is cbd legal in california

Is CBD Oil Legal in California? Ask an Expert


California produces nearly 15 percent of the total U.S. economy and ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy in the world — ahead of India and the UK.1 It seems clear from these numbers that legalizing marijuana use hasn’t slowed California down. In fact, quite the opposite. Despite leading the nation on cannabis law reform, hemp-derived CBD in California is another question. Is CBD oil legal in California? 

There seems to be some confusion out there, and rightly so. It’s an interesting trend we have noticed here at Cornbread Hemp — some of the strangest CBD laws come from states with mature state-legal cannabis markets. One might think that if cannabis is legal for recreational use in a state, then there should be no restrictions on buying CBD oil and other CBD products either. But the reality is somewhat different, in part because the state-legal cannabis industry feels threatened by federally legal CBD oil — and for good reason.

This article will explain all you need to know about if hemp CBD products are legal in California, and where you can purchase CBD in California.


The history of California cannabis plant cultivation stretches back long before Spanish colonists arrived. In 1795, Spanish Governor de Borca sent Joaquin Sanchez to Mission San Jose to plant industrial hemp for exportation. Upon arrival, Sanchez found that hemp plants were already growing there, and that the natives used it to make nets to catch sea otters.2 

The main reason that the Spanish wanted to colonize Northern California was because hemp was able to be grown there, and the Pacific fleet of Spanish galleons needed a re-supply stop on their way back from Manilla.3 The fleet needed hemp for sails and riggings.

Sanchez went on to plant hemp at the missions at San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Gabriel. The production of hemp continued there until 1810 when Spanish subsidies ended.4

Not long after, Russian settlers cultivated hemp in the area until the mid-1800s. By the late 1800s the entirety of the state’s industrial hemp cultivation was in the hands of two men: John Heaney and his neighbor, Mr. G. Rau. Heaney states in a letter, “This is all the hemp grown at present in the State, and will produce about 250 tons of fibre, the average price of which is from 6 to 7 cents per pound in the Eastern market.”5

Heaney appears prominently in the history of hemp in Northern California. He previously grew crops in Illinois, but in California, he invented a processing machine for the plant material and was lauded for his leadership in the industry. 

In 1907, California passed the Poison Act and added an amendment in 1913 that outlawed the possession of “extracts, tinctures, or other narcotic preparations of hemp, or loco-weed [Cannabis sativa], their preparations and compounds” and labeled it a misdemeanor.6 From that point forward, California increased legal penalties in both jail time and fines for possession. 

On the federal level, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Marihuana Tax Act into law in 1937, which began the era of federal control over all cannabis production, including hemp. Hemp farmers were required pay a “marihauna tax” to grow hemp.7

In part because of this act, cultivation began a steady decline until 1942 when the WWII “Hemp for Victory” campaign briefly revived interest in the crop. The campaign planned the planting of 300,000 acres of hemp and the construction of 71 processing plants to meet military demand for rope, twine, uniforms and other products which could be made from hemp.8 

But the war ended before the project was fully realized, along with demand for domestic hemp fiber. Many Midwestern and West Coast towns were left high and dry with empty or partially constructed processing plants, and cancelled governmental hemp contracts.9 

For the remainder of the 20th century, cannabis was illegal. But California led the nation effort to legalize marijuana for medicinal reasons. With proposition 215, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

Hemp remained illegal at the federal level until the first Obama administration, when the United States Congress legalized hemp plants through the 2014 Farm Bill. President Obama signed the Farm Bill into law including Sec. 7606 defining industrial hemp for the first time and authorizing hemp research and pilot programs by Universities and state departments of agriculture.10 In 2016, California legalized marijuana for recreational use, following the lead of states like Colorado and Washington State. 

At the federal level, the 2018 Farm Bill redefined the cannabis hemp plant and made hemp plants with low THC concentration legal by federal law. This led to the rise of a new CBD oil industry practically overnight. But different states still have different laws regarding hemp and marijuana. The Farm Bill declared that hemp derived CBD products are legal, so long as the CBD products in question contain less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.


California is one of the most liberal states regarding cannabis and CBD products, like CBD + THC gummies and CBD pills. It is legal in California for adults 21 and older to possess and buy cannabis products. The state boasts hundreds of marijuana dispensaries, as well as delivery services. 

There are a few limitations to the laws, though. You’re allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use. You can only travel with one ounce of weed, but you are not allowed to smoke in public (although many people do). Otherwise, it is fully legal and decriminalized in California.11 Cannabis is so legal in California that it’s hard to even imagine restrictions on CBD oil with THC products. However, they do exist. 


There are two types of Cannabidiol, or CBD oil products, available in California — marijuana-derived CBD oil and hemp-derived CBD oil. Marijuana-derived CBD oils with high THC levels are available in licensed dispensaries but are not legal under federal law.

But because California has a robust cannabis market, retail sales for CBD products have been slowed down in the state Assembly. When the California legislative session ended in August 2020, the bill to allow retail sales of CBD oil in California had not yet passed.12 So, it was tabled until 2021.

In accord with the 2018 Farm Bill and state laws, the California Department of Public Health state regulations prohibit hemp CBD oil from being added to food products and beverages until the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines it is safe as a food ingredient.13

California, being California, has been testing the limits of these food additive rules. A San Francisco brewery was cited by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for adding CBD to its beers back in 2018.14 California brewers are now skirting this rule by adding CBD oil to non-alcoholic beers, which is still in a regulatory gray area. 


Yes! Unlike marijuana which is only legal by California state law, federally legal CBD oils can be shipped across state lines all over the United States. You can find it almost anywhere from grocery stores and head shops, to gas stations and convenience stores. One of the safest ways to purchase CBD, is to buy CBD oil online. And Cornbread Hemp leads the way in making genuine CBD products available to everyone!

When you purchase CBD oil online it allows you to take your time to do research on the brands and options available to you. Online reviews can be helpful in your decision-making, and you can access third-party lab reports for many CBD oils can add to your research. Some providers, like Cornbread Hemp post third-party lab reports for every batch of each of hemp products. 

Kentucky’s Cornbread Hemp offers the #1 rated USDA organic CBD products available online. If that’s something that’s important to you, take that into consideration as you search for hemp-derived CBD oil containing less than 0.3% THC. 

California is our number one state in terms of customer volume. We ship Cornbread Hemp products to California every day. With UPS as our shipping partner, we can get you our USDA organic CBD in California as quickly as you need them, including overnight via UPS Next Day Air.


California has a rich history of hemp and cannabis, from the natives who grew hemp for otter nets, to setting the national trend on legalization through state-legal medical marijuana programs. California is a leader when it comes to liberating cannabis from federal restrictions.

Yet despite how legal cannabis is in California, there’s one thing you can find in any legal dispensary: the USDA organic seal. To get the strongest CBD oil products with the USDA organic seal, Californians trust Cornbread Hemp.

About the Author
Jim Higdon, Co-Founder

Jim is a native of Lebanon, Kentucky. He holds degrees from Centre College, Brown University, and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Jim published Cornbread Mafia in 2012 before co-founding Cornbread Hemp. Full author bio here.


Yes, CBD oil is legal in Tennessee. The Farm Bill of 2018 redefined cannabis plants containing trace amounts of less than 0.3% THC as hemp, making high-CBD hemp legal under federal law. This allowed hemp-derived CBD oil to saturate the American health and wellness market.

Medical marijuana is legal in the state of California. The Compassionate Use Act was passed in 1996, which allows people to use medical cannabis for any illness as long as they have a diagnosis from a doctor.

Yes, CBD is legal for minors with the consent of a legal guardian. Minors can also purchase CBD products if they have a diagnosis from their doctor allowing them to be treated with medical cannabis.


1. Hughes, Ryan “If California Were a Country” Bull Oak Capital. Pub: 27 June 2020. Accessed 16 Dec 2020:

2. Greene, Michael. “California hemp history.” Vote Hemp. Pub: 2020. Accessed: 7 Dec. 2020.

3. “Industrial Hemp in California.” Antique Cannabis Book. Pub: Jan. 2018. Accessed: 7 Dec. 2020.

4. “Cannabis in California.” Wikipedia. Accessed: 7 Dec. 2020.

5. “Hemp Timeline.” Vote Hemp. Pub: 2019. Accessed: 7 Dec. 2020.

6. Will, Oscar. “The forgotten history of hemp cultivation in America.” Farm Collector. Pub: Nov. 2004. Accessed: 7 Dec. 2020.

7. “Marijuana laws by state in 2020: A legal weed map and short guide to regulation.” Oberk. Pub: 1 Aug. 2019. Accessed: 8 Dec. 2020.

8. Bennett, Theresa “Bill to Legalize CBD in California Fizzles in State Senate” Hemp Grower. pub: 3 Sept 2020. Accessed 21 Dec 2020

9. “Is CBD oil legal in California?” Weedmaps. Pub: 5 Aug. 2020. Accessed: 8 Dec. 2020.>.

10. Branfalt, TG “Feds Tell California Brewer to Cease CBD Beer Production” Ganjapreneur. Pub: 24 May 2018. Accessed 21 Dec 2020.