Please note, all references to “CBD” or “CBD products” within this post refers to hemp-derived CBD, not marijuana-derived CBD.
The CBD industry is having a moment. It shouldn’t take you long to notice that it’s one of the fastest-growing categories, with products ranging from CBD-infused water and toothpaste, to CBD dog treats and even activewear.
From supermarkets to teen brands, you can find these products seemingly everywhere today. With increased legalization and awareness, it’s not just large retailers cashing in. Both local brick-and-mortar shops and online stores are also making moves.
The stats speak for themselves:
The U.S. CBD market as a whole (both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived, where legal) is expected to reach $20 billion by 2024.
More than one quarter of Americans have tried a CBD product. Of those people, one out of seven use CBD products everyday.
49% of consumers have purchased CBD products at a drugstore, and 43% have purchased from online retailers.
With the continuous growth in the industry and a market proving it’s more than just a trend, it’s tempting to break into the CBD business yourself. But before you do, you must do your research, know the legalities and safety protocol, and understand the ins and outs of selling and shipping CBD.
To start, CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the active components of cannabis. CBD is thought to alleviate symptoms without any psychoactive effects from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the component of marijuana that gets you high), e.g., users say it helps ease pain or soothe occasional anxiety — though the FDA will step in if claims are made that the products can cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease.
Cannabis with a THC concentration above 0.3% is illegal in many countries, including in the U.S. under federal law, and in several U.S. states. However, cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC (known as “hemp”) is legal at the federal level, but legality differs across states. When it comes to selling CBD products, you’ll want to check the state-specific laws around CBD.
Products that include hemp, like alcohol, have legal limits on the quantities of certain ingredients that can be included in products — specifically, THC.
For some states within the United States, the limit of THC in hemp products is zero. This means any products that contain hemp-derived CBD must contain zero THC. In other states, you can use hemp-derived CBD if the THC content is under 0.3%.
This is because of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp production at the federal level across the United States. The Farm Bill states that as long as the hemp in your hemp-derived CBD products contains not more than 0.3% THC, the product is not a federally controlled substance.
In this article, we’ll cover how to ship CBD in a way that’s safe and legal for you and your customers.
Note: This article is solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal or financial advice.
Is CBD Legal to Ship? 4 Factors to Keep in Mind
Even though hemp-derived CBD is much more widely accepted and legalized than marijuana-containing products, CBD is still closely monitored and regulated. Here are the factors that will help you understand whether your supplier’s CBD is legal to ship.
1. Potency of CBD and THC.
The CBD you ship must have THC levels of not more than 0.3%, and you must be able to verify in writing the CBD and THC levels of the products you are shipping.
2. Origin of plant.
The CBD you sell should come from (be extracted from) hemp plants, not marijuana. Talk to an attorney if your CBD comes from synthetic sources, but the THC level must still be at or below 0.3%. If you’re working with any partners, like a supplier, you’ll need to keep close tabs to make sure that the products consistently hit this standard.
Whether you use a CBD supplier or grow it yourself, any CBD product must come from a licensed grower. In other words, you can’t just ship your uncle’s experimental cannabis plants he grew in his shed. You may be able to legally import into the U.S. a CBD product, but you should consult an attorney.
Both you and your supplier can face legal challenges and risk getting arrested or shut down for selling illegal products. Being a licensed grower means a state government official has oversight over the production of the hemp crop.
4. Testing requirements.
Your CBD-containing products must be third-party tested to demonstrate the chemical makeup of the products you’re selling, including the THC content. Third-party testing may be a prerequisite for some of the above requirements.
Can You Ship CBD?
Shipping CBD is a somewhat complicated matter, as you not only have to comply with any shipping carrier requirements but also ensure it’s legal to ship from the place of origin and legal to receive the product at its destination. Let’s look at who can and can’t ship CBD.
1. Yes: Your CBD business complies with the applicable laws.
You are a considered a “compliant” CBD business if you:
Have all required licenses — including a grower, processor, or retail license,
Only sell CBD products containing 0.3% THC or less,
Only source from growers operating a legitimate, licensed business,
Have a third-party testing process, and
Have documented results from this testing.
If you meet all of these requirements, you should be able to ship CBD to locations where it’s legal (with the approved carriers listed below).
2. No: You have anything less than the above requirements.
If you can’t 100% prove that you have met all the prerequisite requirements above, you have a good chance of violating the terms and agreements of the approved carriers below.
If you attempt to ship CBD with a THC level greater than 0.3%, you may face consequences, including arrest, for sending illegal substances through the mail. At the very least, your products can be destroyed in transit upon discovery.
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Top Carriers Who Accept CBD Shipments
Shipping carriers have adopted what they consider acceptable goods to ship over time. You can ship CBD if it is legal, sent only to places that allow it, and if it conforms to the regulations of the following shipping carriers:
USPS allows you to ship CBD if possess a license from a state’s Department of Agriculture authorizing the licensee to produce industrial hemp, and the requirement that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of such hemp (or its derivatives) may not exceed a 0.3 percent limit.
To ship CBD with UPS, you must be able to identify where the raw materials grew, how they were processed, and how they were obtained (or who shipped the product to the supplier and how that supplier got it to the customer after the fact).
As outlined on their website:
"UPS accepts products made from Hemp (including Cannabidiol - CBD) for Shipment only as permitted by all applicable state and federal laws. It is the responsibility of the Shipper to ensure compliance with all such laws, including the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. §321, et seq.
UPS will not accept shipments containing Hemp products from any location that sells Marijuana or Marijuana products.
UPS reserves the right to dispose of any shipment containing Marijuana, Hemp or Hemp products tendered for shipment which Shippers are prohibited from shipping, which UPS is not authorized to accept, which UPS states that it will not accept, or which UPS has a right to refuse."
DHL can ship CBD products as long as the shipper meets these requirements:
The shipment contains hemp or hemp-based products that contain no more than 0.3% of THC on a dry weight basis.
The shipper complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws.
The shipper retains records establishing compliance with such laws, including laboratory test results, licenses, or compliance reports.
Note: Shippers are not required to present documentation at the time of shipping, but documentation such as certificates may be requested at any time.
3 Considerations Before You Start Fulfilling CBD Orders
Now that you have the basics down for shipping CBD legally, there are some other things to consider to make sure you’re dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s.
1. Slow down on international shipments.
Many countries outside of the United States classify marijuana and hemp-related products as illegal and can press charges or destroy products if you try shipping a dangerous substance to their country.
Make sure you fully understand the destinations to which your business is allowed to legally ship CBD products. Even if CBD is legal in a certain country, you may have trouble shipping items to that country. If you are located in the United States, for example, it may be wise to ship exclusively within the states before expanding anywhere else.
2. Consult your legal team.
If you have a legal team, make sure they read over your statements and clearly identify where you intend to send your CBD products. The CBD industry has become really popular, really quickly — but hemp-derived products are still unlawful in some states. When in doubt, it’s best to consult your lawyer. Although CBD products are not considered controlled substances at the federal level, each state has its own individual laws and rules.
3. Double-check your suppliers.
If you don’t run your own farms or processing/manufacturing facilities and instead work with a supplier, make sure they are not violating any rules or shipping regulations, whether it be related to potency, location of where their CBD is grown, or anything else.
Logistics Partners Who Can Help with CBD Fulfillment
Now that you understand how complex shipping CBD can be, you need to determine how you will fulfill customer orders. If you don’t want to fulfill CBD products yourself, you can partner with a company that takes care of some of these challenges for you so that you can focus on your business — not packing boxes or shipping CBD.
You can outsource CBD shipping to a third-party logistics (3PL) company like ShipBob, a premiere fulfillment partner of BigCommerce. ShipBob works with CBD businesses to store their inventory, pack their orders, and ship their CBD products from their network of fulfillment centers across the United States.
Combined with proprietary technology, ShipBob’s ecommerce fulfillment services help get your CBD products delivered to customers quickly and safely.
CBD company Nature’s Ultra is able to provide 2-day shipping to all of its U.S. customers using ShipBob, so that they can compete with the convenience of Amazon Prime delivery standards. This has allowed them to scale up and become successful — Nature’s Ultra went from $70,000 in sales in 2018 to over $7 million in sales in 2019.
“We were managing shipping and logistics ourselves via USPS, but we didn’t understand just how massive and difficult fulfillment was. Now that we’re working with ShipBob, we can easily ship our CBD products to all 50 United States with ease.”
— Andrew Hardy, COO of Nature’s Ultra
Shipping CBD products is one piece of running a successful CBD business. You also need everything from legal payment processing to creative hemp marketing tactics that follow various regulations and policies set out by everyone from governmental agencies to tech giants like Facebook.
Selling CBD is a lot more complex than selling apparel or a novelty product, and the industry is moving fast and constantly evolving. There have been governmental and societal changes recently, but don’t expect it to stop there. Be sure to stay up-to-date on CBD regulations across the globe as well as carriers’ CBD shipping policies to keep a close eye on what changes.
The above does not constitute legal, tax, professional or financial advice and BigCommerce disclaims any liability with respect to this material. Please consult your attorney or professional advisor on specific legal, professional or financial matters.