Is CBD Oil Marijuana?: Answers to Common CBD Questions
Let’s take a look at a common question regarding the hemp plant. While CBD flower, oils, and topicals are derived from the same basic plant as marijuana, the two differ drastically in the makeup of the compounds that are active in each of them.
CBD oil is not marijuana. While they both come from the same Cannabis plant, marijuana has much higher concentrations (10%-20%) of the psychoactive THC compound associated with feeling light-headed and ‘buzzed’. CBD oil on the other hand, is not psychoactive and by law contains no more than .03% THC while being much higher in concentrations of CBD. This lack of a psychoactive component is the reason that CBD products such as flowers and oils are legal in all fifty states.
The Cannabis Plant: Two sides of the same leaf
The Cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years by nearly every culture that has ever existed on the planet. It’s name is derived from the cannabinoids present in the plant. Some of these cannabinoids that are well-known today include THC, CBD, CBG and CBN. Different strains of the Cannabis plant contain more of one cannabinoid and less of others. For instance, while CBD oil is derived from hemp plants (the name we give to cannabis plants with no more than .03% of THC in them) marijuana is derived from cannabis plants with high concentrations of THC.
The confusion about whether or not CBD oil is made from marijuana is an honest mistake. The plants that they are derived from look and even smell the same but on a molecular level are different due to the amount of different cannabinoid compounds they each contain. I like to think of it in the same manner that we think about corn. While some corn is engineered to be perfect for the barbecue and kitchen table, other corn is engineered to be used as feed for cattle and livestock. While they are still the same plant technically, different strains contain compounds suited for their end-use. This is why we have two names for the cannabis plant. One is marijuana and the other is hemp.
What the THC in Marijuana does to the body
The THC compound does a lot once it enters your body! The most obvious effect of this is that it signals to your brain to release more dopamine. It is this dopamine release that makes a person feel ‘high’ in their mind and body. It makes a person more aware of their senses. You may hear people talking about how the colors of everything around them are more rich and that smells are more fragrant than when they are not experiencing the effects of THC. That is because their senses are exaggerated when THC enters their bloodstream and affects the brain.
In addition to the ‘high’ associated with ingesting THC, it has also been studied as a means to ease symptoms of depression, has been approved as an alternative medicine to relieve pain associated with glaucoma, can stimulate the appetite, reduce nausea and more. The biggest problem with being under the influence of THC is that your motor skills are impaired from the dopamine release and even though your senses are heightened, many of your survival and cognitive abilities are decreased. Your reaction time to events in front of you is greatly reduced making operating equipment such as a car or machine much less reliable and more dangerous. You should never operate machinery under the influence of THC.
All of these experiences occur because of the way that THC latches into the endocannabinoid system. This is a system in the body that influences the way the body interacts with the nervous system and the digestive system. In fact, the endocannabinoid system is still being studied today and there is current research going on all over the world to better understand it.
What We Can Say About CBD
Whereas marajuana is a plant with THC in it, CBD is simply one cannabinoid compound. Our body actually produces its own cannabinoids that are similar to CBD. While FDA is still currently investigating the effects of CBD and determining its safety, it has approved THC and marajuana for medical use. This is because of the FDA’s understanding of the Endocannabinoid system. Check out this fascinating and quick slide presentation on the FDA website about the Endocannabinoid System and THC.
CBD is still being evaluated by FDA, so medical claims about it’s benefits are not permitted on websites or in sales copy. All health claims that you have heard about CBD are considered anecdotal by the FDA. Until large-scale, clinical studies are submitted by companies and reviewed by the FDA, producers of CBD oil, while allowed to sell CBD products in nearly all 50 states, cannot use anecdotal health claims to describe CBD and its effects on the body.
CBD, being a cannabinoid, is assumed to effect our Endocannabinoid System(ECS). As our body produces compounds similar to CBD that attach to receptors in the ECS the FDA is now actively looking at the CBD compound to determine what risks or benefits it may present.
Important to remember is that CBD does not make a person feel ‘high’. This is because CBD oil and marijuana are fundamentally different in the amount of THC (or lack thereof) they contain. This is the reason that you can purchase CBD oil at most local grocers and pharmacies, but if you want the effects of THC you would have to visit a marijuana dispensary in a state where THC is legal for recreational or medical use.
A Summary of how the Endocannabinoid System Works in the Body
The Endocannabinoid System was only just discovered in the last 40 years. In the 1980s researchers discovered that our body had a group of neuromodulatory lipids each with a corresponding receptor that functions as a system responsible for regulating immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems at the cellular level. That means that certain stimuli could trigger this system to assist the body in some of its most important functions! Needless to say, it was an enormous reckoning in the medical community. Studies began immediately and in earnest to understand the effects of THC and marijuana on the brain and because this new system had receptors that THC attaches itself to the results of decades of research mapped out more of how exactly the body is using it.
In a nutshell, the ECS has 2 main receptors known as CB1 and CB2. Think of these as keyholes that are awaiting the certain keys to turn them on. The keys in our metaphor are enzymes and lipids that our body produces naturally. While THC acts as a key in binding itself to these receptors, CBD acts more as a catalyst that helps break down certain acids and lipids to regulate the ‘keys’ that our body produces naturally. There are several studies completed and ongoing that the FDA is currently evaluating to determine the true impact and safety of CBD has on our endocannabinoid system.
The Process of farming Hemp
Hemp farming is not much different than farming other crops such as corn. The difference comes in the harvest and curing process and starts with the selection of CBD grade strains and seeds. In order to sell hemp and its derivative products such as CBD oil, the cannabis strain must meet the criteria of no more than .03% THC present in the plant. In many cases, by the time the plant is harvested and turned into CBD oil, there is no THC that remains in the product making it truly THC-free.
There are many viable strains and seeds in the United States today that meet these criteria and every year more strains are being tested and added to the list of farmable hemp. Once the seed is selected, planting is best done in early spring however planting as late as July has yielded a successful crop as well. This is a hardy plant and while it needs moisture in the beginning, its true love is sunshine and hot weather. Generally, fertilizer is spread on the acreage with sufficient nitrogen to get the plants going. Additionally, a ground cover is used to help prevent pests and to get each plant off to a great start.
A single acre of land can yield anywhere from 1500 to 4000 hemp plants depending on the needs of that particular strain. The biggest burden to outdoor growers of hemp is that you cannot utilize herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides while cultivating your crop. This means that weeding can be a labor-intensive process. Alternatively, there are many growers who make use of greenhouses for part or all of the growth cycle. Using a greenhouse method helps greatly reduce the pest problem while allowing much more control of the grow process. Proper ventilation nearly eliminates mold and fungus issues while weeds are kept at bay at the same time.
The other obstacle to farming hemp is that you must use all-female plants which requires vigilance as the plants mature. After about two months, the plants are reaching maturity. It is at this time that farmers of hemp must scour the crop to ensure that no male plants matured by accident. If a male plant is allowed to pollinate the rest of the crop then the female plants will begin to seed. This is the opposite of what the farmer wants. For this reason, it’s imperative that no seeding occurs in the female plants and that all-male plants are disposed of quickly.
After around 4 months the hemp plants are ready to be harvested. This process is often done by hand as equipment well suited to the task has not been implemented yet. The plants are dried either artificially or in the sun for nearly two weeks when they are trimmed for maximum CBD yield. In the end, the farmer wants at least a 10% CBD yield in the crop.
At this point, the plant is transferred to a lab where the raw material is transformed into the CBD oil that you see online and in the stores.
The 2018 Farming Bill: The CBD industry is Born!
This new and explosive industry would not have happened if not for the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill which included the language that finally allowed farmers in the U.S. to cultivate hemp for industrial and commercial purposes.
A long time ago, hemp was a staple crop of the United States. Since our founding and all the way until the 1930’s, hemp was produced and exported as an important commercial crop. Hemp can be used to make everything from clothes to paper and has enjoyed widespread popularity for thousands of years.
However, in the 1930s titans of competing petroleum industries lobbied the U.S. government to limit hemp production. They were successful and the production of Hemp in the country began its steady decline. Then in the 1970s, with the government’s focus on drugs and narcotics widely used during the social revolution of the late 1960s, hemp was thrown into the same lot as other schedule-1 drugs and all hemp farming in the country came to a screeching halt.
Fast forward to 2018 and now hemp is back and in a big way across the nation. In the last several years, acreage of hemp in the country has grown exponentially with the demand for new products that can be derived from it.
How CBD is extracted and turned into Products
CBD is extracted from the hemp plant through a process that involves a solvent and a distillation process. The most common method is to soak the dried plant in ethanol or alcohol solution which removes the CBD from the plant. The resulting compound is distilled to remove impurities and emulsified with an edible-oil or water to create the CBD oil in the bottles that you’ve seen.
Alternatively, there are newer methods involving high pressure and CO2 which can extract the CBD from the plant to create the oil. These methods are more expensive at the moment but some consider them more efficient as there is no leftover waste at the end of the process.
CBD oil by itself does not have a pleasant taste. For this reason, it is almost always combined with a flavor additive, either natural or artificial to make the oil more palatable. Methods for altering the taste of CBD oil are varied and there is no one standard formula in the industry today.
How to Know your CBD oil is legitimate
There are so many scams out there online right now that are claiming to sell CBD oil when in fact they are selling simple hemp seed oil. Let’s chat about the difference between these two products and what to look out for as you shop online.
Hemp seed oil is nutritious for the body but contains none of the infused CBD compound that some sellers claim. If you check a seller site such as Amazon.com you will find many bottles of oil advertising themselves as CBD oil. If you dig through the reviews of people you will invariably find someone who has had the product tested only to show that in fact there is no CBD in the oil and that it is simply hemp seeds ground into oil.
This is a very deceptive practice on the part of many companies trying to cash in on the ‘CBD craze’ that has swept the marketplace. The truth is that the regulation of this industry has not kicked into gear yet. The result is that banks and large companies such as Amazon and Google have severe restrictions and outright bans at the moment to anyone selling CBD online. Until the banks get behind the CBD trend, these draconian rules will remain in place. This means that if you see CBD oil for sale on Amazon you are likely looking at a misleading or fraudulent product.
If you want to know if your CBD oil is legitimate look online or ask your vendor to show you the lab breakdown of all of the compounds present in their product. Any seller of real CBD oil will have this document handy and visible to ensure their customers that the product is totally legitimate!
CBD is not marijuana but they do come from the same species of plant. Studies currently undertaken concerning CBD are not yet verified by the FDA and discussing anecdotal health effects is discouraged both online and relatively prohibited to aid in sales of CBD. As the industry evolves and the FDA begins to seriously study this compound and the effects on the human body, it is our hope that CBD will gain validity as a potential gamechanger to people’s daily nutritional regimen. The one thing that appears certain at this point, however, is that CBD and CBD related products are here to stay.