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History of CBD Oil in the US

History of CBD Oil in the US

More and more people are finding out for themselves the benefits Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has to offer for their health and wellness. They’d be forgiven for thinking it was a remarkable, new substance because this nearly forgotten cannabinoid seemed to explode onto the scene in recent years. The truth is, however, that the history of CBD oil is long, both in the United States and worldwide. Far from being the new kid on the block, CBD more like the prodigal son, returning home after an extended, often tempestuous, absence.

The History of CBD Oil: Straight From The Source

Cannabidiol, or CBD, as it is more commonly known, is one of over 100 active compounds found in varieties of the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants include both industrial hemp (which is often used for its fibers and high-CBD content) and marijuana (which is most often associated with getting high, though it also offers both fibers and CBD). The primary difference between the two is the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a highly psychoactive compound found in concentrations below 0.3% in industrial hemp but in concentrations that can rise to over 30% in marijuana strains.

Hemp In History

While we understand now that many of the benefits people attributed to hemp over the years were due to Cannabidiol (CBD) content, for much of that history, the compounds in hemp weren’t known. Instead, the plant was regarded to be both good for industry and healing. The use of hemp dates back thousands of years, with the first direct evidence of its use showing up in fiber imprints on pottery dated to 5000 BC China. Signs of potential cultivation, however, go back even further to 8000 BC in archaeological digs in the islands around Japan.

The use of hemp in Western culture is extensively documented, from the medicinal uses attributed it by Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides to its use for superior ropes throughout the navies of Western Europe. Many cultures in history describe the harvesting and drying of hemp’s flowers as well as the extraction of oil, though this would not be the start of CBD oil’s history as Cannabidiol (CBD) had not yet been isolated.

As the empires of Western Europe branched out in colonial conquest, hemp crops were considered important for the survival of the far-flung colonies. It was a ready source of clothing, paper, rope, fuel oil, cooking oil, and curatives. The hemp brought to America, however, was met by the new world’s native varieties, already in use by the indigenous population. It became such an important crop that the Virginia House of Burgesses enacted a law to require its cultivation in 1619 -- almost 400 years ago.

United States Hemp

CBD oil’s history in the US extends back past our founding in 1776. In the early years of the United States, hemp was more than just a crop - -it was a patriotic duty. Many of The Founding Fathers grew hemp, and while they may not have known about the presence of Cannabidiol (CBD), they were most certainly aware of the full range of benefits it provided. It became an important cash crop that contributed to export as much as it did to finished goods. Growing in importance and becoming a substantial portion of the South’s economy leading up to the Civil War.

After the war, it’s importance continued, but there were dark clouds on the horizon. As the Industrial Revolution entered full swing, large monopolies grew to dominate many industries, including the timber, paper, cloth, and fuel oil industries. Each of these monopolies was threatened by the potential resurgence of hemp as reconstruction worked to restore the former slave states to productivity. To combat hemp, it has been alleged (but never proven) that the Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, along with Randolph Hearst and the DuPont family, began a campaign to destroy hemp in the United States, forever changing the course of CBD oil history.

Woman holds cannabis plant in her hands

Guilt By Association

Hemp was portrayed as being no different than marijuana, a plant that was associated with Hispanic immigrants who worked as laborers in the fields and factories of America. Through a blend of misinformation, blatant racism, and sensationalized “news” reports carried by Hearst’s newspaper empire, all cannabis plants were vilified as drugs that made men violent savages, women into scandalous vixens, and created a powerful addiction that ruined lives.

While the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 didn’t outright ban hemp or Cannabidiol (CBD), it levied a stiff tax on anyone commercially handling hemp or hemp products. This tax, when combined with the less efficient processing methods of the time cut into profits and all but ceased its production through economic pressure. Then World War II began.

During the war, hemp once again became, for a time, a vital patriotic crop as it offered a replacement for shortages in traditional goods. More importantly to the history of CBD oil, it saw the first isolation of Cannabidiol (CBD). While researching hemp, American scientist Roger Adams isolated a new compound he didn’t quite know what to do with. Its structure was similar to the previously discovered cannabinol, or CBN, which had only recently been discovered in its full form by British chemist Robert Cahn. Future studies also isolated tetrahydrocannabinol.


After the war, hemp was no longer needed to make up for wartime shortages, and its reputation again was thrown in with that of marijuana in the public eye. Meanwhile, CBD oil’s history was changing as research into the isolated chemicals continued, and in 1963, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam solved the puzzle of Cannabidiol’s (CBD) stereochemistry. This gave researchers a view not just into the shape of the CBD molecule, but how that shape worked with other chemicals.

Other researchers, however, were studying the effects of CBD on our closest evolutionary relatives. Primates share many biological traits with humans, which is why, sometimes controversially, they are used to test substances for potential human consumption. Throughout the 1960s, Cannabidiol (CBD) was tested on primates along with other cannabinoids. The results left no doubt that these substances had pronounced, repeatable effects. Unfortunately, this trend of scientific progress was soon to be stunted.

The CSA And Hemp

With the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, all cannabis plants were scheduled as Class 1 substances, meaning they had no therapeutic value and could not even be prescribed by doctors. This increased the regulatory burden on anyone wishing to continue research, driving up costs, and making the process more difficult and less profitable. Overnight the hemp industry in America, from fiber to Cannabidiol (CBD), virtually died. While some states sought to pass legislation to allow science to progress -- such as New Mexico’s 1978 Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act, a precursor of the states’ rights movement that would come decades later --the damage was done and CBD oil’s history was changed forever.

Ironically, the same association with marijuana that took down industrial hemp was a crucial part of bringing it back to the public eye and eventual legality. While marijuana was illegal, it continued to flourish. The fervor with which it was banned in 1970 faded, and by the mid-‘90s, more and more people had come to view it as a lesser drug. Movements based around its potential for therapeutic use began to grow as patients sought cures for ailments that were left unmanaged by drugs available from pharmaceutical giants. As states began to pass their own laws legalizing marijuana for medical use, advocates pushed for the public to learn the history of CBD oil and what Cannabidiol (CBD) could offer without marijuana’s high.

The Re-Legalization Of Hemp

As more and more states asserted their right to allow marijuana, contravening federal laws, even cannabis detractors, began to see CBD as a potential path to allowing safer use of cannabis to promote health and wellness. With the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, a pilot program was begun to allow the growing, processing, and usage of industrial hemp. Defined as Cannabis sativa L. plants with 0.3% THC by dry weight or less, it allowed states to set up their own programs, federally legal, for not just the production of hemp goods, but the trade of them across state lines. Cannabidiol CBD products began showing up in stores and online.

The 2018 Farm Bill officially lifted the ban federally on hemp and changed CBD oil’s present history. Clarifying the work it began in 2014, the 2018 bill made the status and definition of hemp permanent and specified the regulatory authority of the USDA over hemp crops and the FDA over CBD products. This has led to explosive growth as Americans, finally free to explore the benefits of cannabis for themselves, rush to take control of their health and nurture their endocannabinoid system.

At CBD Choice, we’re proud to be at the forefront of the nascent Cannabidiol (CBD) industry. By working with top manufacturers, we’re able to help legal hemp grow responsibly while offering our customers the best products for their body. Browse our selection and find the right CBD oils, edibles, vapes, and more for you today.

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