Controversy grows over sale of CBD oil in Ohio

CLEVELAND - An alert about a popular remedy used to help with mental and physical ailments: some stores in Northeast Ohio are pulling CBD oil from their shelves following a new warning from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.          

For folks who use the product, which comes from cannabis, the move is creating controversy.

This week, the board sent out a reminder to gas stations, stores, pharmacies and restaurants that the sale of CBD oil is illegal.

But one criminal defense attorney says not so fast.

News 5 found out that it really boils down to the interpretation of the law and what's in the oil.

Ian Friedman, a criminal defense attorney, believes the board is getting it wrong, and in the process, those who rely on CBD are getting worried.

The oil, made from hemp, is considered a clean remedy.

It used to treat several things, including PTSD in vets, anxiety and seizures.

"It is not illegal, and therefore it should be able to be distributed around the country without regulation," said Friedman.

But access to CBD oil in the Buckeye State could now be more difficult.

"I've seen mistake after mistake by the state of Ohio in trying to implement the rules surrounding medicinal marijuana," said Friedman.

In a move to clear up growing confusion regarding the sale and use of CBD oil, Friedman believes the Ohio Board of Pharmacy may have created more.

"I don't think there has been any problem with it. The CBD that is a hemp extract does not have the level of THC required to fall under the controlled substance act. Period," said Friedman.

However, because state law doesn't differentiate between CBD made from hemp and that made from marijuana, the pharmacy board stands by its claim the product is illegal.

"Clothing products made out of hemp, purses made out of hemp, rope made out of hemp - are all those illegal? They've never been until Ohio stood to make money, now all of a sudden they've gotten it wrong," said Friedman, referring to Ohio's delayed medicinal marijuana program coming online soon, which will regulate the distribution and sale of CBD oil.

"They want it all to go through them. I applaud Ohio for its medicinal marijuana program, but that should not impede upon individual’s rights to sell hemp CBD," said Friedman.

A spokesperson with the pharmacy board told News 5 right now this is all about education, but enforcement is a possibility.

"Other states have made arrests for CBD and they've called it possession of marijuana or even trafficking in marijuana," said Friedman.

But Friedman said the state of Ohio has the burden to prove it was not made from hemp.

"That's why they're going to leave this alone. They don't want to pick that fight. I think it would be silly, it'll be a waste of resource and they'd be on the wrong side of the law," said Friedman.

News 5 reached out to several people who use or sell CBD, and none of them wanted to be interviewed on camera.

While some stores have already removed the product, we know of others still selling it.

On Wednesday, September 19, CBD advocates will gather at the State House in Columbus from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. for an event titled “Patient Gathering – a Protest.”

Organizers told News 5 they want lawmakers to be aware of the benefits of CBD and what will happen if people no longer have access to the oil.

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