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What is CBD?

Carolyn BerkDecember 27, 2019

CBD has entered the mainstream in a major way. It seems like you can find it everywhere, including spas, juice bars, health and wellness stores - even pet shops!

Despite its prevalence, misconceptions and unverified claims about some CBD products remain widespread. Read on to get acquainted with the background and benefits of CBD, and to understand why it's creating such a big buzz and spawning a booming market.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many chemical compounds called “cannabinoids" found in cannabis. Like its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the amount of CBD in cannabis varies from strain to strain.

CBD is found in many of the strains that medical marijuana patients use. CBD is also extracted from hemp. (Cannabis is classified as hemp when it is harvested with less than 0.3% THC content.) In fact, CBD is a major reason why it's now legal to cultivate hemp in the U.S. The high demand for CBD, and the massive economic potential behind it, contributed to the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, and is the reason why we see CBD products in retail locations such as gas stations, airports, and pet supply stores.

Why doesn't CBD get you high?

Like THC and other cannabinoids, CBD stimulates receptors in your body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). However, THC and CBD activate different receptors, which is why they each impact cannabis consumers in very different ways. THC triggers receptors that lead to the psychoactive, high feeling that marijuana is known for. This means cannabis strains with low levels of THC but high amounts of CBD can still provide many of the same benefits, without impacting your mental clarity.

If you're looking for daytime help managing mental ailments or pain while working, in class, or out and about, CBD could be a great option for you. Many people use it regularly in the form of capsules, tinctures, gummies and topicals, without the high feeling that they usually experience from products with THC.

And if you do want to feel high, but have avoided cannabis out of concern for the anxiety or paranoia that some THC-rich strains can produce in many people, CBD can be a promising option for you. CBD has been shown to help patients with the consumption of marijuana, so ask your budtender for a strain with a high CBD and lower THC content, and find a comfortable, calm place to give it a try.

What are the benefits of CBD?

CBD was propelled into the spotlight thanks to a revolutionary strain called Charlotte's Web. Created for a young girl who regularly suffered severe seizures due to Dravet's Syndrome, this high-CBD strain provided critical relief. Charlotte's Web is reported to have dramatically reduced the number of her seizures without any psychoactive effects.

CBD has the potential to become a regular fixture in the doctor's office. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized CBD as a real medicine by approving the prescription CBD product Epidiolex.

Is CBD legal?

When it comes to federal law, CBD products are legal if they come from hemp that contains less than .3% THC. But buyer beware: some states, like Iowa and Virginia, put restrictions on who can buy and possess CBD and or CBD products. There is still a lot of gray area surrounding laws on CBD and cannabis in general, and lack of clarity and consistent enforcement among police, so know your rights and expect this to evolve.

If you anticipate a drug test in the near future, CBD consumption may be a factor to consider. Even in hemp-derived CBD products, low levels of THC can show up on a drug test. While the amount present isn't even enough to make you feel high (or get you in trouble with the law), it is still something to keep in mind depending on your professional field and the jobs for which your apply.

CBD is here, there and everywhere!

Vitamins. Coffee. Dog treats. Skincare. If it seems like CBD is all over, that's because it is. CBD that is extracted from hemp is legal and available on the open market in the U.S. However, it is also unregulated, which means not all products actually provide the dubious claims that are advertised.

As with any new wellness product, do your research ahead of time. Additionally, it never hurts to stick to the golden rule - start slow and stay low. And make sure to discuss with your doctor any medications you are taking with your CBD so you can avoid or prepare for known drug interactions.

Carolyn Berk Lantern Author 
Carolyn Berk
Carolyn Berk got her start working in both radio and TV before applying her journalism skills to the cannabis industry. She is currently a content marketer and an active member of the New England cannabis community.