Flower Power, which sells CBD-infused coffee to cafes like Caffeine Underground in New York City, puts 5 mg of CBD in each serving of coffee. The company, like many involved in the sale of CBD, is extremely careful about what it says regarding CBD’s effects for fear of FDA intervention. The standard language for CBD packaging and website documentation is similar to that of many supplements (think: milk thistle, echinacea, elderberry, turmeric) and is some variation on: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or ailment.”
First, let’s look at the differences between the plants that make CBD oil. To start with, the two plants look physically different. This is due to the different reasons that both of them are grown. Cannabis, grown for its flowering buds for reasons of smoking or THC extraction, are generally short and wide. Hemp, on the other hand, is tall and narrow as it is not grown for its buds. Hemp is low in THC and is often grown for a variety of purposes including the manufacture of materials.
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That lines up with one of the rare instances of FDA testing. In 2016, the FDA tested several “CBD oils,” ultimately issuing warnings to eight companies. Some of those oils were found to contain no or barely any CBD, and many contained illegal quantities of THC. For example, Healthy Hemp Oil’s “Herbal Renewals 25% CBD Hemp Oil Gold Label” contained 8.4 mg/g of THC. Sana Te Premium Oils, which sold 25 mg “CBD oil” capsules on Etsy, contained between 13 and 19 mg/g of THC and less than 0.1 mg/g of CBD.
The exact legality of CBD is tricky. The Drug Enforcement Administration maintains that CBD is federally illegal but will not bother going after anyone for possessing or using it. Many argue that a provision in the 2014 farm bill allowing industrial hemp pilot programs, mostly aimed at the textile industry, actually makes non-THC use of cannabis legal; the much-delayed 2018 farm bill would make CBD and industrial hemp legal nationwide if passed as it stands.
Rich in CBD, cannabis has been used for centuries to fight illness, improve sleep, and lower anxiety. Today, our understanding of the potential benefits of CBD is growing by leaps and bounds—more and more, CBD is seen as a powerful disease-fighting agent. Thanks to decades of scientific investigation, it’s now possible to get the benefits of CBD in supplement form.