguity and uncertainty around CBD and cannabis products, how can you ensure that your logistics are in compliance with all the state and federal laws?
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation around cannabis, hemp, marijuana, CBD and THC, with many people using these terms interchangeably. However, there are big differences. Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) and marijuana (Cannabis Indica) are two varieties of the cannabis plant. So, when we talk about cannabis, it applies to both hemp and marijuana. Hemp, which is mainly grown for industrial uses of its derived products, is rich in CBD but very low in THC. Marijuana contains both CBD and THC compounds.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis. CBD is closely related to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in cannabis that causes the high. However, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means that it will not get users high.
There is also a difference between CBD oil and hemp oil. CBD oil can be extracted both from hemp and marijuana plants. Hemp oil is an extract of the whole hemp plant. To make things even more confusing, there exists also hemp seed oil. This is made from the sterilized seeds of the hemp plant and doesn’t contain significant cannabinoid content.
CBD is widely held to have wellness and therapeutic properties and many companies are planning to launch food and beverage products that contain CBD.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp plants that have a THC content of less than 0.3 percent in the United States; however the FDA has still not approved the legal use of CBD in food and beverage products. Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, but ten states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.
Although marijuana has been legalized in several states and CBD on a federal level, there are still many obstacles in the logistics of CBD and marijuana.
Shipping CBD Products
Thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018, it is now legal to mail CBD products across the United States, but the laws and complexities involved in shipping these products still remain a bit hazy. The Federal law specifically states that CBD products must contain less than 0.3 percent THC and must be derived from hemp as opposed to cannabis.
You can now ship CBD products across the United States with USPS and some courier services, but certain guidelines must be followed.
USPS issued new guidelines in March 2019, requiring anyone to ship CBD products to meet the following criteria and documentation:
1. A signed self-certification statement, subject to the False Statements Act
2. The industrial hemp producer possesses a license issued by the Department of Agriculture, for the state where the Post Office / acceptance unit is located
3. The industrial hemp, or products produced from industrial hemp, contains a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis
UPS accepts shipments based on several conditions. Companies that market and ship CBD products must be able to state where and who grew the raw material and how it was processed. UPS prohibits hemp in plant form and will not accept shipments containing hemp products from any location that sells marijuana or marijuana products.
FedEx still lists hemp plants, hemp leaves, hemp oil, hemp seed oil and CBD derived from hemp as prohibited items.
What about placing consumable CBD products in major retail markets? Since the FDA has not approved the legal use of CBD in food and beverage products, most major retailers don’t list any of these products. Shortly after the 2018 Farm Bill got passed, United Natural Foods, Incorporated (UNFI) – the largest natural food distributor in the United states and the major distributor for Whole Foods – announced that it is not selling any consumable food, beverage or dietary supplement containing CBD. In May 2019, UNFI further announced that due to the ambiguity and inconsistencies around CBD with respect to federal and state laws, it has decided to only sell non-consumable CBD products in limited states.
All this ambiguity and uncertainty makes trucking companies hesitant to transport bigger CBD quantities across state lines, especially after a truck driver transporting 7,000 pounds of industrial hemp from Oregon to Colorado got arrested in January 2019 by the Idaho State Police and charged with smuggling marijuana. This prompted the USDA to release a clarification in May 2019, stating that states and Indian tribes may not prohibit the interstate transportation or shipment of hemp lawfully produced under the Farm Bill.
The change in law is still relatively new and some states might not fully embrace CBD products yet. Some states are much friendlier towards CBD products than others, so it’s always best to check all federal and state laws, and regulations and guidelines required by carriers and logistics providers before shipping any CBD products across the United States.
Shipping internationally out of the United States adds even more complexities. Currently there are about 50 countries worldwide where CBD products are legal, typically as long as the CBD is extracted from industrial hemp and contains less than 0.2 percent THC. Carriers and logistics service providers urge shippers to check the legal restrictions of shipping CBD products internationally both in the country of origin and destination before shipping. They decline any responsibility for charges in case of illegal conduct or if shipments get confiscated by customs.
Shipping Marijuana and Marijuana Products
Although marijuana and marijuana products are legal in several states, these products are still illegal on a federal level. Federal law also declares that sending marijuana is illegal across all modes of mail delivery, includes USPS, UPS, and FedEx. In terms of mailing marijuana, federal law supersedes state laws, which means even if you live in a legalized cannabis state like California, it’s still illegal to send marijuana through mail. Mailing marijuana is a federal offense and if caught could result in heavy fines and possible jail time.
The legal ramifications of transporting marijuana in any form within a particular state depends on the laws of the respective state. If marijuana is illegal in a particular state, then the transportation of marijuana in this state is also illegal. In states where marijuana is legal, the laws related to transporting marijuana differentiate between a business or an individual transporting the products. Most states that have legalized marijuana require businesses to be licensed by the state to legally transport marijuana. The requirements differ from state to state, so it is important to check with the respective state’s licensing authorities before transporting marijuana.
Federal law will apply if you attempt to transport any amount of marijuana over state lines or across national borders. This is still considered drug trafficking, and even applies between two states where marijuana is legal, for example between Oregon and California. By crossing states lines, you are falling within the jurisdiction of the federal government.
The legalization and decriminalization of CBD and marijuana in the United States have come a long way in the last few years. Consumer demand is increasing, and more and more people are getting involved in the business of growing, manufacturing, selling, and distributing CBD and marijuana products. However, there is still a lot of ambiguity on both federal and state levels and between different agencies on many rules and regulations. Always check with local authorities and industry experts before shipping any CBD and marijuana products.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.
About the Author
Rene Jacquat is the founder of LogiChain Solutions, based in San Francisco, United States. His experience includes operations, supply chain management and logistics in the consumer goods industry. Rene provides comprehensive support and solutions to food & beverage companies to scale operations and optimize supply chain while considering sustainable practices throughout all elements of the value chain.