December 21, 2020 // UrbanAroma Staff

Are Cannabis-Derived Terpenes Legal?

The legality of cannabis-derived terpenes is complicated in the United States. Cannabis, a.k.a. marijuana, is illegal under federal law. The Controlled Substances Act, passed in 1971, defines marijuana as “every compound, manufacture, salt, derivate, mixture, or preparation” of cannabis that isn’t legally considered to be hemp

Hemp is defined as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. If it contains more than that, it’s considered a Schedule I controlled substance. Hemp is legal under federal law, following the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018.

If terpenes are derived from cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC, they’re legal anywhere in the United States. If they’re derived from cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC, they’re only legal in states where recreational cannabis is legal. 

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are the chemicals produced by plants that are responsible for their smell and taste. These are also responsible for many of the therapeutic effects of herbs such as lavender, eucalyptus, mind, etc. 

Terpenes are also on the FDA’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list and are deemed alright to use in foods and other consumables.

What Are Non-Cannabis Derived Terpenes?

Non-cannabis derived terpenes are either derived from plants that aren’t cannabis, or they’re produced synthetically.

Common Cannabis-Derived Terpenes


Myrcene is the one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis and can make up to around 65% of the total terpene content of the plant. It’s most commonly found in concentrations of around 40% in top-shelf cannabis, however. 

It’s also found in hops, which are used to make beer. The therapeutic benefits of myrcene include being anti-inflammatory, sedative, antioxidant, and anti-tumor. It’s thought that myrcene helps your body uptake cannabinoids, which results in a faster and higher high. 


As you may expect, limonene is a cannabis terpene that is also found in citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, orange, and grapefruit. It’s also present in plants like mint, pine, and rosemary. 

The therapeutic benefits of limonene include anti-anxiety, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-cancer. 


Pinene is another common cannabis terpene, and is found in pine trees and conifers in general. 

The therapeutic benefits of pinene include anti-anxiety, pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and acting as a bronchodilator. 


Ocimene has a sweet, woodsy sent to it and is found in quantity in plants such as parsley, mint, and mangoes. 

The therapeutic benefits of ocimene are antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and acts as a decongestant.


Like other terpenes, terpinolene has a woodsy, citrus scent, but it can also smell floral or herbaceous. It's present in trees such as apple, fir, and pine and is often used in perfumes and beauty products.

The therapeutic benefits of terpinolene include antibacterial, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and it's considered to be useful as a sedative.

Are Cannabis-Derived Terpenes Legal? urban aroma