Questions surround legality of CBD oil in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) As a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska makes its way through the legislative pipeline at the state capitol in Lincoln, the legal status of another substance, with a less stigmatized reputation, remains in question.

CBD oil, or cannabidiol, has been sold at shops around the state for some time now, often advertised as a reliever for both pain and anxiety, but its legality remains unclear.

Lance Schroeder, the owner of CBD American Shaman Lincoln, insists that CBD oil is legal. He opened up his shop along Cornhusker Highway and North 27th Street last fall, where he sells CBD oil products, including snacks, lotions, and the original liquid form.

"It helps a lot with pain, it helps a lot with stress, you know," Schroeder said. "It's an alternative way to see if you can help yourself."

Cannabidiol derives from the hemp plant, which is in the same family as the marijuana plant, the difference being industrial hemp contains higher levels of CBD oil and extremely low levels of THC, the chemical that produces a high. Schroeder said none of his products contain the roughly 0.3 percent THC often found in CBD oil.

But purported health benefits have done little to win over CBD oil opponents.

In November, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson informed state law enforcement that CBD oil remains illegal under state law.

1011 NOW reached out Peterson for comment, but was directed to that same opinion which reads in part:

"...with the exception of Epidiolex oral solution, cannabidiol or any product containing cannabidiol, obtained by any means other than the authorized UNMC study, remains illegal to possess, manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense."

However, Sean Pickett, attorney for American Shaman, based in Kansas City, said levels below those exceptions are undefined.

"Products underneath those levels are legal under the state of Nebraska," Pickett said.

In Nebraska, cannabidiol continues to be defined as marijuana and is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which Pickett said also conflicts with the 2018 farm bill signed into law last fall by President Trump. The law legalized commercial production of hemp, as well as removed hemp from the controlled substance list.

"It took away any question about whether hemp separated from marijuana, at the levels of THC content, were legal or not legal," said Pickett.

Following its signing into law, the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to hold a public meeting to gather feedback on how to move forward, but it remains unclear when that meeting will take place.

But Peterson's interpretation has resulted in action being taken against CBD shops in Nebraska, including a mother and son from Scottsbluff who made headlines when they were arrested the day after opening their CBD oil store in December.

"This was a full-blown, "FREEZE, HANDS UP" guns drawn," said co-owner Heather Beguin, "We were treated like big-time criminals. Humiliated in the jail, humiliated inside here."

Prosecutors later dismissed the felony drug-dealing charges against the two.

Beguin and her son Dreyson Beguin said their shelves are empty now, but they have plans to reopen.

"It all depends on when we can get our product back and go from there," Heather Beguin said.