Maybe you’ve heard about CBD oil — that is, cannabidiol oil — from friends or family. Or perhaps you read the news in June that the FDA approved the CBD-containing prescription drug called Epidiolex for patients with severe epilepsy. Either way, this non-intoxicating hemp plant extract is an increasingly popular product for a variety of medical reasons.
But what exactly is CBD? Is it safe and legal? And why doesn’t it have the psychoactive qualities most people think of when we talk about marijuana? Let’s break down the basics of CBD.
What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
CBD is a major non-psychoactive compound — one of 60, actually — in the cannabis sativa plant. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most well-known compound and is also what produces the “high” most often associated with marijuana. In other words, CBD can affect your body without impairing your thinking or movement.
While medical marijuana uses have been known for some time, CBD reportedly came to people’s attention in the United States around 2013. A CNN documentary hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta explored the experience of a 5-year old girl named Charlotte with a rare form of epilepsy. The documentary tracked her Colorado family’s decision to treat her Dravet dyndrome with CBD oil, which stopped her from experiencing 300 grand mal seizures a week. Dravet syndrome is one of the two rare forms of epilepsy that can be treated with the CBD drug recently approved by the FDA.
Where is CBD legal?
This is a tricky question. CBD is technically considered a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level. However, there are also 47 states (in addition to Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) that have CBD-related laws on the books. Consumers are typically not prosecuted for purchasing CBD online, but should use caution before traveling with it because laws vary from state-to-state.
The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) clarified their stance on CBD in June stating:
“Products and materials that are made from the cannabis plant and fall outside of the CSA (Controlled Substance Act) definition of marijuana are not controlled under the CSA. Such products may accordingly be sold and otherwise distributed throughout the United States without restriction under the CSA.”
Further clearing up the confusion will be the 2018 Farm Bill, which could make it legal to farm hemp and thus expand its agricultural prospects. The bill cleared its first hurdle in the Senate in June. Congress is expected to tackle this bill in September.
Who Sells CBD Products?
Many small businesses across the United States and around the world sell CBD in a variety of forms. Vaporizer capsules, sleep sprays, oil drops, chocolates, bath bombs, massage lotions and pet treats are all available online and in dispensaries in states where medical/recreational marijuana is legalized. Even in suburban Ohio, there is a hemp-derived CBD kiosk at the local mall.
The fashion and beauty industry has already widely adopted CBD products. Brands like the trendsetter Lord Jones (who makes popular lotions and gummies) are being used by stylists and celebrities alike.
“It’s perfect for long nights in high heels,” celebrity stylist Karla Welch told the New York Times. She keeps Lord Jones lotion available for clients, like Katy Perry, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Paulson, and Ruth Negga to use on their feet before walking the red carpet.
CDB Studies and Safety
Despite the popularity of CBD oil among a large number of people, limited studies have been done of CBD’s effect on adults and animals such as lab rats. Testing of CBD for the treatment of rare types of epilepsy was done in children — hence, the FDA approval’s of Epidiolex. Some other promising areas of study in humans are for anxiety and inflammation.
Additionally, the lack of federal regulation and confusing differences in state laws make it hard for consumers to truly know the potency and origin of the CBD being sold, especially online. Customers should look for CBD harvested and processed by companies in states where medical and recreational cannabis are legalized, because in theory, these products are better regulated.
Some companies may also have third parties verify the potency and content of their CBD products. If they don’t post those results, they should be able to provide some kind of testing documentation if asked.
“If I were a consumer purchasing it for myself or for my kid, I would want to test it so I knew what it actually had in it because I couldn’t trust what was on the label,” Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told WebMD.
As with anything health-related, it’s best to consult with a doctor familiar with CBD studies and uses before trying any products. Then you can make an informed decision based on your own health status and prescriptions before trying it.
How do you feel about using a compound of the hemp plant as medicine? Would you try CBD to treat a medical issue for yourself or a family member?