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Aggressive. Experienced.

Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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What Is the Legal Status of CBD Oil in Illinois?

CBD oil, which is short for cannabidiol oil, is a cannabinoid extract that has many of the health benefits of medical marijuana (for example, pain relief and anxiety management), but does not have psychoactive effects.


The legality of CBD oil is complex and often murky. This leaves many Chicagoans concerned about its legal status, but more importantly contributes to unregulated production of CBD oil that may be unsafe for consumption.


Fortunately, a new bill being introduced into Illinois state legislature will fully legalize CBD oil, and better regulate its production.

What Is CBD Oil?


Marijuana contains thousands of bioactive compounds collectively known as cannabinoids. Two of the most best-known cannabinoids are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

While THC has euphoric effects and gets users “high,” CBD has no psychoactive effects.

However, CBD has a variety of medicinal effects, and may in fact be responsible for many of marijuana’s health benefits. Clinical studies have shown that CBD can be used to treat a variety of chronic and inflammatory diseases, including:


  • Chronic pain
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Epilepsy
  • Generalized anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Mood and substance abuse disorders
  • Cancer

Clearly, CBD oil has enormous therapeutic value. Moreover, because it is not psychoactive, it has very little – if any – potential for abuse. However, its legality remains controversial and unclear for a number of reasons that we’ll jump into next.

The Difference Between CBD from Hemp and Marijuana

The Difference Between CBD from Hemp and Marijuana

One very important distinction in CBD legality is whether the CBD oil was derived from hemp or marijuana. Marijuana and hemp are both members of the cannabis family and share many similarities, but have one crucial difference: marijuana produces up to 30% THC by weight, while hemp produces a maximum of 0.3% – not nearly enough to get you high.


Because hemp does not have psychoactive effects, the law has no problems with it. Hemp-derived CBD is therefore legal federally and in all 50 states. Hemp is sometimes confused with marijuana plant, so there is still a societal stigma against hemp products, but from a legal standpoint, they are completely legal.


Contrastingly, marijuana-derived CBD products have very murky legality. Marijuana-derived CBD oil is considered a byproduct of marijuana – even if it does not contain THC. The legality of marijuana-derived CBD oil is therefore variable between states.

CBD Oil in Illinois – Is It a Crime?


You may have noticed that a variety of retailers offer now CBD oil for sale over-the-counter in Chicago. Vape shops and head shops in particular offer CBD oil without a prescription or so-called “green card” for medical marijuana.


The difference between CBD oil sold at vape shops versus licensed dispensaries is that all CBD oil sold at vape shops is derived from hemp, while CBD oil sold at dispensaries is derived from marijuana. Even though the active ingredient is the same, the legality is very different, which adds a layer of confusion and just plain absurdity to the legality of CBD oil.


If you are considering giving CBD oil a try, you can be assured that CBD oil offered for sale over-the-counter by local retailers is legal, and that possession of these products will not get you in trouble. However, because these products fall outside the bounds of the Illinois medical marijuana program, they are currently not regulated, so consumers don’t necessarily know

what they’re getting.

Unregulated CBD Oil in Illinois


The danger of CBD oil marketed to the public is that there is currently no testing or quality control. This means that what you’re buying may not actually contain CBD, and potentially that you could be ingesting dangerous additives or contaminants.


A 2016 study in the Journal of Regulatory Science ran quality control tests on 23 products labeled as “hemp oil or cannabinoid” purchased on the internet. The study found that 18 of these compounds tested positive for at least one CBD compound, but that three contained less than 0.01% CBD, and four products labeled as CBD contained no CBD.


Some retailers have more scruples than others. Reputable Chicago retailers may opt to send their products out for testing before offering them for sale to the public.  If you’re considering CBD oil, this is a good question to ask.


However, regulation and safety standards should not be optional – and the new legislation brings us one step closer to regulated production of CBD oil.

Understanding Senate Bill 2298


The Industrial Hemp Act, introduced to the Illinois state legislature as Senate bill 2298, would legalize and regulate industrial production of all hemp products, including CBD oil. In order to produce hemp products, growers will need to be licensed by the USDA.


Although the bill does not have a specific provision for CBD oil, it will ensure that hemp products produced in the state of Illinois are produced safely and without contaminants. It also paves the way for future legislation to specifically regulate CBD oil.


In the meantime, if you find yourself facing charges related to CBD oil, the best way to protect yourself is to work with a knowledgeable Chicago drug crimes attorney who understands the nuances off this complex area of the law.



About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.

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