What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
Unless you’ve deliberately turned off the news over the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard about cannabidiol, or more commonly referred to as CBD. Often marketed or touted as the cannabis material that won’t give you a high, CBD represents the other equation behind the contentious debate over marijuana legalization.
With cannabidiol, the emphasis is focused firmly on therapeutic effects. Because it won’t lever a negative psychoactive effect, end-users from a wider demographic than is possible with THC-laden marijuana can enjoy CBD. Furthermore, scientific and medical institutions are actively conducting high-level research into the underlying cannabis plant to discover more naturally sourced health applications.
But the real beauty of cannabidiol is its incredible diversity and ease of introduction. While the mainstream media tends to spotlight CBD’s possible applications toward chronic diseases or conditions, people have used cannabidiol across the full spectrum of conditions, ranging from the typical aches and pains up to more serious situations.
Yet what exactly is cannabidiol and what are the longer-term implications for this groundbreaking discovery? In this guideline, we’ll discuss the following points:
- What is CBD?
- How CBD differs from marijuana?
- Is CBD legal in the U.S.?
- Best ways to use CBD?
- The economics of CBD
First, let’s address the pivotal question: what exactly is CBD?
What Is Cannabidiol?
As the name suggests, cannabidiol is a derivative of the cannabis sativa plant. Specifically, CBD is a cannabinoid, or chemical compound of cannabis. Currently, scientists have identified 113 cannabinoids, of which CBD is one. Inarguably, the most commonly discussed cannabinoid is the notorious tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short.
This is perhaps the easiest component to discuss about the organic nature of CBD. From here on out, much confusion reigns, which has contributed in limiting the proliferation of cannabidiol. Yet a basic grounding in the essential facts is crucial to understanding the nuances of legal cannabis.
First and foremost, cannabidiol shares many similarities to the illegal and socially maligned THC cannabinoid. From a molecular standpoint, CBD contains 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, written as C21H30O2.
But where the confusion comes in is that THC also integrates the same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. Even more startling to the uninitiated, the chemical formula for THC is exactly the same as CBD, C21H30O2.
So, how does CBD differentiate itself from THC, as they clearly have different effects to the end-user? A simple variance in the arrangement of the elements – precisely, the location of one of the hydrogen atoms – makes all the difference. While this is seemingly an insignificant detail, it underlines the myriad conflicts, confusion, and debates behind legal cannabis-based products.
Nevertheless, it is this detail that also underlines the broader narrative of CBD as a “miracle” compound. Although that term is used tongue-in-cheek within the industry, it demonstrates that CBD is one of the few naturally sourced platforms in which you can have your cake and eat it too.
Consider that with cannabidiol, you can enjoy much of the benefits of medical marijuana therapies but without the legal repercussions or the negative psychoactive effects – the so-called high from smoking a joint, for example.
And this is the principle reason why CBD has gained tremendous popularity within the mainstream. Those who were “botanically curious” about the cannabis plant’s health-related effects – but were rightfully afraid of the legal consequences of illegally procured cannabis – now have an acceptable pathway toward use and experimentation.
- Cannabidiol, or CBD is a cannabinoid – a chemical compound – of the cannabis sativa plant. From a molecular view, CBD has 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, just like the controversial cannabinoid THC. The difference, though, is that CBD has a distinct arrangement, resulting in unique user experiences relative to THC.
How CBD Differs from Marijuana
Despite the uncomfortable associations and implications, the scientific fact is that CBD is almost identical to THC. With the same molecular structure only differentiated by elemental arrangement, it’s not surprising that cannabidiol and the THC from marijuana offer similar holistic benefits.
Unfortunately, the molecular connection between CBD and THC leads to inaccurate assumptions, which often materializes in the form of misguided, draconian policies. Chiefly, this confusion drives the overall narrative of the legal cannabis industry: lack of good information may have severe consequences.
One of the most important distinctions to remember is that CBD is not marijuana; rather, CBD is similar to THC, which is a cannabinoid of the cannabis indica plant. On the other hand, CBD is typically derived from the cannabis sativa plant.
Of course, to the average person that’s not involved in the botanical arts, this distinction appears extremely granular. While that may be the case at the molecular level, it’s in the legal arena where the dissimilarity becomes critical.
In 2018, both Republicans and Democrats came together in a rare showing of bipartisanship to pass into law an updated farm bill. Admittedly, most of the language is related to the specifics of agriculture – not pressing material unless you’re involved in the profession.
However, the 2018 farm bill had one very critical piece of language: cannabis materials are federally legal if they are “hemp and hemp-derived products.” With one stroke of the pen – metaphorically speaking – almost a century of legal prosecution vanished.
Well, not quite, which we’ll discuss later. But the key point about the farm bill is that legality only applies to materials under the hemp umbrella. As marijuana is not part of that umbrella, it remains a Schedule I drug.
But ere’s another confusing element: cannabidiol (CBD) can be derived from either hemp or marijuana. Thus, the question isn’t about if CBD is different from marijuana; rather, the real line of inquiry is what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
The answer again might confuse the lay observer and the CBD curious: almost nothing. In fact, hemp and marijuana are often indistinguishable physically, leading to awkwardly dangerous exchanges with law enforcement in some cases.
Botanically, while CBD is typically derived from the cannabis sativa plant, it truly can come from any strain of the cannabis genus. Thus, CBD can be sourced from hemp or it can be sourced from marijuana. Furthermore, as cannabis expert Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D. stated:
“…the CBD molecule and its associated pharmacology are the same, whether it was extracted from hemp or from marijuana. CBD is CBD, regardless of where it was originally derived from…”
Thus, if you consume CBD, from a biological perspective, the origination of that CBD doesn’t matter. For instance, the same smartphone purchased from one retailer features the exact same specs from that purchased from a different retailer. As Riggle stated, CBD is CBD.
- One of the most confusing topics within legal cannabis, CBD is legally different from marijuana. However, from a technical perspective, not much separates the two. The latter is a name typically given to the cannabis indica plant which contains an illegal amount of THC. On the other hand, the former is a non-negative psychoactive bearing cannabinoid which is typically derived from cannabis sativa, but can also be derived from cannabis indica, or marijuana.
Is CBD Legal in the U.S.?
As groundbreaking as the 2018 farm bill was, we must remember one thing: this bill was a product of government bureaucracy. As such, we can expect much confusion to arise. In fact, it was already doomed at conception because politicians simply do not understand the nuanced differences when they use terms like CBD, THC, marijuana and cannabis.
But can we at least depend on CBD being legal in the U.S.? For practical intents and purposes, the answer is of course a yes. Botanical retailers have sprouted up like wildfire in recent years, selling CBD-based oils, tinctures, topicals and edibles to an increasingly curious public. Even if there were some questions, on a de facto basis, federal agencies tend to turn a blind eye.
But what about on an individual basis? Because of the confusing nature of cannabis laws, many would-be enthusiasts remain perplexed about this dynamic situation. Therefore, is CBD truly legal in the U.S.?
Technically, as we discussed earlier, this is actually a loaded question. Without the context of federal law, you can extract identical benefits from hemp-derived CBD or marijuana-derived CBD: it simply doesn’t matter. But with the law as it is, you must be careful where you acquire your cannabidiol.
In this context, the only difference between hemp and other illegal botanicals is THC content. So long as the base hemp material features less than 0.3% THC content, CBD derived from it is perfectly legal (in most cases). But CBD from materials that contain more than 0.3% THC is illegal, even if the CBD itself has no THC.
As mentioned before, it is a perplexing, convoluted issue. Nevertheless, the best way to protect yourself is to always procure your cannabidiol (CBD) from authorized retailers like Nug Republic. This way, you can assure yourself that the CBD-based products you purchase originate from legal industrial hemp.
But does this mean that CBD is legal in all 50 states? Theoretically, as federal law supersedes state law, you should be able to enjoy cannabidiol wherever you go in the U.S. However, individual states are allowed to have laws that are more conservative than federal mandates on the topic; for example, it’s very common for blue states like California to impose draconian firearms laws that are more restrictive than federal laws.
Due to this legal facilitation, CBD is legal in the vast majority of states. However, three states have unfavorable cannabidiol policies: Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The former two feature robust debates within their respective state legislatures to decriminalize and later legalize CBD. However, South Dakota is a conservative stronghold, refusing to budge an inch on their classification of illegality toward all forms of CBD.
- The difference between legal and illegal CBD depends on its origination. Cannabidiol sourced from industrial hemp (which features less than 0.3% THC content) is almost legal everywhere in the U.S., while CBD from any other source is illegal, irrespective of the CBD’s THC content. Because of the nuanced relationship between state and federal laws, Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota feature unfavorable CBD laws, with South Dakota being the most restrictive.
Best Ways to Use CBD
With the legal discussion out of the way, we’ve arrived at the best part of CBD: consumption. Because it lacks the myriad consequences of THC, cannabidiol has garnered considerable attention, especially among people who have previously never considered cannabis-based therapies.
But what’s the best way to use CBD? Peruse any cannabis retailer and you’ll find no shortage of options. From vape oils to tinctures to edibles, CBD is perhaps the most versatile health-related application: you can vape it, smoke it, lather it or eat it.
Given this pathway diversity, no one format is the best. Invariably, for individual consumers, it comes down to what health benefits they’re seeking and personal preference.
Below is a quick breakdown of the various methodologies of cannabidiol, beginning with the easiest to apply:
- Ointments or Topicals: typically derived from hemp seed oils, these potent ointments are designed for topical, on-the-spot applications. For instance, if you have back pain, you can rub in CBD ointments at the point of pain, providing you with soothing relief. Although effectiveness depends on the manufacturer, end-users can expect relief to occur rather quickly upon initial application.
- Edibles: usually offered in a form of a gummy, these delectable CBD-infused treats are a crowd favorite. Whether you’re suffering from a certain symptom or wish to use CBD as a daily nutritional supplement, edibles represent an easy pathway that requires zero learning curve. Plus, you can share the benefits of cannabidiol with friends and family without the awkward social stigma.
- Tinctures: a discreet but potent form of consumable CBD, tinctures are essentially drops that you apply sublingually, or under the tongue. This process allows the cannabidiol to be integrated into your bloodstream quicker than edible products, which is why it’s a favorite among enthusiasts seeking relief from symptoms as opposed to dietary concerns.
- Wax Concentrate: CBD that is condensed down into a waxy material, wax concentrates are ideal materials for dabbing. This is the practice of applying a heat source to the CBD material for smoking or vaping purposes. What makes dabbing concentrate so effective is that inhalation of CBD vapors goes directly into the bloodstream, as opposed to being filtered by the liver. Therefore, for maximum potency, very few platforms beat dabbing concentrate.
- Vape Oil: as with wax concentrate, vape oils – when used with an appropriately designed vaporizer – represent the most potent form of cannabidiol delivery. However, vape oils require the highest learning curve, as well as investment because of the vape device and the knowledge in using it. However, it is perhaps the most satisfying way to enjoy CBD, which is one of the reasons why vape oils have surged in popularity.
Essentially, CBD offers platform gradation. Those who want to tip-toe into cannabidiol can choose to do so easily with ointments or edibles. But as your needs or curiosity arises, other platforms beckon. This is the alluring nature of legal cannabis that has captivated millions of consumers.
The Economics of CBD
At the end of the day, CBD is big business. According to report by investment research firm Cowen, the cannabidiol industry may hit $16 billion in revenue by 2025. That might be on the conservative end.
First and foremost, it’s important to realize the contentious political environment in which we live. Seemingly every day, a fresh controversy erupts over the current administration. Tirelessly, political pundits on all sides wax poetic about their agendas while bashing those in disagreement.
In this context, any consensus is a small miracle. But to do so with a controversial subject as cannabis legalization? By any measure, this shouldn’t even make it as a discussion point. Yet the farm bill of 2018 proved to cynics that, even in the most vitriolic political environment in the modern era, opposing public servants can set aside their deep-seated differences to promote positive societal change.
Not only that, CBD delivers a powerful economic narrative precisely at a time when we need it most. Prior to the farm bill passing, the cannabis retail industry lived in the shadows. Individual states such as Colorado or California may have passed recreational marijuana laws; however, the federal government classified – and still does – cannabis as a Schedule I drug.
Though unlikely, this nuance gave the feds the right to crack down immediately and severely on state cannabis laws. As a result, major financial institutions and many merchant payment-processing specialists refused to touch the sector.
But with the farm bill, everything changed. With the exception of three states, cannabidiol transformed from a questionable industry to a robust one. Today, CBD and hemp-based products are everywhere, even disrupting traditional retail industries like the health and beauty segments.
It turns out that people eschew pharmaceutical concoctions for naturally sourced organic therapies and solutions – go figure!
Plus, CBD advocates have the hard numbers to back up their enthusiasm. Currently, the legal cannabis industry represents the fastest-growing labor market, with the sector adding over 64,000 jobs in 2018. And because the farm bill was passed toward the tail end of 2018, this suggests an even greater haul for 2019.
Unquestionably, the cannabis industry is stout, and will be even more so in the coming years. Therefore, those who are curious about the benefits of CBD should satisfy their inquisitiveness with confidence that their choice materials will remain viable for the future.