The 2018 Farm Bill that passed on Dec. 20 legalized hemp, defining it as a strain of cannabis with low levels of THC — the psychoactive chemical in cannabis that makes users feel high. The bill may lead to new pathways for cannabidiol or CBD — a chemical component of cannabis that is found in hemp plants — to be legalized.
In the past, the federal government didn’t distinguish the strains of cannabis; they were all considered illegal. The new amendment to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 defines hemp with THC below .3 percent dry weight to be legal.
“I do not have any bad experiences,” Jacqueline Walker, a Stony Brook University alumna who uses CBD to relieve stress, said. “My best experiences involve a significant reduce in anxiety.”
CBD has recently exploded in popularity and has been used in bath bombs, ice cream, dog treats, topicals, edibles, and in oils, smokable and vapable forms. Even celebrity doctor Sanjay Gupta has endorsed CBD on “The Dr. Oz Show.”
This recent news doesn’t necessarily mean CBD products, which are sold anywhere from organic grocery stores to smoke shops, are legal under federal law, since the products have to be made from legal hemp and there aren’t any systems yet in place that regulate hemp and are up to par with the 2018 Farm Bill.
On Dec. 7, the Long Island Capital Alliance (LICA) gathered investors and cannabis businesses in Melville, New York for a cannabis capital forum. Newsday reported that among the businesses and trends presented at the forum, CBD was the most prevalent.
Attorney Neil Kaufman of Dix Hills, New York, has been a member of LICA for 25 years and has invested in CBD companies and products.
“There are a great many CBD companies being started and many companies getting into CBD, including on Long Island,” Kaufman said.
Industrial hemp can be used in thousands of products in nine major markets including agriculture, construction, personal care and food. According to the Brightfield Group, a market research company, the CBD business is growing faster than marijuana and will soon be a $22 billion industry.
Craig Zaffe, a hemp advocate that calls CBD a “miracle drug,” has created two informative websites for CBD. He also makes, sells and uses CBD products himself — he even makes CBD products for dogs and cats.
“There are two things you can control in your life: what you put in your body and how you take care of your backyard,” Zaffe said. “You can make that decision consciously that ‘I don’t want to use any poisons in my backyard. I want to have the safest environment not only for my family, my pets, but also overall life.’”
Zaffe, 68, has smoked marijuana since 1966. He uses CBD tinctures — oil usually taken orally under the tongue — and balms, which he uses when his back goes out or if he has sore muscles. He also takes CBD capsules every day.
“I generally recommend first-time users to come in and try the tinctures because they are the most efficient way to get the medication,” Ian Davies, who works at Utopia Clothing store, which is also a smoke shop, in Centereach, New York, said.
A self-proclaimed “budtender,” Davies likes to use CBD tinctures once in the morning and vapes throughout the day if he feels inflammation, pain or anxiety.
CBD potentially has an array of medicinal uses including reducing or curing anxiety, inflammation, pain, tumors, psychotic episodes, seizures and substance abuse disorders based on preclinical studies, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In December 2017, the World Health Organization officially recommended that CBD should not be internationally scheduled as a controlled substance. Australia, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and now the United States have eased CBD regulations.
As of 2018, at least 41 states have passed legislation related to regulating production of industrial hemp and at least 39 states have allowed for hemp cultivation and production programs. At the state level, CBD and its products specifically derived from industrial hemp with the low THC content — not marijuana or regular hemp — are legal and able to be sold in states that have legalized industrial hemp.
In New York State, universities and the government are allowed to cultivate industrial hemp if it is part of an agricultural pilot program. Within the state, the commissioner of agriculture and markets is allowed to authorize up to 10 hemp-growing sites. The commissioner also develops regulations for the acquisition and possession of industrial hemp seeds.
Side effects of using CBD can possibly include nausea, fatigue, irritability and a rise in the natural blood thinner coumadin and a rise in other medication levels in the blood, according to the Harvard Health Blog by Harvard Medical School.
This year, the FDA approved its first CBD-containing drug, Epidiolex. This drug is taken orally for the treatment of two forms of childhood epilepsy. Results from clinical trials showed that Epidiolex was effective in reducing seizures when taken with other drugs. Like all epilepsy drugs, Epidiolex must be dispensed with a patient medication guide that describes its uses and risks.
Because CBD is currently unregulated, it is unknown how it interacts with other drugs, and consumers do not know what exact product they are receiving and the proper dosage per ailment and person, leaving it to them to figure out how to use the product.
“I truly feel that CBD is the elixir of life,” Zaffe said. “I think that everyone can benefit from using them.”