In recent years, CBD has gained a lot of popularity in the healthcare industry. Seeing as everyone is eager to try CBD products for themselves, a large market exists for products containing CBD in the US.
But the potential benefits of CBD are often overshadowed with questions regarding its legality and safety – especially since many people believe it’s directly linked to marijuana. We receive hundreds of emails daily of individuals asking – is CBD Legal? In this article we explore the legality of CBD.
So where does CBD come from, how does it work and is CBD safe to use?
CBD is Not Marijuana
Using CBD is completely different than using marijuana.
The cannabidiol used in commercial products isn’t taken from marijuana plants, but from industrial hemp plants.
Both marijuana and industrial hemp belong to the same family of plants, the Cannabis Sativa family. But even though both plants belong to the Cannabis Sativa family, they are two distinctly different plants in both appearance, as well as in constituents.
Unfortunately, the fact that CBD is extracted from cannabis, means that any potentially good effects of CBD are often overshadowed by the dangers of marijuana use. That’s why it’s important to understand the difference between CBD and marijuana.
Is CBD Legal? Is Industrial Hemp Legal?
While it may come as a surprise, the farming of industrial hemp is legal under the The Hemp Farming Act. This makes it easy for businesses to legally obtain hemp in order to manufacture CBD products.
In contrast, marijuana isn’t legal to farm commercially anywhere in the US. Some states do allow for home cultivation of marijuana plants, but even so, there are strict laws in place regarding the amount of plants an individual is allowed to own. Many states allow for an individual to own up to six plants, while other states only make an exception for individuals growing marijuana for their own medical use.
So why can hemp be legal, but not marijuana? The answer lies in the differences between the two plants.
Marijuana contains a large amount of a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short). It’s this chemical that’s responsible for the intoxicating “high” that marijuana causes. Getting “high” on marijuana isn’t safe, seeing as THC has a psychoactive effect, altering the normal function of the nervous system.
Industrial hemp has been bred specifically to reduce the amount of THC in cannabis. For industrial hemp to be legal, the law states there must be less than 0.03% THC present in the plant. This means that the THC levels in hemp are low enough to be considered safe by the government.
So the CBD industry doesn’t rely on the legalization of marijuana in order to exist. CBD isn’t an indirect way to promote the marijuana industry, nor is it an indirect attempt to remove restrictions regarding the growth and availability of recreational cannabis.
The Hemp Farming Act ensures that all commercially farmed cannabis plants are farmed responsibly, and the industry is regulated by the government to make certain that commercial plants don’t contain enough intoxicating chemicals to be harmful.
What Are Cannabinoids?
On a larger scale, the difference between using CBD products and using marijuana should be clear, seeing as they come from different plants. However, to fully understand how CBD products are different from marijuana, it’s important to look even closer at the chemical compounds that distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana.
CBD (or cannabidiol) is actually one of many chemical compounds called cannabinoids. This means that CBD is like a “chemical ingredient” in cannabis plants, which is isolated from all the other chemical ingredients that make up cannabis before it is used in CBD products.
Cannabis plants also contain a large number of other cannabinoids, which means that there are many chemicals that are somewhat similar to cannabidiol in structure and all of them are typical “ingredients” in cannabis plants.
Some cannabinoids – such as CBD – are safe for human consumption, but other cannabinoids are very harmful. An example of a harmful cannabinoid is THC.
As mentioned earlier, THC is the chemical responsible for the psychoactive “high” effect when smoking marijuana. Like CBD, THC is also a cannabinoid, but the effects of THC and CBD on the human body are entirely different.
The Endocannabinoid System
Before going deeper into how CBD and THC affect the human body, it’s important to understand the link between cannabinoids and the human body.
Cannabinoids aren’t only found in cannabis plants. There are also cannabinoids found naturally in the human body, these cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids, seeing as they are endogenous to the human body.
Endocannabinoids link with cannabinoid receptors, causing certain reactions to take place. This bodily system of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors and the enzymes responsible for synthesizing and breaking down of endocannabinoids is collectively called the endocannabinoid system.
As it was only discovered in 1992, a lot of research is still being done into the exact purpose and function of the endocannabinoid system. But researchers have found that the endocannabinoid system regulates various bodily functions such as:
• Anxiety and stress management
• Pain sensation and relief
• Memory formation
These are just a few of the bodily functions linked to endocannabinoids. Some other functions still include fertility, immune function and more.
Effects on the Human Body: THC vs CBD
Now you know that THC, CBD and endocannabinoids all belong to a group of chemical compounds called cannabinoids. This means they are similar in chemical compisition, but not identical.
What should be clear at this point is that not all cannabinoids are harmful. Our body naturally produces its own cannabinoids in order to regulate vital processes.
So why is THC a harmful cannabinoid? Ironically enough, it’s the similarity between THC and that endocannabinoids makes it harmful.
THC Effects on the Body
As mentioned earlier, endocannabinoids link to cannabinoid receptors to cause certain reactions in the human body. When THC is consumed (regardless of whether it’s through smoking or eating it) it too can link to the cannabinoid receptors, wreaking havoc on the endocannabinoid system.
In response to THC linking to cannabinoid receptors, the body senses that there’s too much stimulation within the endocannabinoid system. In an attempt to control this over-stimulation, the body produces less of its own endocannabinoids.
Without endocannabinoids, the body loses its natural ability to respond to stress. After consuming THC multiple times, users find that the only way to adequately control and reduce stress, is to consume even more THC.
In this way, THC becomes a substitute for the body’s endocannabinoids. As the constant over-stimulation of the endocannabinoid system is causing the body to no longer produce endocannabinoids, the only way to regain these endocannabinoids is to stop using THC.
But not using THC can cause users to feel anxious and stressed. It will take time for the body to clear itself of THC and to start producing endocannabinoids again. Many THC users aren’t willing to endure this painful transition period.
Ultimately, the ongoing use of THC leads to dependency. Some people who use marijuana want to stop, but often struggle to do so, as a lack of THC leaves them vulnerable to stress and anxiety.
CBD Effects on the Body
For some time, researchers believed that CBD, much like THC, links to the body’s cannabinoid receptors, causing reactions to take place. However, it was later found that this is not the case.
Unfortunately, scientists are not sure exactly how CBD works within the endocannabinoid system. Some people believe that CBD has the opposite effect on the endocannabinoid system as THC. Where THC reduces the amount of endocannabinoids produced by the body, CBD works indirectly by stimulating the endocannabinoid system to produce more endocannabinoids.
Another suggestion is that CBD prevents certain chemicals from breaking down, helping to boost parts of the endocannabinoid system.
Some researchers believe that certain medical conditions are linked to problems within the endocannabinoid system and that by using CBD, the system is able to regain function again.
Regardless of the exact method of action of CBD, research suggests that it can be beneficial in treating many symptoms and health problems, including inflammation, pain, stress and sleeping problems.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t cause a “high” and isn’t considered to be addictive. Seeing as CBD doesn’t link directly to cannabinoid receptors, there’s no risk for the same cycle of dependency as with THC, meaning the endocannabinoid system can function normally when CBD is consumed.
Cannabidiol is considered safe for adults. The only common side-effects currently known are tiredness, changes in appetite and diarrhea. Ongoing research is still being done regarding other potential side-effects of CBD, as well as the effects of CBD on various organs and bodily functions.
However, a lot of research has also been performed regarding the benefits of CBD, and in many cases, the benefits far outweigh potential side-effects. So far, studies have mainly focused on CBD as an alternative treatment for conditions such as epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. But CBD has also been studied for its potential benefits in other areas, such as pain relief, heart disease and inflammation.
Is CBD Legal?
As mentioned earlier, The Hemp Farming Act opens up many doors for the legality of CBD products. However, a lot of debate still surrounds the legality if CBD. Even though CBD has no risk for dependency, the DEA still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance due to the THC content. Despite the fact that CBD isn’t addictive, the fact that it’s derived from cannabis, makes it a cannabis product, which means it doesn’t carry the DEA’s approval.
Usually, owning or distributing a Schedule I substance is illegal and punishable by law, but because of legalization of industrial hemp, owning and distributing cannabis and cannabis products is legal, so long as they don’t contain more than 0.03% THC.
This means that, on a practical level, cannabis can’t be treated like other Schedule I substances, as this would be a conflict in the law. This is why there’s a wide outcry for the legalization of cannabis and cannabis products so long as they are derived from industrial hemp, as this would enable the DEA to control THC, while allowing CBD and other non-addictive cannabis products to be 100% legal.
The overall outlook for CBD is good, however, as a lot of conflicting laws currently exist regarding the use of cannabis, which is placing increasing pressure on the DEA to reclassify certain cannabis products.
Should You Use CBD?
At this stage, using CBD is an option that some people will find more attractive than others. If you’re considering CBD, there’s no guarantee that it will work for whatever health problem you are hoping to treat.
The best way to know whether or not CBD can work for you is to try it for yourself. When starting CBD, keep track of your health and monitor whether it’s improving or remaining the same. Also keep track of what might be potential side-effects.
After using CBD for some time, decide whether or not it’s working for you and make a final choice regarding whether or not you’ll continue to use it.