Cannabidiol Clarity: Seeking Consensus on CBD Legality

C

annabidiol,
or CBD, is all the buzz right now—and for good reason. Modern studies have
shown that CBD, the second major cannabinoid found in cannabis after THC, can
be used to treat anxiety, epilepsy, psychosis, diabetes, various neurodegenerative
and inflammatory disorders and cancer. And this only seems to scratch the
surface of the boundless list of medicinal attributes that CBD has to offer.

Unlike
THC, however, CBD can’t get you “stoned” because it doesn’t have psychoactive,
mind-altering affects. While this makes CBD a less popular choice for
recreational users, it gives the compound a significant advantage in the
medical field because it confers the same medical benefits as THC, but without
the “high” that some patients do not desire. This is the reason why CBD—which
is primarily taken in liquid oil form—has so quickly become the rock star of
the medical cannabis industry today.

This Big Question:
Is CBD Legal?

The
truth is no one can answer this question with certainty. Under the
Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the medicinal use of cannabis, and thus CBD, is
legal here in California. No matter how you slice it though, CBD is still
considered illegal at the federal level—even though it won’t get you high. This
is because cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the
federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), where Schedule I substances are
considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use. Given the many recent studies confirming
CBD’s medical efficacy and potential, there’s no doubt that CBD needs to be
rescheduled. In fact, growing public opinion indicates that cannabis should be
rescheduled altogether. Some manufacturers have tried to circumvent CBD’s legal
status (and the confusion surrounding it) by offering what they claim to be “safe”
CBD oil products legally derived from industrial hemp, not cannabis. Eight
states in the U.S.—including California—have legalized the growth and marketing
of industrial hemp.

Buyers Beware

According
to a recent report by Project CBD, a non-profit activist think-tank dedicated
to the promotion of CBD as a medical utility, these claims by manufacturers are
“sketchy” at best. Industrial hemp is not grown for medical use and is a
suspect source of CBD. “[T]hose who say they’re extracting CBD only from the
stalk of industrial hemp are almost certainly being disingenuous. Project CBD
reports of consumers have become seriously ill as a result of contaminated hemp
oil products, a risk that apparently runs high in industrial hemp production. Last
month, the FDA sent threatening letters to several companies that market CBD
“hemp oil” products. In the warning letters, the FDA did not squarely address
CBD’s legal status, it simply reiterated its view that the companies were
promoting the products for conditions that caused them to be unapproved new
drugs in violation of the FDCA.

The Bottom Line

Selling
and shipping CBD legally is still a quagmire. While the sale and transportation
of hemp-based CBD may arguably be legal, it remains a “gray area” of the law, and
the quality and integrity of those products are questionable. While it is
ultimately up to patients to educate themselves about their condition and find
out which type of CBD is best for them, it appears that cannabis-based CBD is
the best and safest bet. Though the medical use of cannabis-based CBD is legal
under state law, it is still technically illegal under federal law, so patients
and suppliers alike should proceed with caution as much of the legal confusion
surrounding CBD may not be cleared until cannabis is fully de-scheduled under
the CSA. Here’s to hoping that this happens sooner rather than later with the
new cannabis reform bill pending before the Senate.

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