CBD research is still in its infancy because both the substance itself and the cultivation of the plants from which it’s derived have long been illegal in the United States. And despite all those cookies you see for sale, CBD does seem to remain illegal, unless FDA approved. In December, hemp cultivation was legalized nationwide as a provision of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. But the FDA released a statement explicating the agency’s stance on CBD’s legality: In short, the FDA does not recognize a distinction between cannabis- and hemp-derived CBD and, for the time being, considers both to be illegal—especially as a questionably safe food additive. Although CBD isn’t dangerous to healthy people, it can affect how the body metabolizes certain types of medication, which Blessing says could lead to overdose in some cases. (Because of the government shutdown, the FDA is unavailable to explain its stance or enforcement plans in further detail.)
Despite its centrality in human cultures across the globe, the European taxonomists who bequeathed Cannabis sativa its name didn’t quite get it right. When Carolus Linneaus came to naming the marijuana plant’s genus, he thought there was only one species, instead of the three we now know exist. Hence the confusion surrounding the fact that there are three distinct species of the genus Cannabis sativa, one of which is the sativa species.