Cannabidiol (CBD) has been getting a lot of press lately for being safe, non-intoxicating and helpful for treating a variety of medical issues. So why is it illegal and classified as a “Schedule 1” drug? Experts say the answer is simple: marijuana prohibition continues to create huge barriers to researching and producing this valuable cannabinoid.
What is CBD and How Did It Become Illegal?
CBD is one of the most plentiful cannabinoids in marijuana, second only to THC — the main, active ingredient in cannabis. Like THC, CBD has a wide range of medical benefits, helping with issues like epilepsy, depression, anxiety, pain, inflammation and addiction. Unlike THC, CBD has no intoxicating effects. CBD doesn’t get users ‘high’.
As CBD’s popularity has grown, so has the CBD market. Everyone from cannabis producers to hemp farmers are creating products to meet the demand. From tinctures like Charlotte’s Web, to high-end products like Dirty Lemon’s infused drinks, many hemp-based CBD products can be found online and in stores throughout the US.
But technically, many of these hemp-based CBD products are illegal, and bringing any of them across state lines still raises complicated legal questions. The government is cracking down on those bypassing these laws, in some cases, raiding stores and seizing products. Recent raids include Green Gorilla vape shop in Texas, and Peace of Mind stores in Missouri. Scott Micke, Peace of Mind co-owner, says the hemp-based CBD products seized from his store are carried by Wal-Mart and Target and he thought they were legal. “The laws are so worded and presented in ways that business owners like myself and even the lawmakers don’t know what is legal and not legal,” explains Micke.
Indeed, some lawyers say hemp-CBD’s legality is open to interpretation, and future court cases — or a DEA scheduling change — will add clarity.
The California Department of Public Health is certainly trying to make things clear. They recently put out a statement clarifying that industrial hemp is not allowed in California food products. Period.
So how did this beneficial and non-intoxicating medicine become illegal? “It’s kind of simple,” says Martin Lee of Project CBD “It’s marijuana prohibition — that’s why it’s illegal…and it’s built on a mountain of lies.”
Marijuana prohibition, started in the 1930’s and ramped up during the Nixon presidency, was pushed through by politicians to make it easier to arrest people of color and anti-war activists. These politicians told all kinds of lies about cannabis to make their case. John Ehrlichman, a top advisor to Nixon even admitted that criminalizing marijuana was a way of disrupting these communities, saying “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Misinformation from these anti-marijuana smear campaigns have lead to deep-seated fears and misunderstandings that continue to confuse the issue — both for cannabis in general and for CBD.
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