American cannabis is a multi-billion dollar industry, projected to grow into the hundreds of billions by 2025. And you better believe the people behind that industry are working to squeeze every extra penny out of it that they can. In this series, I’ve already gone over the trends and tech driving some of that growth, and today I’m taking a look at CBD — the extremely popular and misunderstood cousin of everyone’s favourite THC.
So… How Do You Take It?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It’s one of the 113 phytocannabinoid compounds influencing the way we experience our weed. But smoking buds isn’t how most CBD users get their fix. An entire cottage industry has sprung up in recent years, selling every conceivable means of consuming it.
You can take CBD like regular medicine; in capsules or oils. You can eat it in gummies, have it infused into your coffee at home or in a cafe, or bake it into an old-school brownie. If straight-up consumption isn’t your style, they’ve got you covered with CBD incense, cleansing creams, patches, and bath bombs. Believe me when I say that the people into CBD are really into CBD!
Miracle Cure or Snake Oil?
So what’s all the fuss about? CBD advocates will tell you it’s the latest and greatest natural medicine for everything from arthritis to epilepsy to broken bones. After all, medicinal cannabis has come a long way in the past few years and CBD is associated with a lot of that progress. However, there are also a lot of medical professionals that remain skeptical, frequently pointing to the severe lack of academic research and the oversaturation of anecdotal evidence as the debate rages on.
The science behind the trend is understandably complex, but the general theory isn’t too hard to wrap your head around. Cannabinoids are produced naturally in the body every single day. The endocannabinoid system is an essential part of human anatomy and weed just so happens to produce chemicals similar enough to activate the system’s receptors — this is what produces the effects we all know and love. But not all phytocannabinoids work the same way. THC activates the CB1 receptor and gets us high, while there’s evidence that CBD actually works to block uptake from that same receptor. There’s a complex interplay between all the compounds found in weed that makes it extremely difficult to isolate the effects of just one at a time.
Staying on the Fence
I’d encourage all our readers to stay level-headed in their opinions going forward. It’s often just as easy for members of our community to support every new cannabis trend as it is for naysayers to blindly deny them. While it’s highly unlikely that CBD is as evil as the major Australian political parties seem to think it is, there’s a lot of work that’s yet to be done in determining exactly how effective it is as a treatment for different conditions — or exactly how much is needed for it to work. Paying $4 for a shot of oil in your coffee might make you feel better, but there’s evidence that the dose required for effective therapeutic treatment is much higher than what’s generally being sold.
Whether you’re sold on the benefits of CBD or not, it’s worth keeping it in mind as you navigate the US legal weed scene. While genuine dispensaries will be happy to sell you some of the most THC-heavy weed you’ve ever smoked, a lot of the smaller places — particularly in tourist hotspots — just sell CBD-only products. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but their ambiguous marketing makes it very easy to be mislead.
Zoning and licensing laws often mean dispensaries can’t be put up in popular areas, and the weed vendors you do find on the street will often neglect to mention that their product contains no THC whatsoever. It’s worth always checking the labels of any bud product you’re buying. I’ve mentioned before that not all edibles contain THC, but the same is true for any weed product — including buds. I made the mistake of not checking my purchase from a street stall in Vegas and I’d almost smoked the whole eighth before taking a second look at the label. It pays to do your research.
Hype and Hyperbole
CBD’s place as THC’s hipster cousin is unlikely to change for the next couple of years, but with any luck the growing body of research will provide some much-needed clarity as Australia continues its agonisingly slow march towards legalisation. In the meantime it’s a welcome addition to the cannabis world; another cash cow being milked by a burgeoning industry for a willing market.
Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and experiences with CBD. We’d love to hear what you’ve got to say! While you’re at it you can check out parts 1 and 2 of this series — and be sure to come back next week for Part 4: The College Cannabis Scene.