What exactly is cannabidiol (CBD) and more importantly, what does it do? Those questions and more are at the heart of this comprehensive guide to one of the most fascinating and important compounds of the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants are chemical powerhouses that produce more than 400 different compounds. Not all of those compounds are unique to marijuana, of course, and appear in many other species of plants. That’s why marijuana can smell like pine trees or taste like fresh lemons. But of those 400 compounds, more than 60 of them are totally specific to the plant genus Cannabis. Scientists call these special compounds “cannabinoids.” However, not all cannabinoids are created equal. One of them, cannabidiol, or CBD, holds the key to the wide variety of medicinal and therapeutic effects marijuana offers.
The more we learn about CBD, the more it seems poised to revolutionize medicine as we know it. Find out why cannabidiol is so important and why you should care about it, especially if you consume cannabis.
CBD 101: The Fundamentals of Cannabidiol
Perhaps the only thing more complex than the biochemistry of cannabis is its pharmacology. The ways weed interacts with the human body are exceedingly intricate. And the truth is we don’t know as much as we should about those interactions—at least not yet.
Nevertheless, we do know some of the basics. So here’s your fundamental fact sheet about Cannabidiol.
Cannabidiol is Not Psychoactive
One of the most crucially important qualities of CBD is its lack of psycho-activity. In layperson’s terms, this means that cannabidiol won’t get you high. Unlike THC, the cannabinoid with the legendary power of producing euphoric sensations, Cannabidiol is inert.
So when taken on its own, users experience none of the sensations of being stoned. And this is the single most important property of the cannabinoid from the medical—and legal—perspective.
Cannabidiol is Legal Almost Everywhere
Because CBD doesn’t get you high, products that contain only this cannabinoid can skirt the legal ban on marijuana.
Technically speaking, its THC—the cannabinoid that gets you high—which is illicit. When you take a drug test, the aim is to detect THC in your body, not “cannabis.” If you possessed weed without any THC in it, technically you wouldn’t be in violation of the law. Because “weed” without THC has a different name: hemp. And the rules governing hemp are quite different from the restrictions placed on cannabis.
In fact, every state that has yet to legalize marijuana for medical use has some kind of law allowing people to obtain and use CBD-only (or low-THC) products for medical or therapeutic purposes. And in most cases, that means obtaining Cannabidiol from hemp, rather than cannabis flowers.
In places with legal medical marijuana programs, CBD products are widely available and easy to find.
Cannabidiol Can Come From Hemp or Marijuana Plants
There are two main sources of CBD: hemp plants and marijuana. Where a given product comes from depends on the legal status of marijuana in a particular state.
If medical marijuana is illegal in a given state, THC levels determine whether a CBD product is illicit or not. In most places, the limit is extremely low. We’re talking under 1 percent THC, with some states opting for a cap as low as 0.3 percent. In this case, the only source that would work is hemp, and CBD products will, therefore, be hemp-derived.
In other places, limits can be higher. Delaware, for example, allows CBD oil to contain up to 5 percent THC. But that’s still not enough to get anyone very high.
Sourcing and legality questions aside, the general consensus has it that CBD derived from marijuana is both more potent and more effective.
Many attribute this phenomenon to the “entourage effect,” or the theory that one cannabinoid can do its job better when it works together with its companion cannabinoids. Extracting Cannabidiol from cannabis flowers helps keep these other cannabinoids intact, which is why people prefer it over hemp-derived products.
In other words, the source matters. And the buds of the cannabis plant have a richer and wider complement of cannabinoids compared to hemp leaves. So while we’re on the topic, here’s a quick rundown of the best CBD-only and CBD-dominant strains of cannabis out there.
Breeders Are Crafting Specialized CBD-Dominant Weed Strains
The demand for medical-grade cannabidiol has spurred breeders and growers to pursue new strain genetics that promote cannabidiol production. These strains don’t attempt to eliminate THC. Instead, they increase the ratio of CBD to THC, allowing the effects of cannabidiol to shine through.