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As the legalization of marijuana in the United States proliferates, a concurrent battle for the full legalization of CBD—or cannabidiol—surges on in the background. Most Americans have seen CBD’s legal status change firsthand as they now can purchase it freely, though many questions about the cannabis-derived substance still remain. For instance, given the wide range of products, you may not realize there is actually only one CBD product that is FDA-approved – a medication for rare forms of epilepsy. In other words, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the newly-popular substance and besides this product, no CBD product sold in the United States is FDA approved.
One of the main reasons for CBD’s recent popularity is the several reported health benefits it produces when introduced to the human body. Some of the more common uses of CBD are chronic pain relief and anxiety, but that only scrapes the surface of the uses for which many have claimed benefits. It has been used to treat symptoms of insomnia, arthritis, acne, multiple sclerosis, depression, psychotic disorders, and even cancer. Despite the range of reported benefits – or because of them – critics remain dubious, arguing that because no rigorous, double-blind tests have been performed, no one currently knows whether any of the positive effects even exist, or if they do, are perceptible by humans. The absence of large-scale research studies concerning CBD has left many assuming the placebo effect is to blame for many of the positive qualities associated with the substance.
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CBD is what’s known as a cannabinoid, or a complex chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Supporters are quick to distinguish CBD from recreational marijuana – there are around 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that induces a high. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and is a separate compound, though both substances affect how the human body regulates sleep, appetite, the immune system, and more. While THC has a host of inebriating effects, CBD is not known to induce any sort of high.
A common question among first-time CBD users is if the substance produces a positive result for marijuana drug tests. Because marijuana drug tests only screen for THC metabolites, using CBD products as prescribed should not produce a positive result. However, failing a THC drug test while taking CBD products isn’t necessarily impossible.
Some CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC, but in order to show up on a drug screen, the individual would have to be consuming a whopping 1,000 milligrams per day (the average user consumes around 100 mg). The amount of THC in CBD products largely depends on whether it was derived from the hemp plant or a marijuana plant. While hemp and marijuana are both cannabis plants, hemp plants are classified as those with less than 0.3% THC. Because marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance in the United States, CBD derived from it is also considered to be Schedule 1. In the 2018 Farm Bill however, CBD derived from hemp was delisted as a Schedule 1 substance, but there are still many awkward – and occasionally contradictory – FDA regulations on the buying and selling of these products. Technically speaking, CBD is only allowed to be sold as a cosmetic ingredient—not as a food or dietary supplement. What this means is that most of the CBD sales in the United States—which come from gummies, oils, and ointments—are currently illegal according to the FDA. However due to the delisting as a controlled substance, selling CBD from hemp is often treated inconsequentially.
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In order to purchase CBD products, there’s no need to journey to smoking-specific stores or deal in some sort of black market. CBD products are being sold in a multitude of gas stations, grocery stores, convenience stores, and boutique shops around America. In fact, many coffee shops and breweries now offer CBD oil to be mixed into their drink for a small fee. While oil is probably the most frequently used CBD product, there are many other popular methods for consumption. CBD can be used in a vaporizer, baked into a treat, mixed into a drink, or applied with a cream.
Before the 2018 Farm Bill, the CBD industry was projected to be worth $2 billion by 2022; after the bill passed, the industry was projected to be worth $22 billion by the same date. Although CBD sales have skyrocketed over the last two years, extreme popularity might be one of the industry’s biggest weaknesses. As more and more CBD products are introduced to the market, the number of unregulated products in the industry also increases, which makes it extremely likely that a product will be flawed in some way. For instance, a study performed by the University of Pennsylvania found that, “nearly 70 percent of cannabidiol extracts sold online are mislabeled.” While CBD itself is generally considered safe, the unregulated nature creates a fair amount of risk associated with using these products.
At this point, there needs to be more CBD research studies and human trials before scientists can adequately conclude the benefits and risks of these products. Right now, the substance largely remains a mystery, and although it’s widely consumed in many different ways, the lack of regulation has left the door open for some potentially dangerous additives to sneak their way in. Despite the mysterious and underdeveloped nature of CBD, the incredible number of rave reviews from patients – and non-patients – who experience chronic pain cannot be ignored. Although we can’t say for sure, the future of CBD is looking like it will be filled with numerous everyday health benefits, acute medical uses, and lots and lots of cash.