In the last few years, the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) has grown tremendously, thanks to the discovery of its benefits and the recognition by US states that CBD is quite different from psychoactive THC. CBD is showing up everywhere – from specialty topical balms in your local drug store to cannabis-infused foods and drinks in popular restaurants.
As more people discover this CBD trend, a few questions often come up, particularly about where CBD comes from, its legality, and its safety. We’ll try to lay out some of the basic answers to these important questions.
What Exactly is CBD?
CBD or cannabidiol is one of over 80 naturally-occurring compounds contained in the cannabis plant. CBD and THC are the two most commonly known and most studied components of cannabis. THC causes the “high” associated with marijuana use. CBD is distinct from marajuana and THC.
The way CBD affects the body is unique, especially when isolated from THC. CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid receptors to produce beneficial effects on rest, recovery, and exercise that we are just beginning to understand. We have a lot to learn about CBD, but it has already generated serious excitement for its potential benefits.
Is CBD Legal in the United States?
In 2018, Congress passed the Farm Bill that made it federally legal to buy CBD and other hemp products, within certain guidelines. Notably, CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC. The Farm Bill essentially opened a legal way for people to access CBD in response to strong support from health advocates and many medical experts.
As a part of the Farm Bill, US states were also given a key role in deciding how to regulate CBD, and all 50 US States have since supported legal use.
When congress made CBD and hemp products legal, the FDA became responsible for developing regulations for its use. For now, the FDA has set up a few rules around CBD as it is studied further. First, CBD pharmaceutical drug products are subject to clinical trials and formal FDA approval. One CBD drug product has been approved through this pathway. This drug is a highly concentrated form of cannabidiol branded as “Epidiolex”. It is used to treat severe forms of epilepsy.
For non-pharmaceuticals, CBD can’t be marketed with claims of treatment for any condition or disease. Further, until the FDA makes some rule changes, CBD can’t be sold as a food additive or dietary supplement. However, it is fully allowed to purchase topical products that contain CBD (just be sure to buy from a reputable brand that does not contain THC and has test data to back it up).
Is CBD Safe?
For anything we put on or in our bodies, we should think about safety. Fortunately, with CBD, there is information available about how it can interact with the body. We know that prescription CBD (Epidiolex) was considered sufficiently safe for approval to treat epilepsy. While this does not mean there are no potential side effects, it is good to know that the benefits outweighed the risks, even for a highly concentrated amount.
It is also important to remember that the effects of CBD are not the same as the mind-altering effects of THC. Recognition of the safety difference between CBD and THC is a big factor behind why CBD is now legal.
Our knowledge of the safety of CBD will certainly improve as it is more widely used and more studied. With the information available so far, it certainly appears that healthy people can use CBD in moderate amounts without serious concern. The effects of CBD do vary from person to person, so it is a good idea to start with a smaller amount and work up to find how much CBD works best for your body. People with underlying medical conditions, liver conditions, and those taking prescription drugs should consult with a physician before using a CBD product. Likewise, CBD is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
Finally, an essential key to CBD safety is finding the right product. Because the availability of CBD is so new, some CBD products are not properly tested and some do not contain the amount of CBD listed on the label. To get the safest CBD possible, always buy from a trustworthy brand and insist on verified third-party lab results.
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