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Snakes In The Grass:

The Truth about CBD

As cannabis is becoming more widely accepted both medicinally and recreationally, the biggest buzzword bandied about is CBD. Every few years a new fad, like acai, turmeric, or kombucha, emerges among the health conscious. Some have more efficacy than others, but they all have several factors in common. People endorse and swear by their healing properties and ability to benefit health, and a group of shrewd snake oil salesman get rich in the process, regardless of whether they work or not. CBD is the latest trend.

CBD is showing great promise as an effective medical treatment for a host of conditions including chronic pain, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, MS, inflammation, spasms, anxiety, PTSD, depression and more. As anecdotal reports give way to clinical research results, more people are enthusiastically wanting to get on the CBD bandwagon. Because it lacks the mind-altering psychoactive effects of its cousin, THC, a wide range of people—from parents with autistic children, to people seeking relief for grandparents, are lining up to try this natural remedy.

So, what is CBD, and how is it different? Cannabidiol is a compound that occurs within the genus of Cannabaceae plants, which comprises both hemp and cannabis. Although these plants are from the same lineage, they possess significant differences, two, more importantly. Cannabis can produce high levels of THC—the psychoactive component, and hemp only generates trace amounts. That is easy to distinguish. More difficult to differentiate is the CBD component, that both species produce. Shakespeare said a rose is as sweet by any other name—not so for CBD.

As a cannabis counsellor in a medical clinic, I assist new patients daily who have bought over the counter CBD oil from a variety of dubious sources such as culture stores, online vendors, corner stores, flea markets—you name it. Some purport to have achieved some level of relief from these products. I never doubt them. They may have, whether legitimately or by placebo effect.  Instead, I ask them to consider a few factors. First, they have no idea what is in their oil, or how it’s made. Other than what the vendor claimed, how can they verify? The oil could have any number of contaminants or toxic ingredients. Even if the producer had the best intentions, were banned pesticides used? Was it tested for common problems like mold? Was the CBD concentration tested by a certified laboratory? Ironically, the prices they report paying are about the same, or even higher than the licensed medical producers charge.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 52 people in Utah became ill from aftermarket CBD oil and 31 of them sought treatment in an emergency room, earlier this year. Two US army personnel in North Carolina died from ingesting tainted CBD oil in January. There are dozens of similar stories that paint the same picture—CBD from untested sources is dangerous. People are getting rich and people are getting sick as a result. The only way to avoid this is to get legitimate product from the medical system. CBD from one of the dozens of Canadian Government-approved, inspected and lab-tested Licensed Producers assures the product’s safety and efficacy.

Even if hemp CBD was produced by the same stringent standards as medical CBD, it would still fail to compare, due to genetic differences. One hemp plant can produce a CBD concentration of approximately 3.5%. To be able to make a high concentration hemp CBD oil, a large volume of hemp is required. Hemp is primarily an outdoor crop. Hemp is also what is known as a bioaccumulator. It is so effective at leeching substances from the soil it grows in, hemp is planted to clean up toxic industrial spills. In other words, whatever substances or impurities the soil possesses ends up in the plant, then the oil.

One cannabis plant, conversely, can produce a concentration of CBD up to 20%. Medical cannabis is grown indoors under the most stringent, monitored conditions. It is produced under government-mandated standards that dictate all aspects of what can be used to produce it—from nutrients to pesticides—and lab-tested to insure it adheres to those protocols. The process is far more stringent than anything the pharmaceutical industry is required to undergo.

Hemp products have insidiously popped up in a plethora of forms across Canada. You can find a diverse range of products from CBD drinks, to lollipops to dog biscuits, all offering some sort of relief. Health Canada and the Federal Government have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that these products are absolutely illegal. Lack of enforcement has led to the mistaken assumption, and incorrect claims by most vendors and manufacturers, that they are legal--because they contain no THC. The law states that product derived from the cannabis family of plants requires a doctor’s prescription. They will be hawked with impunity, however, until the penalty outweighs the handsome profits. Don’t waste your money. When legalization occurs October 17th, non-medical patients will finally have access to safe, cannabis-derived CBD from approved and tested sources. Until then, beware of snakes in the grass.

Rick Gillman is a medical cannabis patient, consultant, and veteran freelance writer. He is involved in medical cannabis research and breeding projects--creating more effective medicine. He works for Canadian Cannabis Clinics as a Medical Outreach Educator out of the Collingwood, Ontario clinic.