Is CBD Legal In New York? Where Can I Get It? How Much Should I Take? Will It Get Me High?
As the conversation around CBD (cannibidiol) has become more mainstream over the last year, more and more New Yorkers have become intrigued by its potential benefits. I’ve heard the same questions pop up again and again around the subject: what exactly does it do? Where do I get it? How much do I take? Is it going to get me stoned? And is it really legal?
There is now a robust online market for CBD products—and when you’re dealing with a trusted, vetted brand such as Lord Jones or Bluebird, that is certainly one of the easiest ways to procure it. But there are also a lot of sketchy companies hocking inferior or fake products, and an enormous amount of contradictory literature online about how to get it. Below, you’ll find some guidance in navigating the CBD world in NYC.
When it comes to serious ailments, you are still best served by talking to a doctor or medical professional. This is also true if you are taking any medications and want to experiment with some CBD (for example, if you are on blood pressure medication, you should be careful using CBD, which many take on its own as an alternative to traditional blood pressure medication — taking both will make you lightheaded). For otherwise healthy people trying to deal with everyday aches and stresses, with chronic migraines and joint pain and insomnia, you can test the waters on your own, or find someone knowledgable who can guide you through the process — thankfully, there are now resources for that in NYC.
“Up until maybe 18 months ago, you couldn’t find CBD in New York to save your life,” noted Josh Kirby, co-founder of California-based sublingual CBD company Kin Slips. “I grew up in New York, so I’m very familiar with how behind the state is drug policy-wise.”
There’s no shortage of businesses selling CBD products around NYC in 2018, whether they are bodegas, vape shops, beauty specialists or herbalists. There’s Remedies Herb Shop in Carroll Gardens and MedMen in Midtown and the newly-opened BreadxButta in Crown Heights, but the closest thing to a CBD district in the city can be found in the East Village, where every block seemingly has a store that has integrated the product into their business, such as Cloud99 Vapes, CAP Beauty, and Flower Power Herbs & Roots. And the epicenter of that is The Alchemist’s Kitchen, an upscale herbal and botanical dispensary and apothecary located on East 1st Street.
Alchemist’s Kitchen has been ahead of the curve on all things CBD, making it the ultimate destination for New Yorkers trying to parse the difference between full spectrum and isolate.
“It’s really an amazing time because it’s such a movement,” said CEO Lou Sagar. “The fact that [NYC] hasn’t had all the liberation that California has had works to our interests too—let’s be really medicinal, let’s not fool each other.”
“Some people want to get their Reiki on, some people want to drink their Reishi,” Sagar added. “It’s all part of the same community, so The Alchemist’s Kitchen is just trying to be a place where you can have the dialogue. Where people can come in who have menstrual cramps or thyroid conditions and ask, is there something I can do? We’re trying to use herbalists to say yeah, there is something to this, why don’t you try this, put it in your tea? And that’s working well.”
Alchemist’s Kitchen has its own CBD brand (Plant Alchemy), carries a few other brands, and puts on multiple educational events a month. CBD products only take up around 10% of their shelf space, but nevertheless, it’s their fastest moving product. Though it costs a little more buying from them than going straight to the source online (they mark up Lord Jones products, for example, which you can buy easily online for less), their biggest selling point is the team of chatty herbalists on hand to talk you through all your questions—making it basically the botanical equivalent of Apple’s Genius Bar.
“We see a lot of Baby Boomers coming in, people who may have been familiar with cannabis from another era, so to speak, but they’re interested in the medicinal properties of it and how it can help their aging parents as well,” said Emily Berg, an Herbal Program Manager with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things CBD. “They’re intrigued. Maybe they’ve heard about it through word of mouth. A lot of people come in not knowing anything and sort of need the walk through, but it’s definitely becoming more mainstream and popular. We see it now with coffee or in edibles, or as part of different yoga classes and experiences.”
“The more I learn about it, the more I feel like everyone can benefit from it,” she added. “So if you’re in a lot of pain, and you need immediate relief, it’ll help you achieve that. If you’re about to have a panic attack, it’ll help relax you in the moment. If you need to sleep, it’s not actually a sedative, but what it does helps your brain recognize that it can go from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic, like fight or flight to rest and digest mode. So it’s often helping your body to sort of get through any adrenaline that’s rushing in the system, and realize how tired it might be, or help you to relax in that sense.”
Even vape shops see it as their responsibility to educate the public about CBD use and dispel certain rumors. At Cloud99 Vapes on 2nd Avenue, it’s a similar story: “We definitely try to have every staff member very knowledgeable of [CBD],” said James Dinh. “We want to give people the opportunity to get over the fear of it. CBD is one of those things where people think, ‘Oh it’s still THC,’ and all that. But if they are able to get it from a store like this, they feel more comfortable with it. They say, ‘Oh, this is a legitimate thing. I’m not getting it from some guy on the street.'”
“CBD, I personally believe, can replace almost any store drug,” Dinh added. “It can 100% replace Advil, ibuprofen, and all those things, because it just makes your body work better.”
CBD can also be found in your ice cream, cocktails, brownies and craft beers. NYC restaurants and eateries, including By CHLOE and Van Leeuwen, offered special CBD-infused food concoctions for 4/20 this year; The James NoMad Hotel launched a CBD-infused room service menu this summer; and coffee shops throughout the city such as Swallow, Caffeine Underground, Oliver Coffee and Flower Power Coffee House have been publicizing their own caffeine/CBD concoctions for months. And out-of-state company Monk started shipping their CBD drinking botanicals to NYC this month.
“It’s the wild west right now,” said Sagar. “There’s a novelty to having CBD in your latte. And it’s popular. But is that really the medicinal story? No. The medicinal story is how do you take it to make you less dependent on opiates? How do I do that to give me more self control over my mood? That’s plant based, so there are a lot of companies that are becoming CBD companies.”
While most places are just dipping a toe in the CBD-infused water with pop-ups and special events, Tribeca’s Bubby’s is all-in on CBD. Owner Ron Silver launched a line of CBD-infused items (sugar and syrups), called Azuca, which he’s selling at the restaurant, where you can also get it in coffee, tea and lemonade.
“For the last four years I’ve been working on the legal cannabis markets, and just sort of seeing people experimenting in New York City and in Brooklyn with serving CBD coffees and stuff like that,” Silver said. “I was encouraged to look into it and figure it out. It felt risky. I really had to convince not only my partners, but I had to convince my staff as well that it was fine. On every level, we have the intention of helping people to understand how they can use cannabis in a sane way and that it’s not just some sort of stoner thing.”
One of the biggest questions facing this burgeoning industry in New York remains the legal hurdles. Saying that there is a really convoluted framework for the industry is an understatement; it’s more like a lot of nerve synapses with no central brain.
If the CBD is derived from marijuana, it is not legal in New York, except for people with medical marijuana prescriptions. If it is derived from hemp, as the vast majority of products you’d find around the city are, it is legal on a state-level. Even so, it’s technically illegal on a federal level, as it hasn’t been approved by the DEA or FDA.
The Farm Bill, which President Obama signed in 2014, protects hemp when it’s grown under the state-regulated law. New York is in a particularly good spot for this, as Governor Cuomo has embraced that and adopted measures to encourage more industrial hemp production in the state.
“Right now, the prevailing sentiment is that as long as you can have a pure enough version of CBD, and it comes from cannabis that was grown specifically as hemp or grown out of the country and extracted and then imported into America, then it’s pretty much legal,” said Kirby. “It’s not expressly allowed. There’s no law on the books saying, ‘All CBD products are allowed and here’s how we regulate them.'”
DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno told WebMD that online sales of CBD products are illegal in the entire country because they are classified as a Schedule 1 drug. “The DEA can and does investigate large-scale trafficking of Schedule I substances,” she said, and there have certainly been cases that bear this out: twenty-three stores in Tennessee were raided for selling CBD products as part of a sting known as “Operation Candy Crush” (charges against 19 employees were eventually dropped).
But Carreno added that CBD isn’t a priority right now—the DEA has limited resources and prefers to focus on the opioid crisis, methamphetamines and cocaine. As Kirby put it, “Because there’s not a strict ruling on the legality of the CBD on the federal level, everyone is kind of operating in this gray area. It’s not a very risky gray area right now, but it is still a gray area.” Barring Jeff Sessions personally instructing DEA agents to bust up herbal shops, the NYC establishments should all be fine.
Aside from the legality question, the next thing users want to know is how much to take at a time. The problem is that there has been so little peer-reviewed published research done on CBD, it’s hard to point to any specific numbers to guide users. Many suggestions we’ve found online recommend anywhere from 10mg to 1500 mg. “That’s a big problem!” said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center who has been closely studying CBD for the last five years. “Outside of epilepsy, we have precious little scientific data on that.”
Most experts I spoke with recommend a trial-and-error process of calibrating your own needs, starting with a tiny amount then building up from there. “It’s important to understand that CBD is biphasic in its nature, so in small doses it’s gonna make you feel more alert and activated, and then in larger doses, it’s going to have more of a calming, sedating effect,” said Berg. “With that being said, a large dose may not be suitable for every application of CBD, and that’s why we kind of suggest microdosing. We also suggest that because your absorption rate depends on your metabolic rate. So with larger people it might be the case that they would need more to assimilate.”
CBD is usually taken via a tincture (most recommend starting around 10 mg), ingesting it in food or capsule form (which takes longer to be absorbed, since it goes through your digestive track; gummies usually start at 10 to 25 mg), or topical oils/creams (which we’ve found highly effective when applied to areas where you have pain or inflammation; each pump of the Lord Jones lotion contains 2mg, and only two pumps are typically needed. It works immediately.).
CBD affects everyone differently, so adjust your expectations before you try: “The reality is that it’s a very subtle effect anyway, it’s just more of like a body sensation than a psychological sensation,” added Berg. “So I think people are sort of expecting to feel maybe a wave of relaxation, which can be the case, but in order to manage expectations, I try to tell people it’s subtle, and you know it depends on the dose. If you’re not feeling it, you can always dose up.”
Everyone involved in the CBD industry now only sees it expanding ever further as the way people use it continues to evolve. “There are tons of dispensaries in Las Vegas, and no one’s gambling or drinking as much,” noted Sagar. “They’re trying to figure it out. How are we gonna get some money outta them? That’s why a lot of people think the spirit companies will buy the cannabis companies.”
Once marijuana is fully legalized here, Sagar sees a future in which you can go to a dispensary in New York City and curate your experience based on your specific needs. If you’re someone who’s really anxious, you can get a strain to treat your anxiety, without fear of a cannabis-induced panic attack. And once people can understand the nuances between different strains and how they’re used, there will be more responsible use as well.
“We have conversations every day with huge corporations, like Walmart and Target and Sephora, and everyone is interested in getting into this business. And everyone has to figure out where there tolerance for risk is,” said Cindy Capobianco, co-founder of Lord Jones. “It’s bringing back ancient plant-based medicine which has been used for thousands of years, and our overarching goal is to de-stigmatize and normalize this plant. I think everyone who is in this business feels the way we do, that we’re part of a movement that is not a moment in time. This is not a trend.”
Is CBD oil legal in New York?
CBD derived from hemp is available in New York, but is subject to strict regulations. The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets does not allow the addition of CBD to foods or beverages. CBD is, however, allowed to be manufactured and sold as a dietary supplement provided it makes no therapeutic claims. Hemp-derived CBD is also in New York legal when sold as a lotion, salve, or balm.
A comprehensive regulatory framework surrounding the licensing, manufacturing, sale and use of hemp and CBD was approved by the New York State Legislature in June 2019 and is currently awaiting signing from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Only individuals who hold a valid New York State Medical Marijuana Program card can legally access CBD derived from cannabis. Medical cannabis has been legal in New York since 2014. Cannabis remains illegal for adult use in New York, although marijuana possession was decriminalized to an extent in August 2019. Penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana have been reduced, and those with existing possession convictions may have their convictions expunged.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating substance found in cannabis. CBD is the second-most prominent cannabinoid in cannabis after THC, which has an intoxicating or psychoactive effect. CBD can be sourced from marijuana or hemp plants and has a wide range of purported therapeutic benefits, such as reducing pain, inflammation, and anxiety, and suppressing seizures. Since the cannabinoid has gained considerable attention for its therapeutic properties, more high CBD strains have recently been cultivated.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating substance found in cannabis. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Why is CBD sometimes illegal?
All types of cannabis, including hemp strains that don’t produce enough THC to cause intoxication, were considered illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The law categorized all cannabis as Schedule 1, which defined the plant as a highly addictive substance with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
The 2018 Farm Bill re-classified hemp as an agricultural commodity and made its cultivation federally legal. Further, the act removed some forms of cannabis from Schedule 1 status by creating a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana. Hemp is cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, and marijuana refers to cannabis with more than 0.3% THC. This distinction in federal law effectively legalized CBD that is derived from cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, as long as it has been cultivated according to federal and state regulations.
The 2018 Farm Bill legislation does not mean that CBD derived from hemp is universally legal throughout the United States. According to the Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power to regulate CBD product labeling, including therapeutic claims and the use of CBD as a food additive. The FDA has already maintained that even hemp-derived CBD may not legally be added to food and beverages, or marketed as a dietary supplement. Although the organization has begun to re-evaluate some of these stances on legal CBD products, the FDA has not revised its regulations. The agency also has been strict in its position against any labeling that could be perceived as a medical claim about CBD.
In addition to federal regulation of CBD, the Farm Bill also gave states the option to regulate and prohibit the cultivation and commerce of CBD. States may also regulate CBD in food, beverages, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products independently, even before the FDA finalizes its policies. New York is an example of a state that has devised its own regulatory framework for CBD, embracing some FDA directives while eschewing others.
New York CBD laws
In June 2019, the New York State Senate passed legislation which provides a comprehensive regulatory framework for hemp and CBD. Bill S6184A, also known as the Hemp Bill, will become enacted in thirty days once it has been signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Some more controversial aspects of the bill may be contested, however, which could delay its enactment.
Notable amendments in the June 2019 Hemp Bill include:
- The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets are granted authority to regulate the production, processing, packaging, and labeling of hemp extract products sold in New York State.
- Retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers selling cannabis products derived from hemp must apply for a cannabinoid permit.
- The sale of beverages containing 20 milligrams of CBD per 12 ounces is permitted, but only if the hemp extract was grown, extracted, and manufactured in the state of New York.
- The sale of out-of-state hemp extract intended for human and animal consumption is prohibited, unless it meets New York standards and regulations, which will be promulgated in the future.
- All hemp extracts must be packaged and labeled according to New York Department of Agriculture and Markets standards and display a Supplement Fact panel where applicable, along with a QR code setting forth other relevant information. No product may advertise any therapeutic claims.
There is currently a lack of concrete regulations in New York while the Hemp Bill is awaiting approval from Governor Andrew Cuomo. At present, the New York State Departments of Health and Agriculture are implementing a catch-all enforcement strategy to prevent unlawful CBD products from being sold.
There is currently a lack of concrete regulations in New York while the Hemp Bill is awaiting approval from Governor Andrew Cuomo. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
CBD-infused food and beverages are prohibited in New York. Penalties for the sale of CBD-infused food and beverages include voluntary removal, seizure, or destruction of the product, a fine, and failing a health inspection. CBD-laced oils, lotions, salves, and other topical applications are legal for all. CBD oils and tinctures are also legal, but products cannot make therapeutic claims.
Licensing requirements for CBD
Presently, the only legitimate way to grow hemp in New York is by participating in the New York Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program. Those interested must apply to the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, which costs $500. Approved applicants receive a Research Partner Agreement.
Licensing for hemp growers, manufacturers, extractors, and retailers will change under the 2019 Hemp Bill. The bill is yet to be enacted, but provides specific guidelines for growers, manufacturers, and extractors of industrial hemp. All applicants will have background checks performed to confirm they are of good moral character, and possess sufficient experience and competence to farm hemp.
Applicants must first obtain a license through the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets. The license for cannabinoid extractors is the most comprehensive. Licenses will be renewed biannually, and licensed premises will be subject to random inspections.
Manufacturers and growers must contract with an independent laboratory approved by the commissioner for routine testing. The reports from testing must be made available to the Department.
New York CBD possession limits
There are currently no possession limits for hemp-derived CBD products in New York.
There are currently no possession limits for hemp-derived CBD products in New York. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Medical marijuana patients can legally possess a thirty-day supply of non-smokeable, non-edible, cannabis-derived CBD products.
Although cannabis was decriminalized to an extent in New York in August 2019, those who are found in possession of cannabis-derived CBD products may be subject to penalties.
Where to buy CBD in New York
CBD balms, salves, lotions, and tinctures can be purchased from small pharmacists, specialty stores, CBD storefronts, and vape stores. Food and beverage retailers may offer CBD products, but they are not legal.
CBD derived from marijuana is only available from a licensed dispensary.
Shopping online for CBD represents another option for purchase. Consumers can buy from a wide variety of online outlets for CBD products, read consumer reviews, and ship purchases to their homes.
Online shopping also offers the ability to gather detailed information about each product, compare different products and product types, and comparison shop for the best price. CBD brands often also have their own e-commerce shop, allowing you to purchase your desired CBD products straight from the source. Find out more about where to purchase CBD.
How to read CBD labels and packaging
The 2018 Farm Bill shifted the oversight of hemp and hemp-derived products from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA currently does not presently allow CBD-infused food, drinks, or dietary supplements to be sold, and hasn’t yet provided regulations for hemp-derived CBD products.
Still, the agency warns that regulations in flux still require companies to make legitimate claims on their labels. Buyers should nonetheless approach CBD products with caution. Most reputable CBD producers typically include the following information on their CBD product labels: