The Basics

Let’s start with some of the basics. Cannabidiol (Cann-uh-bid-DYE-all), most commonly referred to as CBD is one of the two most well known chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, the other being THC or tetrahydrocannabinol (te-truh-hahy-druh-kuh-nab-uh-nawl-nol). CBD is non-intoxicating meaning it will not get you “high.” THC is the chemical that gives the user the effects most commonly associated with cannabis, or marijuana.

One of the most important things to take from here is a general understanding of the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. Industrial Hemp comes from the cannabis sativa plant and has less than a 0.3% THC content. Marijuana is either a much more potent cannabis sativa or cannabis indica, with some having over 30% THC. Yes, industrial hemp contains some THC but studies have shown that if someone would smoke industrial hemp the human body will almost always metabolize the minimal THC content before any intoxicating effects would set in.

CBD really is not anything more than extraction of cannabidiol from a cannabis plant…..that’s it. A solvent is introduced to cannabis flowers (buds) which bond to the plant’s CBD stores. After this bond takes place either a heating or cooling process normally concludes the first stage of extraction. Please keep in mind that this process has been overly simplified for the sake of argument. Studies have indicated the C02 extraction techniques have produced high grade oils without any residues like those left behind from some other extraction methods, alcohol or butane extraction for example.

So is there a difference?

If we think about CBD at the molecular level there is not any difference based on the source. Growing conditions and genetics play the most influential rolls in levels of contaminants and potency. So what’s the difference between marijuana and hemp derived cannabidiol? NOTHING! That’s right, there aren’t any differences. The molecular structures of CBD are the same in the various cannabis plants and/or strains. The only real difference would be in the amount of CBD various cannabis plants have.

In states that have not yet legalized medicinal marijuana, hemp derived CBD would be the only option. In states that have medical marijuana chances are you can get either. With marijuana based CBD products there will most likely be more terpenes which can affect smell, taste, and effects to the user. This change in effects is commonly due to an entourage effect caused by coupling terpenes and CBD. For example, the terpene Limonene has been shown to have positive effects on depression and anxiety by way of soothing these symptoms. Terpene profiles are much easier to tailor with marijuana as there are so many strains available compared to industrial hemp, which will likely be changing drastically in the next few years.

Will I fail a drug test?

CBD products come in several forms. CBD isolate does not contain any THC and there is no risk of failing a drug test. CBD the is called full spectrum contains all the cannabinoids. When derived from hemp this means there are trace amounts of THC. While not enough to get you ‘high’ if taken for extended periods of time, eventually those trace amounts may build up to levels that could result in a hot drug test. Because of the before mentioned entourage effect, full spectrum products tend to be preferred as offering the most benefit, although that has to be weighed against the risk if you intent to take it daily for long periods of time and your job requires drug testing.

But is it legal?

Hemp derived CBD is generally portrayed as ‘legal in all 50 states’ however this is not exactly true. While there is a strong case to be made that hemp derived CBD produced under a state’s lawful industrial hemp pilot program is legal, it is also true that the DEA does not currently recognize that fact. Legality of the sale and possession of CBD also depends on the state where you live. Many states accept CBD as legal and support CBD production as part of their hemp programs. There are several states where the legality of CBD is more ambiguous. And while very rare, and the cases are usually dropped, there have been some reports of people getting arrested for marijuana possession just for having CBD.

There is also a report that CJ Harris was denied his scholarship and position on the Auburn football team for his use of CBD oils to control his epilepsy. While they are now claiming the epilepsy itself is the reason, he was originally told it was his use of cannabis oil.

So is it legal? There is no question that CBD should be legal and in many places it is considered legal -but the unfortunate reality is that there simply is no clear and definitive answer. This is why we must continue to fight for federal legislation that will get CBD products out of this current gray zone. It simply benefits too many people. We encourage everyone to contact their legislators to ask them to pass federal hemp legislation.

~Nick Wicinsky, NHA Volunteer 


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