You’ve probably heard so much buzz about CBD oil in the mainstream media that you’re feeling a buzz yourself. All that talk may have you wondering:
- What exactly is CBD oil?
- What is it good for?
- Does it work?
- Is it addictive?
- Why is it suddenly so popular?
- Is it legal?
- Are all CBD oil products safe?
Hey, relax! We’re here to help. This guide will answer all your burning questions and alleviate all your CBD-related anxieties. Think of it as your very own imaginary CBD chill pill! So without further ado, let’s take our first tentative steps into the world of CBD by learning what it is and what it isn’t.
What Is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s one of a group of chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is perhaps the best-known cannabinoid, but others include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabicyclol (CBL), and cannabicitran (CBT) just to name a few.
But we’re going to focus on CBD specifically because it is one of the key ingredients in cannabis and is revolutionizing modern medicine. Let’s look at a bit of deep science and see what makes CBD so special.
CBD, like THC, interacts primarily with the neurons in your brain. “What’s a neuron?” you ask. Good question. A neuron is a specialized cell found in your central nervous system (your brain and spinal column) that transmits nerve impulses.
These nerve impulses allow you to feel and think and breathe. In fact, your brain is composed of billions of neurons that all work together to make everything from your senses to your emotions possible.
But not all your neurons are on all the time. They can be on or off in response to stimuli (or the lack of stimuli) inside and around you. This is evident by the fact that most people aren’t always sad, always happy, or some confusing mix of both. If you’re having trouble visualizing the purpose of neurons, think of them like battery terminals.
In scientific terms, the empty space where the battery goes is called the receptor. When you plug the battery into the receptor, you provide power to the electronic device. The neurons in your brain work in the same way.
When a specific molecule is present in your brain, it plugs into the empty space (the receptor) in a neuron and turns it on. When a neuron, or a group of neurons, turns on, it causes things to happen elsewhere in the body or the brain (like getting rid of pain or making you sad).
But getting back to cannabinoids, they don’t just act on any and every neuron with which they come in contact. Rather, they interact only with very specific neurons whose receptors will accept the specially-shaped molecules. Once such neuron is the cannabinoid receptor or CB1.
That’s right, your brain contains receptors that only accept cannabinoid molecules. There are even molecules produced by the body (endocannabinoids) that turn these neurons on and off. That’s pretty cool when you think about it.
At the very least, it means that our brain was meant to use the cannabinoids found in nature. If it wasn’t, there would be no receptors, and thus, no physical and psychoactive effects. But let’s put developmental biology aside for the moment and get back to our battery analogy so we can see how THC and CBD work.
When you ingest, inhale, or imbibe your favorite strain (let’s say Blue Dream), the THC molecules fits snugly in the CB1 receptor and turns that neuron on. In this case, think of the THC molecule as a AA battery.
The CBD molecule will also fit into the CB1 receptor. That said, it won’t be quite such a snug fit. Think of the CBD molecule as a AAA battery. Sure you can get it into the space, but it won’t be an exact match like the AA battery (THC molecule).
Because of this inexact fit, the CBD molecule won’t provide the necessary power to turn the neuron on like the THC molecule would. This is similar to the way a AAA battery won’t provide the necessary power that a AA battery would.
So once a CBD molecule is seated in the CB1 receptor (not turning it on), the CBD molecule also occupies the space within the neuron and prevents the THC molecule from docking. Because of the way CBD blocks THC from docking in the neuron, it is known as a CB1 antagonist. Just imagine if there was no CBD present. THC molecules would dock with the all the CB1 receptors, turn them on, and take you higher than you’ve ever been before.
And before you say, “Right on!”, keep in mind that too much THC—too much psychoactive influence—is called a bad trip. At the worst, it’s called an overdose. Thank goodness CBD keeps this from happening.
But CBD does more than just keep you from experiencing a psychedelic crisis. It also activates other receptors that THC can’t: the adenosine receptor, the serotonin receptor, and the vanilloid receptor. Here’s what those specific CBD-activated receptors do.
- When CBD activates the adenosine receptor, the resultant brain activity reduces anxiety.
- When CBD activates the serotonin receptor, the resultant brain activity reduces depression, blood sugar levels, nausea, and a whole host of other neurological and biological effects.
- When CBD activates the vanilloid receptor, the resultant brain activity alleviates pain and inflammation.
And this is just a smattering of the beneficial effects that CBD can produce. In fact, Martin Lee, author of the book “Smoke Signals”, calls CBD the “Cinderella Molecule” because…
“Scientists have shown that CBD can shrink malignant tumors, change gene expression, normalize arrhythmic heartbeat, and stimulate the growth of new brain cells in adult mammals. Scientific and clinical investigations underscore CBD’s potential as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain, schizophrenia, PTSD, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and antibiotic-resistant infections. — so many maladies are responsive to CBD that it’s almost like a fairytale. But the science is very real.”
Even the lack of CBD (the endocannabinoid variety) can cause problems. According to Dr. Ethan Russo, CBD deficiency is an underlying cause of migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other degenerative conditions that plague mankind.
Studies show that CBD is even good for healing broken bones. It does so much and relieves so many ailments, it could be considered the holy grail of medical treatments.
CBD Is Sobering
So to put it simply, CBD is a non-psychoactive substance that actually reduces the euphoric effects, or “high”, that THC is so good at providing. As was discussed above, CBD doesn’t make people mind-alteringly high because it has very little effect on the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain that regulate learning, coordination, sleep, pain, and the immune system.
Additionally, cannabidiol doesn’t negatively affect short-term memory loss. Participants in studies who had smoked cannabis strains low in cannabidiol (i.e., high THC strains) were significantly worse at recalling text than they were when not intoxicated.
Those who smoked cannabis high in cannabidiol (i.e., low THC strains) showed no such impairment. L, an anonymous Occupy Weed Street activist and licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, provides an excellent example of the benefits of CBD.
L suffered from an immunological disorder and cervical spine injury (double crush syndrome) that caused her to experience inflammation all over her body. Her doctor prescribed valium to alleviate the pain and that seemed to do the trick for a while.
After a while, L was concerned about becoming addicted to the drug because her tolerance was quickly increasing. She discussed it with a group of doctors and all supported her desire to try medical (high-CBD) marijuana. They issued her a prescription and the results were almost instantaneous. Two hits on a one-hitter of good marijuana took care of the debilitating nerve pain in her hands caused by her cervical spine problem and two surgery complications.
“I didn’t even get stoned, and I could work again. I was disabled from pain and other problems for 4 years. I’m back to work now, and I’m not going back to being disabled. Marijuana keeps me functioning and able to help other people.”
Unfortunately, L cannot give her identity for fear of losing her ability to help others and herself, but she wants the world to know that:
“As a psychologist working in a primary care setting, I cannot believe the number of people on very high doses of narcotic pain medications. We have one person under the age of 30 dying by accidental overdose of narcotics in my area. We could save so many lives and help so many people if medical marijuana was available, especially in a variety of forms such as CBD oils. We won’t have people walking around stoned or dying. We’ll have a much healthier population and a much safer way to deal with issues of chronic pain and other health problems.”
CBD Also Lowers Social Anxiety
CBD isn’t just great for physical afflictions. It’s great treatment for mental afflictions as well. Social anxiety disorder is a prime candidate for treatment because the CBD in marijuana decreases activity in the limbic system. It also plays a large role in the formation of memories.
Emotional life is largely housed in the limbic system which supports epinephrine flow, emotions, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction. Anonymous Colorado grower and dispensary owner Johnny Hempseed has tried CBD oil for social anxiety and agrees that it is great for people who want therapeutic benefits while avoiding the psychoactive effects of traditional cannabis.
CBD Saves Lives
Sanjay Gupta’s special landmark CNN documentary Weed has forever changed mainstream Reefer Madness perceptions of “stoners” by introducing the world to Charlotte Figi, a girl whose seizures began when she was three months old. By age five she was suffering from nearly three hundred seizures a week due to a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome.
Dr. Gupta’s documentary also introduced the world to the Stanley Brothers and their now legendary high-CBD, low-THC strain of cannabis now known as Charlotte’s Web which managed to calm Charlotte’s seizures within the first hour she took it as an extracted oil.
CNN reported that, thanks to two daily doses of three to four milligrams of oil per pound of Charlotte’s body weight, she is now speaking, feeding herself, and riding her bike. She is leading a normal life because her seizures only happen two or three times a month, and then mostly in her sleep.
Because of these dramatic results, dozens of other patients with similar, and even widely different, ailments began using the strain with much success. CBD has since become a major impetus for marijuana legalization.
CBD Is the Real Reefer Revolution
More than just a positive impetus for marijuana legalization, studies into the beneficial effects of CBD are leading the way towards debunking the “bad science” that is the basis of cannabis stereotypes.
Modern investigations into CBD are dispelling negative effects of Harry J. Anslinger’s Reefer Madness stereotypes the same way the chemical itself calms down an intense THC high. Much of this positive press is thanks to the exposure that Dr. Gupta’s documentary gave Charlotte and her miracle cure plant.
Despite the ever-increasing list of success stories that surround CBD use, it is surprising indeed that the medical marijuana community was slow to pick up on CBD. This was likely due to the fact that strains like Charlotte’s Web which are high in CBD, weren’t being grown by underground horticulturists who were serving the higher demand for euphoric THC strains.
These underground growers thought that the Stanley Brothers were crazy for growing high CBD strains which, at the time, weren’t selling. Now, though, the Stanley Brothers are known as “the Robin Hoods of Marijuana” for providing families like Charlotte Figi’s with medicinal cannabis using donations from their non-profit organization the Realm of Caring.
CBD Is Still (Kind Of) Illegal
As of this writing, CBD is available for limited or full use in 46 of the 50 U.S. states. Only four states completely outlaw CBD use:
- South Dakota
Among the other 47 states, there exists a disjointed and confusing patchwork of legislation. In states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, it’s perfectly fine to possess and use CBD. However, things are a bit more complicated in states where marijuana is illegal recreationally but legal for medicinal purposes.
Currently, marijuana is fully legalized in nine states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington—plus the District of Columbia.
These ten locales have a combined population of roughly 70 million people. As the USA currently has about 325 million people, this means a full 21% of Americans can legally light up for any reason. That’s one in five citizens!
It’s extra interesting to note that it’s legal to possess and grow marijuana in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. So you could rent a townhouse in D.C. and grow up to six plants in your home for recreational use. And it would be perfectly legal.
Or you could go on a tour of the White House with a big ol’ bag of bud in your pocket—up to 57 grams—and you wouldn’t be breaking the law. (We don’t necessarily recommend trying this out but, theoretically, you wouldn’t be committing a crime.) All of this is true while, at the same time, marijuana is illegal according to federal law.
In addition to the nine states mentioned above and D.C., there are 20 more states that currently allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes with a prescription from a doctor. And we don’t only mean CBD—we mean CBD and good, ol’-fashioned Mary Jane, complete with THC molecules. Those 20 states are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Now, we know this is getting complicated, but stick with us. We’re almost done explaining the labyrinthian patchwork of regulation that is American marijuana law.
There are 17 more states where medicinal marijuana is illegal but CBD oil is OK. In most cases, a prescription is still needed to obtain CBD. Moreover, most states have a legal limit to how much THC the CBD can contain—but the limits aren’t the same in every state.
For instance, CBD oil in Virginia is legal as long as it contains less than 5% THC, but in South Carolina, just a few hours south, CBD cannot have more than 0.9% THC before it is illegal to possess.
Here are the 17 states where CBD is legal:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
So there you have it. That is the complete low-down on the laws regarding CBD in the US of A. However, we have one last caveat to offer: all forms of cannabis are still technically against the law nationwide, despite being legal according to some state laws, because of federal legislation.
At the federal level, CBD is still considered illegal by the Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States (because it’s taken from the cannabis plant) and is classified as a highly addictive schedule 1 drug with no recognizable medical value. Other reasons also have a profound influence on the legality of cannabis in this country, most notably Big Pharma.
CBD And The Pharmaceutical Industry
The pharmaceutical industry in the United States already dwarfs the potential market value of the fully-legalized cannabis industry. Even though it is completely overshadowed by these drug-producing juggernauts, the cannabis industry is poised to take a huge bite out of Big Pharma’s profits.
With just cannabis-based products (which are infinitely-less expensive to produce), the cannabis industry could replace designer drugs that treat:
- Bone growth
- Cancer cell growth
- Bacterial growth
- Artery blockage
- Nervous system degeneration
- High blood sugar levels
- Seizures and convulsions
- Muscle spasms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low appetite
- Chronic pain
That’s a lot of pills unsold and a lot of dollars siphoned directly into the cannabis industry. Are you starting to see why Big Pharma and its army of lobbyists are working hard to keep cannabis products illegal? It really is a shame because CBD could have such a profound effect on the lives of millions of people.
Cannabis products are significantly less expensive than many of the drugs that treat the same ailments. That in itself could be a huge boon to those who spend the majority of their income on drugs that often cause more problems than they solve.
Oh and don’t forget that Big Pharma is currently working to synthesize CBD in order to cash in on the benefits that it produces. And while that may sound like a good thing, it’s not. As you’ll later on in this article, studies continue to show that whole plant CBD is much more effective than synthetic “single-molecule” CBD.
So when Big Pharma gets a handle on synthetic CBD, and if cannabis is still illegal in the United States, they’ll roll out a whole host of products that are less effective than those derived from natural cannabis plants. On top of that, they’ll likely charge an arm and a leg for this second-rate product.
With just these few examples, you can start to see why the pharmaceutical industry has such a stake in whether or not cannabis is legal or not.
Even Prohibitionists Like CBD!
Portraying CBD as the good cannabinoid and THC as the bad cannabinoid is the strategic attack of drug warriors such as Kevin Sabet, former senior advisor to the White House National Drug and Control Policy. Sabet is “The number one enemy of legalization” according to Rolling Stone and “The Devil Himself” according to High Times.
“If Sabet and his flat-earth allies had their way, Charlotte Figge would be dead by now” says Smoke Signals author Martin Lee. Lee cautions that the pharmaceutical industry’s attempts to synthesize and monetize CBD is more harmful to children than giving them access to it in its natural form in large part by challenging the notion that cannabis smoking is addictive. Lee elaborates that…
“Marijuana does not cause a person to become an addict any more than food causes a person to become a compulsive eater. The idea that marijuana damages the brains of young smokers, stunts intelligence, and makes people apathetic is a political construct with no scientific basis. Alienation and bleak prospects, not marijuana-smoking, are root causes of apathy.”
Lee describes the need of prohibitionists such as Sabet to protect children from the “harmful” effects of THC as the last refuge of “drug war scoundrels”. Project CBD and indeed the science behind CBD itself radically challenges assumptions such as Sabet’s that euphoria is “harmful” to children and overall human well-being. Lee observes that…
“It’s not obvious why mild euphoric feelings are intrinsically negative for a sick person or a healthy person, for that matter. In ancient Greece, the word euphoria meant “having health,” a state of well-being. The euphoric qualities of cannabis, far from being an unwholesome side effect, are deeply implicated in the therapeutic value of the plant.”
It seems odd, to say the least, that the inebriating effects of marijuana are cited as a reason why it shouldn’t be allowed for medicinal use, while, at the same time, alcohol is perfectly legal in all 50 states. Alcohol impairs motor function abilities far more than marijuana, and alcohol has way fewer medicinal qualities than marijuana, if any at all.
With all of that said, we do have some good news to report. Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, is pushing for legislation that would legalize hemp and CBD across all 50 states. In June 2018, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill 20-1 and the Senate will vote on the legislation sometime over the summer.
This is great news because it would reduce some of the confusion surrounding the legality of CBD. Even if a few states still kept laws on the books that defined CBD as an illegal substance, it wouldn’t matter because federal law trumps state law. Police would stop making arrests and any arrests that were made would be dropped by government prosecutors. Three cheers for progress towards sensible legislation!
Modern Science Is Still Censored
Lee pointed out that, “Gupta never learned about cannabis in medical school…Instead, Dr. Gupta took his cues from federal agencies, which maintain that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no medical value.” The startling surprise of the saga of CBD is the revelation of systematic bias in modern mainstream medical science.
David Nutt described drug prohibition as “the most extreme form of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the telescope in the 17th century because Galileo used it to confirm Copernicus’ theory that the earth circled the sun, not the other way around.” The truly startling surprise about the saga of CBD is the revelation that modern medicine has been as dead wrong about marijuana as the Catholic Church was about the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun.
The science itself behind the non-psychoactive qualities of cannabidiol is so utterly ‘sobering’ that it forces us to wonder what else might we be missing? What other natural miracles has our science systematically blinded us to? What other pleasant surprises does the planet Earth still hold in store for us?
CBD Isn’t a Solo Act
Lee challenges the mainstream assumption that CBD is medical and THC is recreational by recognizing the awesome therapeutic properties of THC even though he specializes in CBD research.
Lee mentioned how Chinese scientists have shown how the painkilling effects of acupuncture are mediated by the same cannabinoid receptors that are activated by THC for example. Professor Guillermo Velasco of Complutense University of Madrid agreed that THC had equally important therapeutic properties, especially for treating cancer.
Indica cannabis plants are typically thought to have higher THC:CBD ratios than sativa plants which are typically thought to have an opposite ratio of CBD:THC. However, the terms indica and sativa should be used to describe lineage, growth patterns, geographic and climatic regions of origin rather than the effects of the cannabis itself according to Nico Escondido from High Times.
Some sativas are rich in THC and some indicas are not due to hybridization. There are a variety of sativa, indica and hybrid plants that have high CBD, low THC ratios allowing individuals to find the right balance for their body’s unique endocannabinoid chemistry.
And remember, you don’t even need to smoke it since CBD can be transformed into a variety of products for your preferred method of marijuana consumption!
CBD is the reason why big pharma is keen on synthesizing marijuana-like molecules that don’t get people high. A groundbreaking study from Israel demonstrated the superior therapeutic advantages of whole plant vs synthetic “single-molecule” CBD.
The FDA tested some of the CBD products sold by eleven companies in March of 2015 and found that in many cases the products contained little or no cannabidiol. This is hardly surprising given that it’s extremely challenging to make high-quality CBD extract without high-quality cannabis.
It’s legal to make products out of hemp, the non-psychoactive male strain of the cannabis plant, which is grown for fiber and is often used for industrial purposes. However, it takes a lot of industrial hemp to extract a small amount of CBD.
“Hemp oil start-ups lack credibility when they say their CBD comes from hemp seed and stalk” according to Martin A. Lee of Project CBD. Hemp also draws heavy metals out of soil as it grows, which makes it great for preventing soil pollution.
Lastly, it is crucial to ensure that your CBD oil was made at a credible growery / dispensary and from organic marijuana that the rest of your honest medicinal cannabis products are produced from.
Key Cannabidiol Conclusions
CBD is nothing if not a series of healthy surprises that ironically will make you feel more sober instead of stoned. This is why CBD science is leading the way in terms of legitimizing and legalizing marijuana.
CBD science and miraculous recoveries like L’s and Charlotte Figi’s contradict the traditional Reefer Madness and Cheech and Chong stereotypes surrounding cannabis so compellingly that even mainstream physicians such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta have been humbled into reversing their previously held, misinformed judgments about cannabis.
CBD is so popular, it has become the last seemingly sound argument for drug war scoundrels who would rather have us use less effective synthesized cannabidiol medication in order to justify the completely misguided prohibition on THC.
Don’t be fooled by old-school scientific censorship though, the only reason CBD oil isn’t fully legal in the US is because honest CBD comes from the same predominantly illegal source plants as THC does – but this is also why you will find that CBD pairs with THC even better than jelly goes with peanut butter.