While the CBD craze continues to sweep the nation, the dealings of shady dealers shouldn’t be swept under the rug.
I have a marijuana problem. By that, I mean a cannabis sativa-related problem. It is the mindfulness mantra turned into a curse. The wellness influencers stalk my every step. Everywhere I go, I see CBD.
At a coffee shop in Queens. At a bodega in Brooklyn. At a bookstore in Boulder, Colorado. At more coffee shops, for “only $2 for a 10-gram shot!” Home-video rental stores are selling CBD. Gwyneth Paltrow is selling CBD. Gas stations, convenience stores. Cosmetics, coffee, doggie treats. You name it, someone has added CBD to it.
The CBD hysteria is not new. Chemists have known about the cannabinoid for generations, and cannabis-industry figures have been touting the medical benefits of cannabidiol, which has psychoactive properties as well as medical benefits but without the familiar mind-bending punch of THC, for almost a decade. The New York Times was on it last year. The Washington Post ran an explainer on January 5.
CBD is mainstream, CBD is known, CBD is out there — and this was before the 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump late last year in his last meaningful at for week, officially legalized hemp farming. Hemp, recall, is cannabis sativa with 0.3 percent or less THC, cultivated for fuel or fiber rather than delightful, terpene-laden smokeable flowers.
Since hemp is legal federally and CBD is not, hemp is the source material for the CBD sold openly in 50 states — and since hemp is now finally legal to cultivate in all 50 states, the CBD bonanza and attendant hysteria is set to reach a new and more fevered pitch.
There is no one cause for CBD’s very swift and very stark rise in popularity. Every poll tells us that a vast majority of Americans support medical marijuana — the cannabis sativa with THC in it — even if they don’t use it themselves. More and more Americans are convinced that cannabis does have medical value — again, even if they’re still leery about trying the stuff themselves.
CBD is also the recipient of positive earned media. Last year, the FDA approved CBD-based pharmaceutical drugs. Studies show that CBD does indeed lower arthritis-related pain and inflammation. CBD is probably good!
In the spring, the World Health Organization gave CBD a ringing endorsement when they observed the substance is almost certainly benign; that is, there are no known health problems, “abuse or dependence potential” related to CBD, according to the WHO (through Harvard Medical School physicians were less sanguine.) CBD is (probably) safe!
In a news cycle where the New York Times is devoting op-ed space to fanatics who declare that marijuana leads to mental illness, and when those fanatics are convincing brainboxes at The New Yorker that maybe legalization is bad and marijuana is not good, these votes in CBD’s favor are not insignificant.
So what’s the problem? For one, not everyone selling CBD is good. In fact, some CBD-slingers are very bad and have been reprimanded by the FDA for marketing products they swear will cure cancer. Breathless sandwich boards plopped outside hip boutiques in upscale neighborhoods anywhere gentrification can be found are also guilty of similar dissembling. Claims that CBD is good for everything might be true, but are also patently unverifiable. In this way, CBD has become the fitness and wellness fad of our day. CBD sells, CBD is known, vaguely enough, as the “good and non-intoxicating” marijuana ingredient, and so CBD is everywhere.
This could be a harmless phase — that is, you’ll hear arguments like “nobody will die because they used too much CBD, even if they’re taken by a huckster.” The problem is that there is no guarantee CBD is harmless, for not all CBD products are created equal.
Consider the source material. The CBD pre-rolls at the gas station could be ditchweed from up the street for all you know; nobody is regulating that stuff or checking it for purity or contaminants. That $5 shot you’re dumping in your latte along with the turmeric is probably derived from industrial hemp, meaning it might contain heavy metals or other toxins.
There is also potential for lasting psychological damage — that is, a ruined reputation. For most of its salespeople, CBD is nothing more than a handy and buzzy marketing tool du jour, the acai berry or pomegranate juice of the moment. The cannabinoid does have real potential that requires careful study and mindful application rather than a freewheeling, paint-the-town-with-vaguely-hem-related-shit attitude.
The market will always love bright and shiny things. And CBD is that. Eventually, the hysteria will die down and the wave will recede, leaving — what? People who could benefit from high-quality, tested and accurately dosed CBD products. Let’s hope those remain well after the mob moves on.