CBD is really a buzzword in recent years. Many people buy it, use it and claim that it really works. But what we really know about it? Is it legal or illegal? Is it really beneficial?
Here’s what we do know: The cannabis plant contains a wide variety of chemical compounds, many of which fall under the broad category of cannabinoids. There are more than 100–exactly how many, we’re not sure. The best-known and certainly most profitable are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both of these compounds stimulate the same receptor in the brain, called CB1, but have differing effects on the brain. Researchers aren’t totally sure why.
Then, we will dig deeper.
Is it legal?
The exact legality of CBD is tricky, not clear, yet.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains that CBD is federally illegal but will not bother going after anyone for possessing or using it. Many argue that a provision in the 2014 farm bill allowing industrial hemp pilot programs, mostly aimed at the textile industry, actually made non-THC use of cannabis legal; while the much-delayed 2018 farm bill signed into law at the end of the year made industrial hemp legal nationwide, CBD has largely yet to be reclassified.
On December 23, 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration released a post named DEA Eases Requirements For FDA-Approved Clinical Trials On Cannabidiol. In this post, it maintained that “Because CBD contains less than 1 percent THC and has shown some potential medicinal value, there is great interest in studying it for medical applications. Currently, CBD is a Schedule I controlled substance as defined under the CSA. Though the FDA approves drugs for medical use in the United States, the DEA regulates the handling of all controlled substances, including those being used by researchers to conduct studies. ”
Recently, on September 27, 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration released another post related CBD, it announced that “Epidiolex, the newly approved medication by the Food & Drug Administration, is being placed in schedule V of the Controlled Substances Act, the least restrictive schedule of the CSA. Epidiolex contains cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical constituent of the cannabis plant (commonly referred to as marijuana). The CBD in Epidiolex is extracted from the cannabis plant and is the first FDA-approved drug to contain a purified extract from the plant.”Now, it is really clear. ONLY Epidiolex which contains CBD is approved to use in some conditions. As for the CBD, it says in the latter part of the announcement “the Marijuana and CBD derived from marijuana remain against the law, except for the limited circumstances that it has been determined there is a medically approved benefit. In those instances, such as here, the drug will be made appropriately available to the public for medical use.”
What is the current research status of CBD?
Research and regulation of cannabis, in general, is decades behind other crops and drugs because of its long prohibition. We’re in the early stages of a chaos period that will last a decade at a minimum–a substance has to be legal in order for scientists to figure out how it works and for the government to figure out how to ensure it’s safe. Clinical trials take years to complete and will have to build on each other to create a competent understanding. Coupled with modern technology’s ability to disseminate truths, half-truths, and complete lies, this means we’re in a phase ripe for scams, intentional and not.
Both researchers who work with CBD and professionals who actually grow the raw material — those who best understand this compound and how it interacts with the human body, the people with the most investment in and knowledge about it — are skeptical to the point of scornful about consumer CBD products.
A Netherlands scholar, Arno Hazekamp, says that “although research into the therapeutic effects of CBD is rapidly increasing, most current uses of CBD are not (yet) supported by clinical data”.
An excellent example is a use of CBD (and also THC) products for the self-medicating of cancer, with the intention of fully curing it. This is based on an increasing body of preclinical evidence showing cannabinoids to be capable, under some conditions, of inhibiting the development of cancer cells in vitro or in vivo by various mechanisms of action, including induction of apoptosis, inhibition angiogenesis, and arresting the cell cycle.”As a result, the recommendation of cannabinoids for treating cancer should be done with great care, and with distinction as to the type of cancer being treated .”
Another risk is that many producers do not label their products correctly.
Recently, an interesting study performed in the Netherlands highlighted multiple issues that may be extrapolated to CBD products elsewhere. In this study, 46 different cannabis oil samples were collected directly from patients and analyzed for cannabinoid content. The obtained samples were home-made (n = 29) or purchased from a (web) store (n = 17). For 21 of the 46 products (46% of all samples), label information was available on CBD/THC content, so that the claimed content could be compared to the analyzed content as determined in the study. In many cases, the analyzed cannabinoid content strongly differed from the claimed content on the label, while in 7 samples no cannabinoids (CBD or THC) were found at all. Such deviations were found in home-made as well as commercially obtained products.
Additionally, as many as 26/46 samples (57%) had a THC content >1%, with one sample peaking at 57.5%. In18/46 samples (39%) the oil contained virtually only THC (with CBD <0.1%). Although many of the samples analyzed were purposely made to contain a high THC content, it is unclear whether oil consumers are always aware they are consuming THC and thereby exposing themselves to the adverse effects of this psychotropic compound, such as intoxication, panic attacks, or disorientation. It should be noted that although the exact legal status of CBD may be debatable, THC-rich extracts are strictly prohibited in virtually all countries. Another interesting observation was the presence of high levels of non-decarboxylated cannabinoids in multiple samples. It is well known that CBD and THC are not produced as such by the metabolism of the cannabis plant. Instead, cannabinoids are excreted in the form of carboxylic acids such as CBD-acid and THC-acid. The physiological effects of these “acidic” cannabinoids have been studied only to a very limited extent. Only after proper heating (e.g., during smoking, vaporizing, or baking with cannabis) are these natural precursors rapidly converted into the more well-known CBD and THC, respectively. This process is called decarboxylation. Although decarboxylation also takes place during the production of cannabis oils (e.g., during the evaporation of solvents, or during a separate decarboxylation step as part of the production process), 7/46 samples (15%) contained >25% of its cannabinoid content in the form of acidic cannabinoids, indicating poor control over the decarboxylation process. To address the issue, some producers simply add up the content of CBD and CBD-acid in order to boast a higher “total CBD” content on the label, while advertising this as “raw CBD.”
It is federally illegal and there are not enough studies to prove the feasibility of CBD. Thus great care is needed as to the use of CBD.