Can CBD oil help your pain or anxiety? What you need to know about the latest health craze
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CBD products at a hemp expo in September. (Photo: George Walker IV / Tennessean.com)
We’re in the midst of a CBD craze.
Cannabidiol — CBD — is a compound in the marijuana plant with purported medical benefits but very little (0.3 percent or less) THC, the plant’s psychoactive ingredient.
In other words, it won’t make you feel high or stoned.
Dozens of online companies sell it as a supplement. And it can be found in everything from cosmetics to bottled water to coffee. You can pick it up it in health food stores and smoke shops — even in New Jersey, where pot hasn’t been legalized.
The most common reason for using CBD oil is to alleviate anxiety and depression, said Martin A. Lee, director of the non-profit cannabis research group Project CBD and author of “Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana.”
It’s also popular for pain and is being used to treat cancer, Crohn’s, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD, cardiovascular disease, antibiotic-resistant infections, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, there’s a dearth of clinical trials on the medical effects of CBD oil in the U.S., but Lee said there is “extensive pre-clinical research” here and more definitive studies abroad. It’s approved for chronic pain in more than two dozen countries, he said.
Recently, the drug Epidiolex, whose active ingredient is CBD oil, was approved by the FDA for use in controlling seizures in children.
But is it legal?
Despite its widespread use, the short answer is no, CBD oil is not legal.
That’s because the oil comes from the marijuana plant, which is classified by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” requiring strict control, Lee said.
Of course, the legality of pot in the U.S is a tangled web. Even in states like California and Colorado, where marijuana is legal on the state level, dispensaries could technically be shut down at any time by the federal government.
Similarly, though CBD oil is technically illegal on the federal level, it is sold freely online and in stores even here in New Jersey. Erica McBride, executive director of the National Hemp Association in Washington, said there have been instances in states where pot hasn’t been legalized where CBD oil was confiscated at the post office or people possessing it were arrested, but it’s “very rare.”
Hemp is marijuana grown for non-recreational uses and contains 0.3 percent or less of THC.
“To my knowledge, everyone who fought these incidents won, once they proved the CBD oil had 0.3 percent or less of THC,” she said.
Growing and producing CBD oil made from hemp may soon become fully legal. Lawmakers are working to finalize a 2018 Farm Bill sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell that removes hemp from the controlled substances list, allowing it to be grown legally on a large scale. Negotiators are hoping for a completed report this month and a vote on the bill by year’s end.
Even then, it remains to be seen what the FDA will do to regulate CBD oil products.
“It’s very complicated and messy and uncertain,” McBride said.
Is it safe?
In its pure form, CBD oil is non-toxic, even at large doses, and has no abuse potential, experts say.
Unfortunately, the legal murkiness of CBD oil means that in states like New Jersey, no one is regulating its safety, efficacy or labeling. CBD oil cannot be shipped here from California or Colorado.
Buying CBD oil in New Jersey is “like the Wild West,” said Tristan Quintan of Montclair’s Inner Eye, a smoke shop on Bloomfield Avenue. Short of sending it to a lab yourself, there’s no way to be certain what’s in a product.
Compounding the danger is that people who are sick are vulnerable to the allure of CBD oil. “It is very disturbing that people who are ailing reach for these products and there are no safety controls,” Lee said.
Contamination by pesticides, herbicides and solvents used in the extraction process is a big concern. The term “organic” is meaningless, McBride said, since CBD oil is not eligible for FDA organic certification.
The lack of oversight means products may contain only synthetic CBD, or little or no CBD oil at all. A study last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association measured the amount of CBD oil in 84 products from 31 companies and concluded that 26 percent contained less CBD than advertised.
Mislabeling the amount of THC in a product, which the researchers also found, could cause problems, especially in children.
So what to do? McBride and Lee recommend shopping by brand — finding a reputable company by looking up online reviews or asking a retailer you trust.
Such companies will post test results from labs unaffiliated with the company; even if they are inscrutable, it’s one sign of transparency.
CBD, particularly from cannabis plant hemp, has become a popular ingredient in wellness products. Pictured here: Pollen is removed from a hemp plant at the Unique Botanicals facility in Springfield, Ore. (Photo: AP)
Or you can ask a company for lab reports. “If they are reluctant to share these results with you, it should be an automatic red flag,” McBride said.
CBD products from U.S. companies are safer than those from overseas, especially those produced in countries like China and Romania, where soil may be contaminated with pollutants such as lead and mercury.
“Most companies using domestic hemp advertise that fact on their websites,” McBride said.
Try to find out if the CBD oil is extracted using CO2 rather than toxic solvents like BHO, propane, hexane or other hydrocarbons.
Vaping requires extra vetting, since vape oil cartridges generally contain additives such as propylene glycol, which, when heated, produces the carcinogen formaldehyde. Never use flavored vape oil, especially cream and cinnamon, which are toxic when heated and inhaled.
What’s the best way to use CBD oil?
The only way to find the right dose of CBD oil is trial and error. Companies can’t give guidelines, since that would be making a medical claim, McBride said.
When starting out, take a few very small doses over the course of a day and stick with that for a few days, Lee said, observing and making small adjustments. “Don’t get impatient and overdo it,” he added. Large doses are sedating. And, although it’s counterintuitive, he said lower doses are often more effective than higher ones.
The method used to take the oil also makes a difference.
Vaping is the quickest-acting, but it also fades fastest (in about 20 minutes), making it the usual method for pain flare-ups or the onset of a panic attack. Placing the oil under the tongue takes about 20 minutes to kick in, but effects can last for several hours.
A Fairfield, Connecticut, cafe offers CBD oil in acai bowls, smoothies, juices and more. (Photo: Elyse Toribio / NorthJersey.com)
The ratio of THC to CBD in a product is also important. Lee said products made with CBD oil extracted from resin-rich marijuana plants rather than industrial hemp, which may have no THC at all, are more therapeutic because the two ingredients work synergistically. These oils are also purer, since fewer plants are used and less refining is necessary. However, these products are available only in states with legal weed.
As if there were not enough confusion, Quintan, of the Inner Eye, said different strains of the cannabis plant are used to make CBD oils with widely differing effects. A strain named the Pineapple Express will make you feel euphoric, he said, while Blueberry OG helps insomnia.
What you won’t feel is high. Whether that’s a plus or a downside is for you to decide.The latest health craze is CBD oil, a non-psychoactive extract of the marijuana plant. But is it legal in New Jersey? Is it safe?
Is CBD oil legal in New Jersey?
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- What is CBD?
- Why is CBD sometimes illegal?
- New Jersey CBD laws
- Where to buy CBD in New Jersey
- How to read CBD labels and packaging
Yes. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal in New Jersey. In addition, CBD derived from marijuana plants is legal for qualifying patients authorized to participate in the state’s medical marijuana plan.
For those who are not registered in the medical marijuana program, there’s hemp-derived CBD, which was made legal in New Jersey in August 2019 with the New Jersey Hemp Farming Act, following the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp at a federal level.
New Jersey completely decriminalized hemp and requires a license to grow or process this agricultural commodity. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is in charge of licensing and regulations, and the New Jersey Hemp Program was among the first three states to be approved by the US Department of Agriculture.
What is CBD?
CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis. After tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) is the second-most abundant cannabinoid in the plant, and has many potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety and seizure-suppressant properties. CBD can be sourced from both marijuana plants and hemp plants, which are legal in most countries as they contain minuscule amounts of THC.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating substance found in cannabis. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Combine THC and CBD to fully employ the entourage effect; THC and CBD work hand-in-hand to amplify each others’ effects.
Why is CBD sometimes illegal?
The 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act categorized all types of cannabis, including hemp, as Schedule I, which is defined as a substance with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a likelihood for addiction. The act prevented further research that may have shed light on beneficial uses for cannabis.
Things changed with the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which recognized the difference between hemp, which must contain less than .3% THC by weight. Marijuana, on the other hand, is defined as containing more than .3% THC and is still categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2018, and removed hemp from the list of Controlled Substances, making it legal at a federal level. CBD derived from marijuana plants remains illegal on the federal level, while CBD derived from hemp is legal but governed by rules that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has yet to draft.Following the passage of the Farm Bill, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was given the authority to regulate CBD labeling, therapeutic claims, and its use as a food additive. The FDA has taken the stance that hemp-derived CBD may not be added to food and beverages, nor marketed as dietary supplements. The FDA has been strict when it comes to health claims and content that could be construed as medical advice about CBD.
While the 2018 Farm Bill did legalize hemp, its production, and the sale of any product derived from it, including CBD, it’s still highly regulated. The bill allows some states to make their own rules for CBD cultivation and sale. States may regulate CBD in food, beverages, dietary supplements, and other products while waiting for final FDA rules.
New Jersey CBD laws
In August 2019, New Jersey lawmakers passed New Jersey Assembly Bill 5322, which set up licensing requirements for growing and processing industrial hemp. While many states moved to legalize hemp production after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill at the end of the year, New Jersey was one of a few states that started doing so after the 2014 Farm Bill recognized the difference between industrial hemp, from which CBD is derived, and marijuana.
The state passed NJ A1330 in November 2018, adopting the same standard as the federal government, requiring industrial hemp to contain .3% or less THC by weight and setting up a pilot program that was eventually replaced by the subsequent passage of NJ A5322.
To meet federal legal criteria, CBD oil must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The new statute completely legalized all forms of hemp and products derived from it, as long as the crop was grown in a legal manner with less than .3% THC. Growers and processors must be licensed, and anyone who grows hemp without authorization will be subject to the same penalties as those who get caught growing marijuana. Three violations in five years would result in a five-year ban from growing hemp.
Intentional attempts to skirt the law would be referred to state and federal law enforcement agencies. Hemp products, including CBD, may be transported out and into the state, provided the out-of-state CBD was produced from industrial hemp and not marijuana plants. New Jersey has submitted its plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and it awaits approval. NJ A5322 specifically states that individuals may still grow hemp in the state if USDA doesn’t approve the state’s plan as long as the grower complies with federal statutes.
Hemp-derived CBD is legal in New Jersey in all forms, including cosmetics, personal products, and food. NJ A5322 allows the state’s health department to set rules around CBD. All hemp is required to undergo testing for THC levels, and any hemp that tests higher than .3% THC must be reported to the producer and the USDA, and may be required to be retested.
New Jersey CBD possession limits
There are no possession limits in New Jersey when it comes to hemp-derived CBD. For medical patients using marijuana-derived CBD, the possession limit for medical marijuana in New Jersey is 2 ounces, or 56.7 grams, of marijuana product in a 30-day period.
There are no possession limits in New Jersey when it comes to hemp-derived CBD, but there is for medical patients using marijuana-derived CBD. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Where to buy CBD in New Jersey
Smaller, local retailers and health food stores in New Jersey may offer CBD products. Shopping online is another option since the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has confirmed that legal CBD products may be shipped by mail. CBD products can usually be found online at the websites of specific brands, while a list a reputable CBD brands can be found on Weedmaps.
How to read CBD labels and packaging
The FDA currently does not allow CBD-infused food, drinks, or dietary supplements to be sold, and hasn’t reached a final conclusion on regulating hemp-derived CBD products. While the FDA slowly and cautiously approaches making new regulations for CBD products, the gap between regulated products and anything goes grows wider, leaving consumers at risk of buying poor-quality products. When buying CBD products look for these on the label:
- Amount of active CBD per serving
- Supplement Fact panel, including other ingredients
- Net weight
- Manufacturer or distributor name
- Suggested Use
- Full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate
- Batch or date code