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Guide Hemp in Massachusetts: FAQs

The information provided here should help users interpret the Massachusetts Commercial Industrial Hemp Policy and provide answers to frequently asked questions about Industrial Hemp in the Commonwealth.

Table of Contents

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L. Hemp is a non- psychoactive variety of the plant specifically cultivated for industrial uses. Hemp has no use as a recreational drug. Both hemp and marijuana are defined under Massachusetts law, and jurisdiction for hemp is given to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (“MDAR”) while marijuana falls under the Cannabis Control Commission. For more information, see Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 128 , Sections 116 through 123 and Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017. Under Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017, hemp is excluded from the definition of marijuana and defined separately both there and within Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 128, Section 116 so for the purposes of state law there is also a legal distinction between the two.

Does hemp look like marijuana?

Yes. Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same plant species, and cannot be distinguished visually. However, due to differences in the end use product, hemp and marijuana are generally cultivated differently, resulting in plants that can look different based on the growing methods used.

Does hemp contain THC?

Plants in the genus Cannabis contain unique compounds called cannabinoids. There are at least 113 different cannabinoids produced by cannabis plants. The most notable of these cannabinoids is delta 9- tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. THC is the primary psychoactive compound found in marijuana. While marijuana plants contain high levels of THC (typically between 5-25%), the varieties used for hemp contain very little. Hemp has been selectively bred to contain no more than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis.

What kinds of products are made from hemp?

Hemp is an extremely versatile plant with a multitude of uses. It can be cultivated for use as a fiber crop, seed crop, or for production of cannabinoids found in the flowers. Hemp products manufactured from the fibrous stalks and seeds include rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation, oil, and biofuel.

How will MDAR be able to tell if a grower is growing hemp or marijuana?

MDAR will be testing the crop prior to harvest in order to ensure that the crop contains less than 0.3% THC.

What method do you use to test for THC?

The method we use is called high-performance liquid chromatography, or HPLC. As hemp in Massachusetts is defined as “The plant of the genus cannabis and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 THC concentration that does not exceed 0.3 per cent on a dry weight basis or per volume or weight of marijuana product or the combined per cent of delta-9-THC and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) in any part of the plant of the genus cannabis regardless of moisture content”, we test for the total THC using the following formula: delta-9 THC + (THCa * 0.877). This method, or a similar one that uses decarboxylation, is required under the 2018 Farm Bill for state departments of agriculture that want to have their hemp regulatory plans approved by USDA.

What is total THC, and why does it include THCa?

THCa is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in hemp. When heated (decarboxylated), THCa is converted to delta-9 THC, which is the primary psychoactive compound found in Cannabis. While delta-9 THC may be present in raw hemp, it is produced in negligible quantities, so to get an accurate representation of the amount of delta-9 THC in the hemp, we use the total THC, or a method that uses decarboxylation to determine the delta-9 THC in the hemp.

Can I grow or process hemp in Massachusetts?

Under MA state laws, a ny person proposing to plant, grow, harvest, process, or sell Industrial Hemp in Massachusetts must obtain a license issued by the Department of Agricultural Resources. Currently, there are 3 different license types available for growers, processors, and those engaged in both growing and processing. A Grower is a person who cultivates Industrial Hemp, and a Processor converts Industrial Hemp into a marketable form through extraction or manufacturing.

Is growing hemp legal under federal law now?

The 2018 Farm Bill created a distinction between hemp and marijuana under federal law recognizing hemp as an agricultural commodity, and removing it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act. The 2018 Farm Bill also authorized the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to develop regulations and guidelines related to the cultivation of hemp, establishing that hemp cultivation in the United States will require licensing, either through USDA, or in accordance with a state plan developed by a state department of agriculture and approved by USDA. Until such time as USDA develops regulations and guidance, Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, which authorized Agricultural Research Programs through state departments of agricultural or universities of higher education, remains in place. States are awaiting further direction and guidance from USDA as to how to proceed with developing, expanding, and implementing hemp programs within their jurisdiction.

Until such time as Massachusetts receives additional information or a legislative change is made, MDAR will continue to implement existing Massachusetts law. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 128, Sections 116 through 123, growing hemp for commercial purposes in Massachusetts falls under the jurisdiction of MDAR, and the planting, growing, harvesting, processing, and retail sale of hemp and hemp products requires licensing by MDAR. MDAR is currently licensing only growing and processing activities related to hemp. Activities that may require registration (i.e. agricultural research programs) or other licensing under M.G.L. c. 128, Section 118 will be addressed at a later date.

What is the impact of the 2018 Farm Bill and federal hemp legalization on the MDAR hemp program?

The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill set the stage for major changes to the Industrial Hemp industry in the United States. There are a number of immediate changes to the legal status of hemp, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act, and is now considered an agricultural commodity rather than a drug, although still subject to state and federal oversight.
  • Hemp is now eligible for federal crop insurance and hemp farmers may now participate in USDA programs for certification and competitive grants.
  • States and Tribes may impose additional restrictions or requirements on hemp production and the sale of hemp products; however, they cannot interfere with the interstate transport of hemp or hemp products.
  • It is important to remember that no changes were made to the United States Federal Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) jurisdiction or the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

However, many of the changes to hemp production in the US will take time to roll out. Under the new law, USDA must establish a federal plan and promulgate regulations and guidelines for the production of hemp in the US. In addition, each state must submit a plan for the oversight of hemp within their boundaries for federal approval. Until the federal plan is released, and state programs are approved, section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill remains in place until a year after such oversight is promulgated and there will be no immediate changes to the status of hemp program requirements in Massachusetts.

Guide Hemp in Massachusetts: FAQs The information provided here should help users interpret the Massachusetts Commercial Industrial Hemp Policy and provide answers to frequently asked questions

Is CBD oil legal in Massachusetts?

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Contents

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

Adult-use and medical marijuana are legal in Massachusetts.

The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp cultivation federally legal, paving the way for the legalization of hemp-derived CBD products nationwide, although a gray area remains for cannabidiol (CBD) legality. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and the Massachusetts Department of Health prohibit the sale of food or products containing hemp-derived CBD that makes therapeutic or medicinal claims. However, in June 2019, Bill H4001 was introduced in the Massachusetts House of Representatives but stalled in committee, in an effort to clear up confusion surrounding CBD legality in Massachusetts. The act reclassified ingestible CBD as a food product and allowed CBD oil in cosmetic and personal care products.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol is one of the primary cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, second only to THC. Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating and offers potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, analgesic, and seizure-suppressing properties.

Why is CBD sometimes illegal?

Though hemp strains don’t produce enough THC to cause intoxication, all varieties of cannabis, including help, were considered federally illegal under the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act. Under that legislation, all cannabis fell under Schedule 1, which defines cannabis as a controlled substance with no accepted medical use, a high potential for abuse, and a likelihood for addiction.

CBD oil drop

CBD oil usually comes with a dropper to allow consumers and patients to measure out their dose. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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CBD oil drop

That changed with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp cultivation and created a path to remove hemp from Schedule 1 by creating a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana. Under the legislation, hemp is classified as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight, while marijuana is cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC. The bill effectively removed hemp-derived CBD’s status as a Schedule 1 substance. However, because marijuana retained its schedule classification, marijuana-derived CBD is still considered federally illegal. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp an agricultural commodity and required it to be produced and sold under regulations that implement the bill, which have yet to be enacted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The 2018 Farm Bill also retained the power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)to regulate CBD’s therapeutic claims, labeling, and its use as a food additive. The FDA maintains its stance that even hemp-derived CBD may not be used as an additive to food and beverages or marketed as a dietary supplement. The FDA also has yet to revise its rules or specifically regulate CBD products, which has led to confusion about CBD legality. The FDA has been particularly strict on CBD regulations when it comes to health claims that could be construed as medical advice.

Massachusetts CBD laws

Even though the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD, it also left room for states to independently regulate its production and sale. Massachusetts has strict rules surrounding hemp-derived CBD legality. Under current laws, CBD oil cannot be added to any food or beverage products. It also can’t be marketed as having any medical or therapeutic benefits unless the product has been evaluated and approved by the FDA.

To date, Massachusetts has not submitted a plan to regulate hemp within the state. The website for the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR) clarifies that it is waiting for the USDA to issue guidance before it develops a state plan for regulating hemp.

Licensing requirements for CBD

Currently, anyone proposing to plant, grow, harvest, process, or sell industrial hemp in Massachusetts must apply for a license through the MDAR. Massachusetts tests all crops prior to harvest to ensure THC levels are less than 0.3%.

CBD oil bottle

A bottle of CBD oil. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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CBD oil bottle

Under current laws, hemp-derived CBD is still banned and the sale of hemp-derived CBD products, including CBD oil, is prohibited. Massachusetts and federal regulators are still evaluating CBD from hemp to determine its safety for use as a food additive or supplement. However, it isn’t entirely clear if and how the state plans to enact these regulations or penalize retailers who continue to sell CBD products.

Massachusetts CBD possession limits

Because hemp-derived CBD and CBD oil are currently prohibited under Massachusetts law, there are no clear possession limits. However, under current Massachusetts cannabis laws, adults 21 years or older can possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis on their person and up to 10 ounces in their home, including CBD.

Where to buy CBD in Massachusetts

The sale of hemp-derived CBD products at retailers is currently prohibited in Massachusetts, although many retailers continue to make them available for purchase. Marijuana-derived CBD is for sale at state dispensaries. Purchasing from a retailer allows consumers to interact with the retailer and get any questions about the product answered prior to making a purchase.

But purchasing CBD products from a retailer isn’t the only option. Because hemp-derived CBD is now federally legal, consumers can also purchase CBD products online.

How to read CBD labels and packaging

Whether you’re purchasing CBD from an online retailer or a retail location in Massachusetts, you want to make sure you’re purchasing a reputable product, and that it follows current guidelines for labels and packaging.

Under current FDA regulations, CBD oil and other hemp-derived CBD products cannot make any therapeutic or medical claims on their labels.

The FDA does not currently allow CBD products to be labeled as dietary supplements, so the labels lack the kind of information required of regulated supplements. However, most reputable CBD producers will 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 Massachusetts? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is CBD? Why is CBD sometimes illegal? Massachusetts CBD laws