On the federal level, several bills currently before Congress seek to change the way the government treats CBD. One such bill, the Compassionate Access Act, would exclude CBD from the classification of “marijuana” and remove both from the DEA’s list of Schedule I controlled substances. Rescheduling CBD in such a way would make research and cultivation of CBD much easier.
There is mounting evidence that CBD could potentially fight cancer and, at the very least, help ease symptoms of cancer and side effects of chemotherapy. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics found, for the first time, that CBD potently and selectively inhibited the growth of different breast tumor cell lines.
The results “suggest CBD to be a potential treatment for nicotine addiction,” the study authors wrote—but they also admit that their findings are preliminary. Ryan Vandrey, PhD, a cannabis researcher and associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University (who was not involved in the 2013 study), agrees that larger, longer-term studies are needed to know if CBD might be helpful for smokers looking to kick the habit.
The cost of treatment varies: Depending on the dispensary and the dosage, it can range from around $100 a month to more than $1,000. Despite the cost, which is not covered by insurance, CBD medicines are drawing great interest for children with severe, intractable epilepsy. California and Colorado, which were among the first states to legalize medical marijuana, have become hot spots for such patients. Before other states legalized medicinal CBD use, some families moved to these states so they could have access to the compound.
Kane fingers one of his innocuous-looking plants, expressing mild bemusement at the U.S. ban on commercial hemp cultivation. “Hemp produces fibers of unparalleled quality,” he notes. “It’s a tremendously high biomass crop that replenishes the soil and doesn’t require much in terms of inputs. We import tons and tons of hemp each year from China and even Canada, yet as a matter of federal policy, we can’t legally grow it. There are places where farmers in the U.S. can literally look across the Canadian border and see fields that are yielding huge profits.”
I lean over to sniff one of the powdery, tightly clustered flower buds, purple-brown and coursing with white wisps. These tiny trichomes fairly ooze with cannabinoid-rich resin. This strain is called Highway Man, after a Willie Nelson song. Hybridized by Hague, it’s a variety loaded with THC. The best parts will be trimmed by hand, dried, cured, and packaged for sale at one of Mindful’s dispensaries. “This whole room will be ready for harvest in just a few days,” Hague notes with the subtle smirk of a competitive breeder who’s won international awards for his strains.
THC, an intoxicating and illegal substance, is responsible for causing marijuana users to get “high.” Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive because it does not act on the same pathways as THC. Thus, it is impossible to get “high” by smoking or ingesting CBD or CBD oil extracted from industrial hemp plants, as they only have minuscule traces of THC (<0.3%).
Yet the DEA has stated unequivocally that it considers CBD to be illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. “CBD derived from the cannabis plant is controlled under Schedule I of the CSA because it is a naturally occurring constituent of marijuana,” Joseph Rannazzisi, the deputy assistant administrator of the DEA, told a congressional panel in June. “While there is ongoing research into a potential medical use of CBD, at this time, CBD has no currently accepted medical use in the USA.” Moreover, DEA spokesman Eduardo Chavez told the New Republic that Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s in-house opinion with regards to CBD has no merit. “The bottom line,” Chavez said, “is the oil is part of the marijuana plant, and the marijuana plant is currently a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.”
In June 2018, following the FDA approval of Epidiolex for rare types of childhood epilepsy, Epidiolex was rescheduled as a Schedule V drug allowing its legal use as a pharmaceutical drug. This change applies only to FDA-approved products containing no more than 0.1 percent THC. This allows GW Pharma to sell Epidiolex, but it does not apply broadly and all other CBD-containing products remain Schedule I drugs.
CBD may help reduces REM behavior disorder in people with Parkinson’s disease. REM behavior disorder is a condition that causes people to act out physically during dreaming and REM sleep. Typically, during REM, the body is largely paralyzed, a state known as REM atonia. This immobilization keeps sleepers from reacting physically to their dreams. In REM behavior disorder, this paralysis doesn’t occur, leaving people free to move—which can lead to disruptive sleep and to injuring themselves or their sleeping partners. Cannabis may also work to reduce pain and improve sleep quality in people with Parkinson’s disease.
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