An incredible amount of media attention has been focused on medical cannabis and its many health-benefiting properties. A groundswell of legalization support has led to 33 states and the District of Columbia to pass legislation allowing for the sale, possession, and use of medical cannabis products. Many consumers are unclear about the properties and chemical compounds of these products, particularly the role of CBD in helping to treat serious illnesses. In this guide, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about CBD, helping you to make informed purchasing decisions at your local medical cannabis dispensary.

What is CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, one of the hundreds of active chemical compounds in cannabis. It is sometimes referred to as “cannabis oil”, but that nomenclature may include oil extracts containing other chemical compounds. CBD has been demonstrated in numerous clinical trials to have powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. It is extracted from raw plant material in oil form and concentrated for use in products ranging from vaping cartridges to topical creams, oral tinctures, and edibles. CBD is not psychoactive; in other words, it does not produce the “high” associated with marijuana use. This makes the cannabis extract ideal for those leading active lifestyles and for those who may find the euphoric sensations unpleasant or getting in the way of a busy day.

Is CBD Legal?

The answer to this question is complex – in simple terms, it is both legal and illegal, depending on its source and the state in which CBD is used. This is also a very hot topic in legislation at the moment, with many states frequently changing their laws and regulations.

In theory, CBD is legal in all 50 states if it is extracted from the industrial hemp plant, which naturally contains less than 0.3% THC, the cannabinoid responsible for creating the “high” or the mind-altering effects associated with recreational cannabis use.

In reality, however, each state has differing laws and restrictions on its sale, possession, and use. In the states where medical cannabis has been legalized, retailers may sell CBD-rich products. It is important to understand, though, that on the federal level, cannabis use of any form is illegal, although certain restrictions have been relaxed in recent years. 

When in doubt, always check your state’s laws. The laws can change quickly and are not always completely clear, and it is better to have a definite answer.

Will I Pass a Drug Test if I Use CBD Products?

Modern drug screening systems are designed to detect THC, not CBD or the many other cannabinoids found in medical cannabis. Even if you do not experience any mood-altering effects from your CBD medicine, you may still fail a drug test; many CBD-rich products contain trace amounts of THC, and this may trigger a positive drug screen. 

Your employer may have specific regulations allowing for or restricting CBD use. Employment-based drug screens are serious business, and if you should run afoul of their testing parameters, you may find yourself out of work. It is a good idea to understand your employer’s drug policies thoroughly before trying CBD products. 

However, as more states have relaxed their restrictions on CBD and cannabis products in general, they have also moved away from screening for cannabis in their workplace drug testing. Nevada recently became the first state to ban pre-employment drug screenings for cannabis, and New York has passed a similar ruling that prohibits employers from forcing employees to submit to cannabis drug testing.

What are the Properties of CBD?

CBD has been shown in several clinical studies to impart calming sensations, allowing those with anxiety conditions or PTSD to find relief without the debilitating effects of mood alteration. CBD can help those with insomnia find relief as well; it has demonstrated its safety as a sleep aid in limited trials. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, which may be beneficial to those patients struggling with the chronic pain of arthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, and similar ailments. 

A small number of studies regarding patients diagnosed with attention deficit disorders like ADHD have been conducted. In these studies, CBD has demonstrated its ability to influence dopamine levels, which corrects imbalances in the human endocannabinoid system – imbalances that may have led to the development of an attention deficit. Patients using CBD to treat these disorders report improved mental focus and clarity. 

Are There Side Effects When Using CBD?

Unfortunately, CBD has not been studied in the long term, and medical researchers are unclear if there are any serious side effects associated with long-term use. CBD may interact with certain other medications in ways not yet clearly understood. 

An FDA-approved CBD concentrate known as Epidiolex may produce side effects like:

  • Sleepiness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Impairments in liver function
  • Chronic fatigue

In CBD products, however, these side effects are extremely rare. More research is needed to fully understand CBD’s potential for producing undesired side effects. 

Is CBD a Miracle Cure?

CBD has shown time and again that it may offer significant benefits for patients with serious and debilitating health conditions. It is too early to tell if CBD represents a “miracle cure” or a universal medicine; further research is warranted and is ongoing around the world. For now, CBD and products containing high levels of CBD extract may provide a safer, more effective alternative to traditional medications, some of which may produce unpleasant or even dangerous side effects.