What was once a despised 'drug', Cannabis has become tremendously popular in recent years. This is not to say that it wasn't ever a sought-after substance. The Cannabis plant has been used in varying degrees for thousands of years. From a recreational party product to a healing remedy, its prominence among people has always existed. But, its use was mainly under the radar until now. This was due to the fact that Cannabis consumption was illegal across the globe for many, many years. Recently, countries around the world have begun assessing the potential use of Cannabis as a medication - and the benefits are becoming clearer by the day. Consequently, many countries have begun decriminalizing or legalizing the substance entirely. While the laws differ from country to country, and state to state in the US, the legalization has given rise to even more debates and discussions around this plant. There is, however, still a lot of confusion surrounding the plant and its properties. One of the grey areas is cannabidiol (or CBD). In this article, we will outline everything you need to know about cannabidiol and the cannabidiol legal status in the US.
What is Cannabidiol?
Cannabidiol is a chemical compound found within the Marijuana (Cannabis Indica) plant as well as the Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) plant. CBD is one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in each of these plants. Before we can understand how CBD differs from other cannabinoids, let's take a closer look at cannabinoids themselves.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found within Cannabis plants that impact the cannabinoid receptors in the cells. These receptors are responsible for altering neurotransmitter release in the brain (1). Each cannabinoid compound works differently. This is the reason why different strains of marijuana or hemp induce different effects.
The most prominent cannabinoid you've likely come across is phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC). This cannabinoid is known for its psychoactive effects - it induces a 'high'. Another abundant cannabinoid compound is cannabinol (CBN). CBN is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. Hence, it does not provide the user with a 'high'.
Cannabidiol is also a non-psychoactive substance. For this reason, researchers suggest that it is one of the optimal cannabinoids for remedying anxiety without paranoia, a common side effect of THC consumption (2). This is just one of the potential health benefits of consuming it. We will discuss more in detail a little later on in this article. Before we can outline the benefits, we need to know how CBD works.
Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound that offers a range of health benefits. It can be found in all cannabis plants in abundance. Its primary function is to positively impact the brain's signaling system.
How Does CBD Work?
As discussed above, not all cannabinoids have a psychoactive effect on the body. This particular cannabinoid compound cannot be considered psychotropic. This essentially means that the consumption of it will not instill euphoric sensations or alter your perception of reality (3). This may not sound appealing to the thrill seekers or those chasing a 'high'. After all, we have grown to believe that the consumption of marijuana should provide a life-changing experience. While this may be true to some degree for THC-based products, it is also somewhat true of non-psychoactive products. Why, you may ask? Well, the tremendous health benefits are still experienced by those that consume CBD. Some even suggest that it may be more beneficial than THC (4). It may not be altering your reality, but, it still works on the brain. The difference is in the way that it interacts with our body's natural cannabinoid receptors. Cannabidiol, like cannabinol, targets proteins in the brain as well as the nervous system which regulate cell activity.
While further research is being done into how it actually affects the brain, there is substantial evidence that its effects are positive. One particular study highlights researchers theories about its role in affecting the brain. Their results suggest that it resets abnormal activity in essential brain areas. Their findings are based on a study in which half of the study group received a placebo while the other half were given 600 mg of CBD. The participant's brains were scanned with a fMRI scanner while they completed a brain-engaging memory task. The group who took CBD showed fewer brain abnormalities (5). This study highlights one of the potential roles it has in altering our brain's signaling systems. Others suggest that it also acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. You can read more on these studies here. The more we discuss the substance, the clearer its benefits become. But before we describe them in detail, let's look at the cannabidiol legal status in the US today.
Though its effects differ from psychotropic cannabinoids, it still has an extremely positive effect on the brain and body. Studies showcase its ability to encourage brain performance. The fact that it doesn't induce a 'high' makes it an appealing health alternative to THC.
Is CBD Legal?
This is the big question and this is also where things can start to become a little more confusing. Many states have legalized marijuana, either certain forms of it or in its entirety. Having said that, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration continues to classify it as a schedule 1 Drug federally. This means that it is considered a drug with no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse (6). However, there are exceptions and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Epidolex, a treatment that contains Cannabidiol. Furthermore, Hemp producers use the 2014 Farm Bill to claim legal production. Despite it remaining illegal federally, each state has different laws to allow the production and consumption of Marijuana. We will outline these states below:
States Where Marijuana Remains Illegal:
- South Dakota
States Where Marijuana is Fully Legal:
States Where Medical Marijuana is Legal:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
States Where Only CBD Oil is Legal:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The laws governing the use of it are confusing, especially considering the fact that it is going through a transitional phase. However, each state has specific policies in place determining whether you can use it completely, certain forms of it, or not at all.
Does Cannabidiol Offer Health Benefits?
The rise in popularity for the use of it as well as the fact that many states have legalized it are a testament to the health benefits of this substance. A number of studies support the health benefits and while more research needs to be done, greater strides are being made every day. Here are a few of the key health benefits of consuming it:
The use of marijuana for pain relief dates back thousands of years. However, recent research is starting to provide anecdotal evidence that it can remedy pain. CBD, for example, has been shown to reduce pain.
The body contains a natural endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is responsible for regulating sleep, appetite, pain and immune response. This system works by binding neurotransmitters to cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system. This signals specific brain responses. The CBD cannabinoid has been shown to reduce inflammation and prevent pain by impacting the activity of the receptors (7).
Acne is an uncomfortable skin condition that many individuals suffer from. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, as well as its ability to reduce sebum production, may counter factors which contribute to the condition - such as overproduction of sebum on the skin.
This benefit is backed up by studies in which the oil prevented excessive sebum secretion from the sebaceous gland cells. Furthermore, it was shown to reduce inflammation and prevent the activation of cytokines which contribute to acne (8).
Fighting Cancer Symptoms
One of the more appealing benefits of these oils is its ability to fight symptoms of cancer or cancer treatment. It may limit nausea, vomiting, and pain. Studies have shown its role in alleviating pain related to cancer and reducing nausea from chemotherapy (9). While other products are offered to prevent the onset of these discomforting symptoms, they often prove ineffective. This alternative remedy provides users with essential alternative options.
Anxiety and Depression Prevention
The increasing levels of anxiety and depression among US citizens are alarming. These severe mental health problems can lead to devastating results. Depression is a global epidemic and beneficial treatments are essential. Especially alternative ones that do not lead to adverse side effects. Drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, and headaches are a few of the side effects that users may experience when taking ineffective medication.
There has been great promise shown are studies regarding the use of these oils to combat anxiety and depression. Recent studies highlight that a control group experienced less anxiety, improved cognitive function, and better speech performance when they received 600 mg of the substance (10).
Furthermore, the substance may relieve insomnia as well as increase serotonin. This can lead to improved brain and body function.
Its ability to lower high blood pressure is one of the beneficial ways that it can support heart health. High blood pressure contributes to strokes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Studies which showcase the oils ability to lower blood pressure bode well for its use as a heart supporting medication (11). Its ability to reduce inflammation, cell death, and oxidative stress further support cardiovascular health.
The role that it plays in impacting the endocannabinoid system, as well as brain signaling systems, may positively impact neurological functioning. Thus, preventing the onset of neurological disorders.
Epilepsy and multiple sclerosis are two particular conditions that the oil has been used to remedy. In multiple studies, the use of it has shown a reduction in the frequency of seizures among test subjects as well as medication resistance (12).
The medical and recreational use of it has a number of important health benefits. Clinical studies highlight its ability to relieve pain, reduce acne, fight cancer symptoms, prevent anxiety and depression, support heart health and protect the neurological system.
Is It Completely Safe?
While the studies have shown extremely beneficial results, they are still in the early stages. There is a lot more research that needs to be done to conclusively highlight the benefits of it. In some studies, participants experienced negative side effects. For example, nausea and vomiting were experienced by patients consuming it for seizure prevention. This, while it does not suggest use is harmful, indicates that it may not be ideal for every individual. Other side effects have been noted by individuals who have used the substance recreationally or medically. These include:
- Changes in appetite
Furthermore, it may interact with other medication. These side effects are by no means an indication that it is unsafe. In fact, there is no evidence suggesting that there are fatal or detrimental health effects. The concerns are more regarding the lack of regulation and inconclusive studies which surround the use of it. In saying so, it would be wise to take a minimal dosage as you grow accustomed to the substance if you wish to consume it legally.
While there is no evidence suggesting use is bad for you, it has been known to induce a few minor side effects. These effects are not experienced by all, therefore, reaction to the substance is entirely subjective.
Should You Take It?
Marijuana is not for everyone. The psychoactive components of certain cannabinoids can actually induce anxiety and paranoia. That said, this is entirely subjective as does not occur with everyone. If you wish to take it recreationally (and it is legal in your state), then it is in your best interest to opt for smaller doses, to begin with. It is up to you to decide whether it works for your body or not. If you have been medically prescribed it, then it would be extremely beneficial to take it. This is because of the important health benefits it offers with minimal side effects. If you do experience side effects then consult your practitioner or reduce your dosage. We cannot endorse the consumption of it entirely but its benefits cannot be ignored.