Cannabis 101: A guide to CBD oil, what it is, how it works, who can use it
This is part of an on-going series of Sun-Times info guides about cannabis. Today, we look at CBD oil: what it is; how it works; what it treats plus the legal issues surrounding CBD use in Illinois.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-intoxicating chemical compound that comes from the cannabis sativa plant. CBD is one of over 100 such compounds, known as cannabinoids, that are found in the plant
Unlike THC — or tetrahydrocannabinol, another cannabinoid — CBD doesn’t get users stoned. In recent years, CBD has grown increasingly popular, with patients and experts reporting that it can be used to treat a range of health conditions, including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and even anxiety in dogs.
Here’s everything you need to know about the trendy drug treatment:
What is the history of CBD?
CBD was first discovered in the 1940s by Roger Adams, the former head of the chemistry department at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. In his research, Adams isolated CBD from hemp but couldn’t determine what exactly he’d found. In addition to CBD, Adams also synthesized analogs of THC and another cannabinoid, showing their relationship to CBD.
In the 1960s, Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam and his team took the research further, eventually synthesizing cannabinoids — including CBD, THC and others — and describing their chemical structures for future research. Mechoulam, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, still studies cannabis to this day.
Is CBD legal in Illinois?
Much of the confusion over CBD stems from its murky legal status.
Because the DEA still lists hemp and marijuana as dangerous Schedule I drugs, along with heroin and ecstasy, CBD remains illegal under federal law. Congress is now is considering the 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize industrial hemp across the country.
Despite some confusion, the Agriculture Act of 2014 didn’t legalize hemp-based CBD products nationwide, but only allowed for states and universities to grow hemp. Nevertheless, hemp-based CBD is already widely and freely available throughout most of the country.
Illinois is among 37 states that have legalized marijuana-based CBD for medical use, while nine other states have fully legalized pot and its derivatives. Four other states — Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — still prohibit the medical use of pot-based CBD.
Last month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed off on a bill that legalized industrial hempcultivation in Illinois and established rules to test crops’ THC levels. Like the bill being considered by federal lawmakers, the legislation in Illinois bars hemp-based CBD from containing more than 0.3 percent THC.
What is CBD used to treat?
In a study released last year, the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence said CBD may benefit people diagnosed with:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Huntington’s disease
- Inflammatory diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel and Crohn’s disease
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Diabetic complications
In the report, the committee noted that “CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” Other health care professionals are also using CBD to treat other medical issues, like autism, sleep problems and other mental health conditions.
CBD started gaining national exposure when media outlets began profiling Charlotte Figi, an 11-year-old girl from Colorado with Dravet syndrome, a severe form of intractable epilepsy.
At age 5, Figi’s parents, Matt and Paige Figi, had exhausted all traditional options in their quest to control the hundreds of grand mal seizures their young daughter was experiencing every day. They ultimately turned to the Stanleys, a group of brothers who grow pot in Colorado, who then developed a groundbreaking hemp-based CBD oil they dubbed “Charlotte’s Web.”
Since she began taking the oil, Figi has experienced far fewer seizures and is able to enjoy a more normal childhood. However, evidence from cases like Figi’s remains largely anecdotal as researchers continue to pin down CBD’s exact scientific effects.
What are the effects of CBD?
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t get users high, an important distinction that has helped drive the popularity of the drug compound.
Traditional medications tend to target the symptoms of a specific condition, but CBD goes after the cause of those symptoms, according to Ronald Aung-Din, M.D., a renowned Florida neurologist.
Pharmaceuticals generally stimulate or block receptors to provide their function, but CBD and other cannabis-based treatments interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which naturally binds to chemicals like CBD and THC. This biological effect reportedly enables CBD to treat such a wide range of medical conditions.
A European study published last year by the National Center for Biotechnical Information listed tiredness, diarrhea and changes in weight and appetite as possible side effects of CBD. Most of the research was conducted on patients with epilepsy or psychotic disorders.
Are there different types of CBD?
Yes, there are several different types including:
CBD products that come from the marijuana plant tend to have higher amounts of THC, a combination that some experts claim increases the CBD’s healing effects. As a result, CBD strains with higher amounts of THC can cause both euphoria and stony side effects, like anxiety, paranoia and dizziness, according to Leafly.
To buy marijuana-derived CBD from an Illinois dispensary, qualifying patients must first obtain a medical cannabis card by following the steps outlined in this Sun-Times guide to medical marijuana in Illinois.
Once a patient has been approved for the state’s medical program, they can go to the dispensary they selected during the application process to buy CBD and other cannabis products.
Hemp-based CBD products can be bought over-the-counter at wellness centers and bong shops in most of America, including Illinois.
There are a pair of options for hemp-based CBD users: Products that only contain CBD and others that contain a full range of hundreds of cannabinoids, including cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), as well as CBD and a minuscule amount of THC.
All the different chemicals found in the cannabis plant are said to have various healing effects. For example, non-intoxicating CDG apparently helps with sleep and inflammation and kills bacteria.
A new study predicts the market for hemp-derived CBD could eclipse the rest of the legal pot industry to reach $22 billion by 2022.
In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first prescription CBD drug, a move that will almost undoubtedly spur more research into what else it can treat.
The drug, a strawberry-flavored syrup called Epidiolex, is used to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. During their research, FDA officials found that Epidiolex reduced seizures when it was combined with other epilepsy drugs.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said his agency had supported research on cannabis-derived products for “many years,” but warned against the use of CBD products with “unproven medical claims.”
“The promotion and use of these unapproved products may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases,” Gottlieb said.
Before Epidiolex can go to market, the Drug Enforcement Administration must formally reclassify CBD into a federal drug category with medical approval. The FDA has previously approved synthetic cannabinoids to treat severe weight loss in patients with HIV.