STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – Everyone’s buzzing about CBD — we’re mixing it into foods and rubbing it into our skin – but is it safe? Is it legal? And will it get you, well, buzzed?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC,(tetrahydrocannabinol), which also comes from cannabis, it is not psychoactive – so it’s not supposed to get you high.
But CBD, a naturally occurring compound, might just get you high on life, proponents say, when it frees you of nagging chronic pain, stress and anxiety.
You’ll find it on shelves as supplements and in oils and lotions, and the CBD market is predicted by analysts to reach $20 billion by 2024.
It can also be consumed safely via vape cartridges, though there has been a recent surge in hospitalizations among people who vape cheap and illegal synthetic marijuana sold to them as natural CBD, an Associated Press investigation has found.
It’s also largely unregulated, so you’re never quite sure what you’re getting.
Here’s the lowdown on CBD, THC and hemp:
What’s the difference?
While CBD, THC and hemp all come from cannabis plants, they come from different parts of the plant and have very different properties. Only THC gets you high. It is THC (and not CBD) that is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.
Oils and other products derived from CBD and hemp oil contain very low THC levels, so also have no mind-altering effects.
CBD oil is produced by using the stalks, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant, while hemp seed oil comes from the small seeds of the cannabis sativa plant and contains lower levels of CBD. Hemp seed oils contain a plethora of nutrients and fatty acids, and are mainly used in food and skincare.
Is CBD legal?
It is illegal in New York City to sell foods or drinks containing cannabidiol. The law took effect in July, but businesses will not be fined until October.
It is, however, perfectly legal to purchase it in non-foods or as a supplement in New York City, and you can add it to foods yourself, legally. It is sold in health food stores and in smoke shops — and it is legal to order it online and have it shipped to you.
In fact, CBD products are produced on Staten Island by businesses such as Hempme, which uses honey sourced from a farm on Staten Island and infuses it with CBD.
Unlike alcohol or tobacco, no federal standards exist for safety or dosage.
Pot laws are different
CBD laws differ from marijuana laws. In New York state, a decriminalization law was passed in August, reducing punishment for possession of marijuana and removing criminal penalties for those found with less than two ounces of the drug.
So, it’s not a misdemeanor to possess less than 2 ounces of marijuana, but it’s a violation, and there are still civil penalties and fines, since a bill aimed at legalizing the drug failed to pass in Albany in June.
The penalty now is $50 for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, or a maximum of $200 for 1 to 2 ounces.
Health benefits of CBD
CBD has been touted as a treatment for anxiety and depression, chronic pain and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Proponents say they suddenly just feel better after using products containing CBD.
In ointments and lotions, it is said to relieve muscle pain, with a result similar to the use of ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Athletes swear it relieves inflammation and joint pain.
FDA is not sold on it
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t yet given its approval for CBD to be used use in the treatment of pain, anxiety or depression, although the agency is currently gathering data from health professionals, patients and the cannabis industry.
Too much is uncertain about CBD in too many circumstances, the FDA says.
For example, say you eat it, drink it, vape it and smear it on your knees all before lunch? Is that dangerous? No one really knows yet. And that’s information that the FDA needs, and is working on compiling.
So far, the FDA has only approved the use of CBD in one specific prescription medication, Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
Is it covered by insurance?
Medicare does not cover CBD, or any forms of medical marijuana, and health insurance companies won’t either. It does not matter that it has been legalized in your state or that your doctor wrote you a prescription.
Why is it suddenly everywhere?
The recent surge in the number of CBD products was spurred by recent changes in state law and because the 2018 Farm Act determined that hemp is no longer considered marijuana because of its low levels of THC.
Side effects, such as nausea, sleepiness and dizziness, have been associated with CBD use, but research is still needed to determine ideal doses and how to reduce these effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
And though CBD is not believed to have mind-altering effects, there is anecdotal evidence that some users have reported feeling lightheaded or drowsy. These are the same people who have a similar result when taking ibuprofen, the evidence showed.
“Cannabis-based products may help treat chronic pain in some adults, but more information is needed to know if pain relief from cannabis is any better or worse than other pain management options, such as over over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or alternative treatments like occupational therapy,’’ the CDC says on its website.
The most common side effects associated with CBD-based Epidiolex include: “sleepiness, sedation and lethargy; elevated liver enzymes; decreased appetite; diarrhea; rash; fatigue, malaise, and weakness; insomnia, sleep disorder and poor quality sleep; and infections,” the FDA says. Epidiolex contains much higher levels of DBD than commercially-sold products.
Will I fail a drug test?
While CBD alone won’t cause you to fail a drug test for marijuana use (TCH), there have been very few studies on the subject. And since it is available in largely unregulated supplements, it’s tough to know what you’re getting. There is a risk of using a product containing traces of THC, which will produce a positive result.
“Avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely,” warns the CBD-advocacy website Key to Cannabis. “If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you should consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you.”