No matter what the United States government’s official opinion on cannabidiol (CBD) is, California has always held its own, strong views on all things cannabis. The stereotypes on California cannabis culture largely hold true, but it still begs the question: is CBD oil legal in California?
Medical marijuana has been legalized in the state in 1996, and decriminalization of marijuana possession and use was a process that started as early as 1975. In 2000, possessing a small amount was fully legalized. Yet, the legalities of CBD in California remained on the relatively shaky ground until recently. There is an ongoing debate between federal departments about the legality of industrial hemp, and this confusion naturally spread into California. So, even with the recent legislative updates, is CBD oil legal in California today?
Just like California took their own road to legalizing marijuana, they have also now taken their own road to hemp-derived CBD regulations. Today, thanks to the new clarifications laid out through a 2016 amendment to California law, there is no grey area for hemp products, as is the case elsewhere in the country. No matter if it’s sourced from marijuana or hemp, CBD oil is legal in California.
California has always made its own determinations when it comes to cannabis, as the state is very independently minded. As mentioned, it was the first state to start legalizing marijuana production and possession in the ‘70s and to fully legalize the use of medical marijuana. The latter ensured state residents had the “legal right to obtain or grow, and use marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a doctor.” It also protected doctors from legal repercussions if they prescribed cannabis products. Now, users are allowed to legally grow, produce and privately use their own small amount of marijuana. In 2018, recreational marijuana was also adopted in the state. 
But what about CBD products? Until 2014, the federal government prohibited growing industrial hemp. Despite the fact that industrial hemp contains little to no psychoactive compounds (THC), the government had kept its production strictly regulated as a classified substance. In 2014, with the passage of the Farm Bill, growing, processing and selling hemp, under certain capacities, became legal.
Despite this new regulation, there is still a significant grey area around industrial hemp in the US, and therefore hemp-derived CBD products. The Farm Bill of 2014 states that a state department or an “institution of Higher Education” may grow industrial hemp if, “the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research."
Many states have simply chosen to ignore these restrictive guidelines on hemp production, and have either explicitly or more subtly allowed it to go unhindered within their state borders. California falls in the ‘explicit’ category. Included in Proposition 64, which approved the use of recreational marijuana in the state of California, was a provision also allowing for the introduction of hemp production. 
The California definition of hemp clearly defines the plant and its products. Industrial hemp, according to California, is "a fiber or oilseed crop, or both, that is limited to types of the plantCannabis sativa L. having no more than three-tenths of 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops, whether growing or not; the seeds of the plant; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin produced therefrom.”
On top of this very specific definition, the state also made it legal for other businesses, beyond institutions of higher education, to grow, produce and sell industrial hemp and the related products, provided they follow the state laws and registration process. This process is not yet underway. It seems as if the state wanted to clarify, once and for all, CBD oil legality in California, no matter the confusion going on at the federal level. 
Although many may have assumed that if medical marijuana was legal in the state, its more benign cousin, CBD, would also be legal, as it wasn't a clear-cut issue. There remained many questions about industrial hemp production as a whole. Now no matter whether the CBD product is originally derived from marijuana, industrial hemp or otherwise, CBD oil is legal in California.
There is a growing tide of CBD use as an alternative therapy. The research, while still very much in the preliminary stages, seems to undeniably suggest numerous benefits of this gentle cannabinoid for human health. Even the Food and Drug Administration appears poised to approve it, at least for the specific use for intractable childhood epilepsy.
Even if the research is lagging, that hasn’t seemed to stop the masses from doing a little bit of their own exploration with the compound. Having CBD oil legal in California makes this access that much easier and safer.
What are people using CBD oil for today? Across the country, it has been popular as an alternative to mainstream medicine for a vast array of illnesses and diseases - anything from cancer to anxiety to addiction.
In laboratory trials, CBD has been found to have antitumor properties, triggering cancer cell death and reducing metastasis. In small human trials, it's also proven compelling for its powerful anti-anxiety characteristics. As for addiction, CBD is now under intense study for substance abuse as far ranging as nicotine, to opioid, to THC-heavy cannabis.
Legal access to CBD products in California is just one step closer to countrywide access. In fact, California seems to think that soon there will be federal legal approval for CBD as medicine. In January 2018, the California state legislature amended the Business and Professions Code, alongside the Health and Safety Code to ensure medical patients can obtain access to CBD following a change in federal approval. Here is to hoping that California is only one step ahead of the federal government in this regard.