But even though it's infiltrating pretty much every corner of the wellness world (hi, vegan CBD brownies!) many people still find CBD a little confusing—especially when it comes to figuring out the right way to use it and how to make sure the stuff you're buying is, you know, actually legit. Below, we asked experts to answer the most pressing questions about CBD.
Hemp is completely different from marijuana in its function, cultivation and application. But these differences didn’t stop our political leaders from getting confused and accidentally grouping all Cannabis species as a Schedule I Drug and banning it in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act. Even after 45 years, the government still seems to have some confusion in distinguishing the two plants. Although legislation is being made, progress has been slow.In its application, hemp and marijuana serve completely different purposes. Marijuana, as it is widely known, is used for medicinal or recreational purposes. Hemp is used in variety of other applications that marijuana couldn’t possibly be used in. These include healthy dietary supplements, skin products, clothing, and accessories. Overall, hemp is known to have over 25,000 possible applications.
Cannabis was criminalized in various countries beginning in the 19th century. The British colonies of Mauritius banned cannabis in 1840 over concerns on its effect on Indian indentured workers; the same occurred in British Singapore in 1870. In the United States, the first restrictions on sale of cannabis came in 1906 (in District of Columbia). It was outlawed in Jamaica (then a British colony) in 1913, in South Africa in 1922, and in the United Kingdom and New Zealand in the 1920s. Canada criminalized cannabis in The Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, 1923, before any reports of the use of the drug in Canada, but eventually legalized its consumption for recreational and medicinal purposes in 2018.
The Drug Enforcement Agency and the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the US raised concerns over tests conducted from 1995 to 1997 that showed that consumption of hempseed products available during that period led to interference with drug-testing programs for marijuana use. Federal US programs utilize a THC metabolite level of 50 parts per billion in urine. Leson (2000) found that this level was not exceeded by consuming hemp products, provided that THC levels are maintained below 5 ppm in hemp oil, and below 2 ppm in hulled seeds. Nevertheless the presence of even minute trace amounts of THC in foods remains a tool that can be used by those wishing to prevent the hemp oilseed industry from developing.
When it comes to cannabis, the best-case scenario is that we will muddle through, learning more about its true effects as we go along and adapting as needed—the way, say, the once extraordinarily lethal innovation of the automobile has been gradually tamed in the course of its history. For those curious about the worst-case scenario, Alex Berenson has written a short manifesto, “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.”
Cutting-edge science has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions. Thus, it stands to reason that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as Pal Pacher and George Kunos, scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014 publication.
CBD strains can be consumed just as you would THC strains. You can smoke or vaporize CBD-rich flower, eat a CBD-infused edible, swallow a CBD oil capsule, apply a CBD lotion, or use a CBD tincture sublingually. Hemp products also contain CBD, though it is a less efficient source and lacks the beneficial chemical diversity of cannabis-derived CBD products (more on that here).
The problem is, it’s not easy to know what you’re actually ingesting, or if it’ll actually change how you feel. At best, CBD in America exists in a confusing state of quasi-legality and yet-to-be-realized potential. Experts estimate that the market for it could balloon to $22 billion by 2022, but with cannabis and hemp laws changing rapidly across the country, the chemical is almost entirely unregulated on the consumer market, with no end-product labeling or composition standards to help shoppers understand what they’re buying.
CBD directly interacts with a number of proteins in the body and central nervous system, a few of which are components of the endogenous cannabinoid system. For instance, CBD binds to both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, but it binds in a way that sets off a reaction that is essentially the opposite of what THC does. CBD is an inverse agonist, while THC is an agonist at CB1. Simply put, CBD is not intoxicating; at the molecular level, it does the opposite of what THC does. Our bodies have several other receptor proteins that participate in the endogenous cannabinoid system (GPR3, GPR6, TRPV1 and TRPV2, for example). CBD binds to all of these, and many of its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects may occur through these pathways.
The farm bill is a sprawling piece of legislation that sets U.S. government agricultural and food policy for the country and is renewed roughly every five years. This version of the bill places industrial hemp — which is defined as a cannabis plant with under 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — under the supervision of the Agriculture Department and removes CBD from the purview of the Controlled Substances Act, which covers marijuana. The law also “explicitly” preserved the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate products containing cannabis, or cannabis-derived compounds.