Marijuana, hemp, herb, Mary Jane, pot or weed. These are only some of the more than 1200 names you might have heard mentioned whenever there is talk about the Cannabis plant and its derivatives. In fact, you are likely joining the conversation with some preconceived notions that cannabis is all about rolling a joint, vaping or munching some edibles and getting thoroughly stoned. But the cannabis plant is so much more.
The chances are high that if you are only just now getting interested in the debate about the benefits of cannabis, you are swimming in a sea of confusion. What is CBD or Cannabidiol, you might wonder, and what does CBD do? And if cannabis truly has medical benefits, then why is it (or forms of it) a controlled substance in so many jurisdictions? Let’s break some stigma surrounding cannabis and CBD.
First, a small distinction must be made about marijuana and hemp, which are common terms in the cannabis movement. The two are often mistaken as being species or strains of cannabis. But while marijuana plants are often grown to cultivate the ‘high’-giving tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), many hemp plants primarily have THC bred out of them, according to a 2016 report in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. THC can cause mind-altering effects such as hallucinations and delusions, but it is completely safe in trace amounts.
In the United States, Cannabis sativa plants that have a greater than 0.3 per cent THC are defined as marijuana, while those that have 0.3 per cent or less THC are legally defined as hemp. These hemp plants are grown for a wide range of applications such as body products, fabric, food, insulation, paper, supplements and textiles. And although you cannot get stoned on hemp, it is well known today for its use in the creation of various products infused with CBD oil.
CBD (short for cannabidiol) was initially discovered in the 1940s. However, the scientist, Roger Adams, didn’t realise that he had extracted the compound at the time. Flash forward a few years, and Dr Raphael Mechoulam (now known as the Father of cannabis) discovered CBD’s structure in 1946.
In the same year, Dr Walter S. Loewe began to test CBD on animals, subsequently proving that CBD does not have any psychotropic properties, meaning it won’t cause a ‘high’ or changes in a state of mind.
In the 1960s, the first link established between CBD and the treatment of epilepsy was identified. Over the next couple of decades, clinical research became restrictive for ethical and legal reasons. However, research expanded further with the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the late 1980s. Since the discovery of ECS, studies have shown that it plays a key role in normal physiology and is involved in the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases and several neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions.
However, it is very easy to throw our ECS off balance. Nutrition, exercise and stress levels all affect the body’s ECS, while our modern lifestyle, which is often hectic and demanding, can also take its toll on this complex system. Cannabinoids like CBD can interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors of your body’s ECS to complement its productivity. Since homeostasis is always the main goal of ECS, the legalisation of hemp in many states and countries has made it possible for people to more easily achieve a balanced state despite fluctuations in the external environment.
Many people believe that you can become addicted to products infused with cannabidiol as these products come from the same plant that is used to obtain marijuana.
To set your mind at rest, CBD does not have the same concentrations of THC as marijuana and will not lead to harmful effects that can make a person addicted to it. There are also no recorded cases of users reporting about potential addiction or patients exhibiting any serious health problems or substance abuse effects.
While the ‘war on drugs’ movement placed heavy restrictions on cannabis for most of the 20th century, it wasn’t until 2015 that CBD became medicinally available in the U.K. The U.S., on the other hand, introduced the Farm Bill in 2018, allowing CBD to be commercially sold on a federal level – in turn, introducing a boom in CBD wellness. In Australian, CBD still requires a prescription; however, this may change in 2021.
Many individuals have given marijuana a bad reputation, calling it ‘the gateway drug,’ which has created the stigma surrounding cannabis use. This claim has led people to believe that cannabis and its derivatives are dangerous, harmful and addictive. However, this far from the truth, and therefore extensive research and studies have undermined these popular stereotypes.
In addition, the legalisation of medicinal marijuana in many parts of Europe and different states in the United States has prompted the need for further investigation into potential uses of CBD, which is why so many countries across the globe use it in medications to help in treating numerous chronic medical conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease and rare cases of epilepsy.
For instance, a young Coloradan girl Charlotte Figi, who suffered from a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. She had up to 300 seizures during a week and extreme difficulty speaking. Her parents decided to try out CBD use as a form of therapy to help her manage this condition. Soon after, her seizures decreased from 300 per week to 2-3 per month. This is a wonderful example of what CBD and its potential benefits can do for someone with a chronic disease like hers.
By educating the world, changing personal perceptions and sharing personal stories about the benefits of CBD, this has sparked a surge in awareness of its possibilities and advantages across the country.