It's pretty obvious to anyone with eyes that CBD products are almost everywhere these days. It's no surprise to spot them at natural food stores, alternative health stores, internet sellers, and holistic pharmacies, obviously. But “big box” supermarkets? Mom & pop bodegas? Gas stations?! The past year has seen an absolute explosion of CBD in the good ol' regular work-a-day marketplace. What was once “deep knowledge” in the medical cannabis world is now apparently as ubiquitous as bottled water or aspirin. But where did it suddenly come from?

A brief refresher: CBD stands for cannabidiol, and is one of over one hundred different cannabinoids that are present in the plant cannabis sativa, the plant more famously (or infamously) referred to as "marijuana." The primary cannabinoid people are familiar with is Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC”; the cannabinoid that is responsible for the marijuana “high”. Another notable compound is CBN, or cannabinol; a non-psychoactive compound that is present in trace amounts in freshly harvested marijuana, but increases with the aging, drying, and “curing” of cannabis flowers, and acts mostly as a “modulator” of THC.

Again, there are many cannabinoids in cannabis, and as of this writing, science is STILL unsure of all their actions. But over the years, one other cannabinoid started to pique the interest of both scientists and medical cannabis providers: CBD, or cannabidiol. Present in the non-psychoactive hemp plant, some medical users started experimenting with it in the 70's, and anecdotal reports started trickling in about its actual medical benefits and actions: anti-inflammation; anti-emetic; anti-anxiety/anti-anxiolytic; anti-spasmodic. (That's a LOT of “anti”-s!) But one that was most exciting and scientifically interesting was CBD's apparent anticonvulsant (that is: “anti-seizure”) action, particularly in those suffering from devastating seizure conditions like epilepsy, and especially treatment-resistant seizures in children. Children suffering from epilepsy were often prescribed all manner of costly drug cocktails that left them as- or more debilitated with zombifying side-effects, provided little relief, and drained the family financially. CBD seemed an actual miracle: seizures were reduced (and in some cases, totally eliminated), people reduced or ceased needing expensive (and arguably useless, if not outright harmful) pharmaceuticals, health was re-established, and lives were restored and saved.

The problem, though, lay in the availability and legality of CBD. In the late 90's, numerous states passed medical exemptions for cannabis as a protected medical treatment, and soon, the entire West coast of the United States was a “medical marijuana” anchor for the nation, along with Colorado and a few others. However, the DEA still listed CBD—along with all other cannabinoids—as a “Schedule 1” compound: aka “a drug or compound that has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S., and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” This is the same schedule as heroin, LSD, MDMA (aka “ecstasy”), psilocybin (aka “magic mushrooms”), and others (interestingly, all the above have many instances of very valid medically efficacious uses, but that's an entirely different blog post for a different website!) Those who wanted to use extracts of cannabis, even with NO THC in it, had to go to great lengths to acquire it: sometimes moms and dads had to surreptitiously bring it home from “business trips” far out of state for their suffering children, orin some instancesuproot the entire family and try and relocate to a “medical marijuana” state.

But the world started taking notice. The stories of people—particularly children—being given their lives, their childhoods, and their health back were too hard to ignore. Opinions started to change, most famously that of Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a noted neurosurgeon turned high-profile medical journalist who in 2013 (after years of anti-marijuana rhetoric) came out publicly with a major mea culpa, stating that in the case of cannabis on whole: “[T]here are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.”(1) So, public opinion shifts, expert medical opinions shift as well, and yet the Federal government refused to budge.

What changed?

In 2014, a Federal farm bill was passed that instituted a hemp “pilot” program that allowed a small number of agricultural producers to grow “industrial hemp” in order to facilitate research into CBD and other commercial hemp benefits. “Industrial hemp” is defined as cannabis that has no more than .3% THC—often referred to as “undetectable levels". The rest of the cannabinoid profile remained unrestricted. This “pilot” program was judged a success, and in 2018, the newest iteration of the Federal Farm Bill dramatically expanded the hemp allowance:

It allows hemp cultivation broadly, not simply pilot programs for studying market interest in hemp-derived products. It explicitly allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It also puts no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law.(2)

And this is where and when the CBD floodgates opened. Being that hemp has low- to no detectable THC, but a great deal of CBD, and further, that the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes is now legal, as well as the removal of “restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law”, CBD derived from legally grown hemp suddenly became available to the nation, just so long as all state and federal rules are followed.

It's been a long fight for hemp in the USA. As our last blog post illustrated, hemp and America have a long history. Albeit, it's a history that was interrupted by misconceptions, misinformation, and pointless prohibition for decades, but it's a brave new world (or a brave old world?) for US hemp farming, and Cool Beans Distillate is both proud and honored to be one of the first licensed, compliant, and recognized hemp producers in the nation, providing you with full-plant CBD for overall wellness!
(1) "Sanjay Gupta Rejects Everything Sanjay Gupta Once Said About Marijuana" (The Atlantic: 8 August, 2013) https://tinyurl.com/y64kapnh
(2) "The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer." (Brookings: 18 December, 2018) https://tinyurl.com/y36gotx3