In the United States, CBD itself is not specifically listed in the United States Controlled Substances Act like the psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The US government, which specifies which parts of cannabis plants are prohibited, excludes hemp’s “mature stalks” and “oil or cake made from the seeds” and “sterilized seeds” from its definition of “marihuana.”
THC does typically come with a long list of health benefits, but the clinical use of this cannabis compound is often limited by its unwanted psychoactive side effects in people. For this reason, interest in non-intoxicating phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, has substantially increased in recent years. In fact, CBD is being used in conjunction with THC for more favorable effects.
Hemp being federally legal would be huge for the CBD industry, as CBD oil made from hemp extract (a plant that has very low amounts of THC) would be legal. A new, more available form of CBD would also allow for more research on the subject of cannabidiol, and perhaps the entire marijuana plant. More research brings the potential of coming closer to full legalization.
Our bodies are thought to produce endocannabinoids by the billions every day. “We always thought the ‘runner’s high’ was due to the release of dopamine and endorphins. But now we know the euphoria is also from an endocannabinoid called anandamide,” its name derived from the Sanskrit word for bliss, says Joseph Maroon, MD, clinical professor and vice chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. We produce these natural chemicals all day, but they fade quickly because enzymes pop up to destroy them. That’s where CBD comes in: By blocking these enzymes, CBD allows the beneficial compounds to linger.
But because all these products are illegal according to the federal government, cannabis advocates are cautious. “By and large, the federal government is looking the other way,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the Washington, DC–based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), but until federal laws are changed, “this administration or a future one could crack down on people who produce, manufacture, or use CBD, and the law would be on its side.”