According to a poll, more Americans use CBD infused products than marijuana or other illegal drugs. CBD or cannabidiol has gained massive popularity amongst the masses since the Farm Act 2018 legalized hemp, a cannabis Sativa plant, that contains high levels of CBD. Cannabidiol is known to be a potent substance in boosting the overall health of users and alleviating the symptoms of many diseases.
It is a non-psychoactive compound, unlike THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, and hence does not cause hallucinations or give a euphoric feeling when consumed or used in any way. The government has stringent regulations regarding the use of THC, the psychoactive compound of marijuana and has limited it to a maximum of 0.3% per dry weight unit.
The poll shows a rather imprecise, but a significant transition of how CBD, one of the marijuana’s compounds have quickly risen in prominence despite lack of evidence that supports the alleged medical claims of CBD or careful regulation of the substance.
Consumers can now buy CBD soaps, cocktails, sodas, chocolates, gummy bears, isolate, vape pens, and even dog treats. Vendors of CBD products regularly tout their alleged medical benefits, often with little or no scientific backing and hefty promises such as treating cancer.
Be it be Amazon, other websites or brick and mortar stores, CBD products can be easily accessed anywhere in the U.S. now. The poll found that about 14% of U.S. adults, nearly one in seven, personally use CBD products. Half of the respondents said they don’t use CBD, while another 35% said they are not familiar with CBD products.
Although 14% may not seem like much, however in practice, this means that by some measures, CBD is more popular and consumed by the adult population than any other illegal drug, including marijuana.
According to the Nation Survey on Drug Use and Health, a federal survey administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration considers an individual a user if they report having used a substance in the past month.
On comparing the past-month use in 2017 NSDUH (the most recent data available) to the rate of CBD use identified recently, it indicates that CBD is more popular than all the major illicit drugs combined, outpaced only by past month use of alcohol and nicotine.
CBD’s popularity is largely driven by young people. About 20% of respondents under 30 reported using CBD products, against 16% of those between the age of 30 and 49, 11% of those between 50 and 64, and only 8% above the age of 65. This trend about CBD actually matches the popularity of marijuana: 24% of Americans aged between 18 to 25 are past-month marijuana users, against 9% over the age of 25.
When compared, the two sources of data above mentioned are imperfectly analogous. It is also likely, that marijuana use rates have risen somewhat over the past 18 months, while the rate of cigarette use has likely declined slightly. Nonetheless, the comparisons still shed light on how rapidly CBD has risen to popularity, in spite of the fact that there is a lot of research that needs to be done to determine the long term effects of CBD and how safe it actually is.
Despite the hemp legalization in December 2018, it is still illegal to sell CBD products for therapeutic purposes unless approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has only allowed one CBD based product till now – Epidiolex, an oral solution used to reduce seizures in children suffering with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome.
But CBD in non-medical applications, such as food, is legal. However, the rapid legalization of CBD production combined with the lack of enforcement resources from the FDA has created an impossible regulatory situation. And the result is de facto legalization, with almost negligible regulatory oversight, and a market full of dubious safety and health claims.
Former FDA head, Scott Gottlieb, said in a recent op-ed that the FDA is being pushed by all sides to act quickly. Meanwhile, responsible producers of CBD infused food are waiting for regulators to address the safety and legal considerations before launching their products.
While it is true that CBD certainly has medical benefits, and has also been approved for treating epilepsy in children, further research is being currently conducted on its applications to diabetes, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and multiple sclerosis.
Despite its health benefits, CBD has some risks as well: human trials have identified “vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea, hepatic abnormalities, and somnolence” as side effects, whereas animal studies have shown side effects including changes to central nervous system toxicity, harm to male reproductive system and hypotension.
But all of this research barely scratches the scientific surface.
Either way, the recent data shows clearly that CBD has become a widely popular product amongst masses and will likely be a huge responsibility for whoever becomes the head of the FDA now.