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CBD Oil in PA: Hemp Comes Full Circle in the Keystone State

Janet Miller

Janet Miller

Last updated: November 22, 2019

Shutterstock / Cenz07

It is legal to sell, purchase and use CBD oil in Pennsylvania. But there is one condition, it should be derived from industrial hemp.
According to Farm Bill 2018, hemp is allowed for cultivation, processing, and usage.

CBD and CBD oil in Pennsylvania has a long history. One of the first laws passed by the General Assembly of the newly-founded state was to encourage the growth and cultivation of hemp across the state. This law was passed in 1683, only two years after the founding of Pennsylvania in 1681. By 1729, production was so widespread in Lancaster County that the area was christened Hempfield Township.

With time, though, other crops like cotton and tobacco, became more abundant and profitable, squeezing out the crop. In 1933, even before federal law outlawed marijuana in 1937, Governor Gifford Pinchot signed a law banning the growth and cultivation of marijuana. Pennsylvania has come full circle, though, and is once again courting hemp as a potential boon to the state.

Yes, CBD oil in Pennsylvania is legal in 2019. CBD-based products are available to PA residents with a medical marijuana license. Residents without a medical marijuana card can also buy CBD products. There are several ways residents of Pennsylvania could get CBD-based products:

  • If a resident has a medical marijuana card, they can go to a state-approved dispensary to get CBD-rich marijuana or other CBD, or cannabis products
  • If a resident without a medical marijuana card wishes to buy CBD, or cannabis products, several retailers throughout the state offer high-quality CBD for non-medical reasons
  • If no retailers are in their immediate area, Pennsylvania residents can also order their CBD, or cannabis products online

Industrial Hemp in Pennsylvania

The hemp plant, as has been known for centuries, is an excellent source of fibers, food, seeds, and oil. The raw materials produced by the stalks and stems can be fashioned into anything, from rope and fabric to coffee mugs and car dashboards.

Hemp was plentiful in early America, including colonial Pennsylvania. The area was so well-known as a center of production it received several visits from George Washington, himself, an avid hemp grower. Once marijuana was outlawed in 1933, hemp also disappeared from Pennsylvania as a sustainable crop.

Differences Between Industrial Hemp and Marijuana

Shutterstock / About Time

Hemp plants are different from marijuana plants in many ways. Their most well-known, and the legally-defined difference is their respective delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Hemp plants have low concentrations of the intoxicating chemical in marijuana.

Physically, hemp plants are taller and narrower than their stout, bushy cousins marijuana plants. Female (hemp plants are mostly male) Cannabis Indica plants, by contrast, have high concentrations of THC and yield poor-quality fiber. Federal law states that hemp grown for commercial purposes cannot have THC-content higher than 0.3%.

The Farming Act of 2018 also took hemp off the list of controlled substances, which made it illegal to grow, sell, and transport. The law served to open the doors to commercial hemp production nation-wide and is the main driver of the currently ongoing CBD boom.

Yes, it is legal to grow, harvest, process, and sell hemp in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – with a permit. In 2014, another federal law, the Farm Act of 2014, allowed cultivators and researchers to grow the plant for scientific reasons, which was the first step toward eventual decriminalization in 2018.

Pennsylvania has a state-run program, through the Department of Agriculture, that issues grower permits to suitable applicants. All approved growers must follow state and federal regulations, like the 0.3% THC threshold, to remain in operation. Hemp processors do not need a permit, though.

Does Pennsylvania Have a Medical Marijauna Program?

Yes, Pennsylvania does allow for medical use of marijuana for approved conditions. It was a long journey, though. It took almost eighty years to go from a complete ban in the 1930s to the approval of medical marijuana in the 2010s.

In 2009, Rep. Mark Cohen of Philadelphia introduced House Bill 1393 that would have approved the medical use of marijuana in the state. That bill did not pass. State lawmakers, though, began to reexamine again laws prohibiting the plant as early as 2013.

Senate Bill 528, introduced in 2013, argued for the repeal of laws making hemp an illegal substance, along with the legalization of recreational marijuana. That bill also never made it to a vote. With the Farm Bill of 2014, though, laws surrounding hemp cultivation and medical marijuana began to loosen.

It would be another three years, however, before Governor Tom Wolf would sign the state’s Medical Marijuana Program into law in 2017. Recreational marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania with consumption and possession carrying criminal penalties like fines or jail time.

What Are the Uses of CBD Oil in PA?

Residents of Pennsylvania are turning to cannabidiol for the same reasons as everyone else. One survey of cannabidiol users found that people began taking the supplement to treat three specific ailments (listed in order of most common):

  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

A profile of CBD users in Lancaster County – once the Mecca of hemp production in the US – also cited the same ailments – chronic pain, depression – as the reasons people started taking hemp extract. The same profile also mentioned things like CBD-oil massages to treat back pain and inflammation, which are also common ailments that cannabidiol has the potential to treat.

Can Doctors Prescribe CBD Oil in Pennsylvania?

Doctors cannot prescribe cannabidiol in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in the country, for that matter. The FDA does not recognize cannabidiol as prescription medicine. Nor is it known as an approved treatment for any condition except for two – Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome – both of which are forms of childhood epilepsy.

In 2018, the FDA approved a CBD-based prescription drug, Epidiolex, to treat those two illnesses. A doctor in Pennsylvania, if the state Department of Health approves them, can make a written recommendation for a patient to receive a medical marijuana card, which also permits them to use CBD-heavy products.

A doctor can also make a recommendation to a patient who is asking them about cannabidiol. Based on the patient’s ailment, history, and current medication, a doctor can recommend, or not, CBD products as a supplement or alternative to traditional therapies in 2019.

Is Hemp Currently Being Grown in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has been growing industrial hemp since 2017. The 2018 season, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, saw thirty-three authorized growers produce around 580 acres of hemp. The 2019 season is on pace to dwarf the previous season. The list of approved growers for the 2019 season is seven-pages long and contains almost 400 names.

Where Can I Get CBD Oil in Pennsylvania?

CBD oil and other cannabidiol-based products are widely available in Pennsylvania. The above section detailed the three main ways that residents can get their hands on cannabidiol. As a quick recap:

  • Residents with medical marijuana permits can go to any one of the 20+ plus authorized dispensaries in the state to get either medical marijuana or CBD products
  • Non-medical marijuana users can walk into any brick-and-mortar CBD retailer to purchase anything they like
  • Residents can also buy CBD products online

Before the crop was decriminalized, some states, like Pennsylvania, required a doctor’s note or permission even for CBD products. After the law changed, that is no longer the case.

Conclusion: Closing Thoughts on CBD Pennsylvania

Hemp and CBD have come full circle in Pennsylvania. Nearly eighty years after it was criminalized, hemp cultivation and production have once again come to dominate the fields of Pennsylvania. The list of approved growers for the 2019 season has increased to over 400+ as more and more people are jumping onto the CBD bandwagon. For CBD in Pennsylvania, this is only the beginning.


Janet Miller

Janet Miller

Janet is a medical specialist with 10 years of experience as a physician and writing passion. She aims to help people and expand humans mindset. Chat with Janet on Twitter @Janet_Miller_MD or via our contact page.


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