For the CBD industry, the last couple years have been a tumultuous ride. While the shifting legal issues of states and nationalities continuously confuse the conversation, medical research on the applications and uses of CBD oil continues on unabated. The result is a CBD industry whose message or narrative becomes a confusing mishmash of health theories, pseudoscience, and an overwhelming barrage of news reports full of legalese.
Outside of enthusiasts and those actually working in the industry, there is very little public knowledge about the reality of the benefits of CBD and its legal status.
In order to try and remedy this in some small way, we have compiled an overview of the CBD Industry as it stands today in both the scientific and legal worlds.
The Medical Claims
Before we jump into the mess that is the state of CBD legal issues, I think we should first establish where the medical and scientific research seems to stand. Most everyone has heard of anecdotal cases where CBD was used as a miracle cure for this or that, but very few have dug into the research that either backs or disagrees with these claims.
I want to share with you quickly what we found in our research of the research, followed by some comments on those very public CBD miracle cure claims.
For the record, this is not an exhaustive list of even our own research. There are a plethora of studies and reports on each one of these topics. This is merely some of the most notable and exciting research to date. Keep in mind that CBD research is very much in the fetal stage, having really just picked up momentum in the last half-decade. Most studies are currently still underway.
The American Epilepsy Society released a study early in 2017 titled the “Efficacy and Safety of Epidiolex (Cannabidiol) in Children and Young Adults With Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy.” In the study, it was found that both the severity and rate of seizures in both children and adults was drastically decreased. A resulting general reduction in seizures of around 32% overall.
Glaucoma seems to be the most highly researched aspect of the effects of CBD so far. Most of the conclusions of studies so far were all more or less the same. (Besides one study that showed an increase in IOP after CBD usage, though this was with only a group of 6 subjects and ran contrary to a number of other more extensive studies.) The consensus seems to be that Cannabinoids are a potential IOP-lowering treatment for glaucoma, with topical and oral methods being the ones most highly recommended.
You can summarize this with: ‘CBD helps people with Glaucoma, but we don’t know why.’
Here some related studies:
Cannabinoids and glaucoma British Journal of Ophthalmology 2004;88:708-713. | Link | omida I, Pertwee RG, Azuara-Blanco
The British Journal of Ophthalmology states that cannabinoids do have the ability to lower the intraocular pressure (IOP – the cause of most glaucoma) and could be potentially useful in the treatment of glaucoma.
Effect of the enzyme inhibitor, phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride, on the IOP profiles of topical anandamides. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science Volume 43, Issue 2, 2002, Pages 393-397 | Laine, K., Järvinen, K., Pate, D.W., Urtti, A., Järvinen, T. Dept. of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Kuopio, PO Box 1627, FIN-70211 Kuopio, Finland
This is rather complex but is summarized nicely with The arguments for and against cannabinoids application in glaucomatous retinopathy. To keep this simple, the findings found that a synthetic cannabinoid named WIN-55-212-2 affected cannabinoid receptors in such a way that it caused a significant reduction of IOP (the cause of glaucoma) in glaucomatous rabbits (the reviewed article said rats, while the study itself seems to state rabbits). This study was later cited by a series of follow up studies that came to similar conclusions.
Other Ongoing Studies
Early in 2017, USA today reported on current research being conducted in Israel. After some doctors reported seeing positive outcomes with autistic patients with CBD oils, the resources were committed to a more significant study. Though it looks promising, it is still too early for any concrete statements. Related article here.
There are numerous studies, completed and ongoing, dealing with CBD and treating addiction:
Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: preliminary findings. | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23685330
A portion of a group of smokers was given a CBD inhaler and the others received a placebo. Those who had the CBD inhaler reduced their smoking by 40% when compared with the placebo group. The scientists summarized this study nicely by saying: “These preliminary data..suggest CBD as a potential treatment for nicotine addiction, warranting further exploration.”
Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence | http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC4444130/#
This is a fairly comprehensive summary of the studies that have been conducted on this topic. They state that preliminary data suggests that CBD may be beneficial in treating tobacco addiction in humans though they state that further studies are needed to fully evaluate CBD as a possible intervention for addiction.
Dr. Robin Downing, a veterinarian and the hospital director at the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colo. was quoted as saying that CBD for pets was “good in theory.” Since dogs also have cannabinoid receptors, there is solid scientific reasoning for thinking CBD could benefit dogs in many of the same ways as it does for humans.
In 2016 CBD was found to be safe enough to test on dogs.There are currently multiple studies explicitly examining the effects of CBD in dogs. Most of which have nearly completed finding their test pups. These tests include osteoarthritis, epilepsy, and more. Link to a request for dogs for a current study in Colorado
A Note on the High Publicity Miracle Cases
Many people (myself included) have had personal experience with the curative, or at least beneficial, effects of CBD. When my father was in the last weeks of dying from prostate cancer, the only times he would have an appetite was after taking CBD oils. It’s not the biggest deal, but it is hard to describe just how important it is to see your father actually eating after days of struggle.
There are thousands of minor cases like this being written about and talked about every week. As with most anecdotal examples, however, the political capital they carry with them is limited.
This is a small message to the CBD industry insiders:
Many of these stories may very well be true (and with CBD I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt). However, these single cases are likely not representative of the effects on the public as a whole. The CBD proponents need to move away from the focus on these “miracle” cases and instead, work towards educating the public on the actual research being conducted. The “miracle” articles often still get the most views due to the nature of their headlines – and I believe this is starting to have a detrimental effect on public perception. The marketing of CBD in this way has done much to get the topic into the public sphere, but it has also put the substance at risk of being regarded as the next form of over-hyped snake oil. A tempered, balanced and scientifically minded approach to CBD promotion is necessary for the industry moving forward.
The Legality of CBD Oils
It is important to state upfront that it is perfectly legal (or at least free from legal prosecution) in the vast majority of cases for you as an individual buyer to go out and purchase CBD oils and vaporizers at this time. Having said that, the legal state of the industry is utterly confused.
There is no clear answer on the technical legality of CBD Oils. Most interpret the current state of affairs as “The DEA considers it illegal, yet it remains available online and in retail stores.” while I will get into the DEA’s latest statements in a little bit – it is important to note for all you skim readers that CBD oils are not inherently illegal. Practically speaking the legality currently depends on how individual enforcement agencies and communities choose to interpret and enforce current policies.
The lack of a clear answer on the legality of CBD oils has bred chaos in scientific circles, sports leagues, and the healthcare community as they each try to figure out where they stand on the issue and how they can best manage the various moving parts.
The UFC, CBD, and USADA
A recent spate of headlines involving the MMA world have been grabbing attention. These developments provide an excellent case study for the current state of CBD in the public consciousness.
The Diaz brothers, favorites of the diehard MMA crowd, have made numerous comments about CBD and how it plays into their workout regime. In fact, after the huge UFC 202 fight with Mcgregor, Nate openly puffed on a CBD vape pen during his press conference.
The other brother, Nick, was infamously given a 5-year ban (it has since been reduced) after UFC 183 for his use of recreational marijuana – while his opponent was given a single year ban for the use of steroids.
Joe Rogan, a commentator for the UFC, has been openly outspoken in favor of the DIaz brothers right to enjoy both CBD and Marijuana – and about the possible health benefits of doing so.
The result is that the UFC has taken the primary spot in the debate around CBD oils and professional athletics with USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) as the focal point. This is very much a current and active debate. In fact, within the last couple weeks of writing this article. USADA officially removed CBD form the Banned Substances List as long as it does not contain a high THC content (THC remains banned).
The Latest from the DEA
While organizations, businesses, and local communities are all deciding for themselves how they want to deal with CBD the federal government continues to remain relatively vague and selective in both its statements and enforcement of laws. Bouncing between a hands off approach and making the occasional examples of people in high profile cases have left many scratching their heads at just where the enforcement arm of the federal government stands on these issues.
At the very end of 2016, the DEA implemented a rule regarding CBD and marijuana extract titled the “Final Rule establishing a new Controlled Substance Code Number (drug code) for marijuana extract.” In short, this turned CBD into a schedule 1 drug (the most restricted category) even though CBD was never listed as a controlled substance on the CSA, and can be sourced from legal plants. For this reason, the DEA is currently a defendant in a lawsuit filed in the 9th Circuit.
Now that stance seems pretty firm, especially given that the title of the rule contains “The Final Rule…” but only a few months later, in March of 2017 the DEA softened this stance and acknowledged CBD is legal if it is sourced from a legal part of the cannabis plant. So after saying the “Final Rule” was that CBD was a controlled schedule 1 drug, the DEA then openly admitted that CBD itself is legal depending on where it comes from.
Simply put, the federal government has stated that some cannabinoids are actually legal substances yet has failed to reflect this view in any meaningful way outside of just not enforcing current policies on the books. This has left many in the industry understandably confused and annoyed.