CBD, or cannabidiol, has become a popular topic lately, but despite CBD attracting attention over the past decade for its medicinal properties, patient access didn’t grow accordingly. At present, CBD products derived from marijuana are only available in medical cannabis states, leaving thousands of patients without access to products that could help alleviate a multitude of symptoms. CBD products extracted from industrial hemp, however, are a different matter entirely.
If you know anything about hemp, chances are you’ve heard conflicting reports regarding its legality. According to the DEA, marijuana is a product of three specific parts of the cannabis plant: flowering “buds,” leaves, and resin. The remaining parts – stalks and sterilized seeds – are what is considered “hemp.” Hemp, however, is not a term that is recognized under federal law; hence the debate.
The primary distinction that separates these parts of the cannabis plant is THC content, the cannabinoid responsible for psychoactive effects. While marijuana is rich in THC, containing an amount that ranges from 2% to over 20%, hemp has less than 0.3% THC. At such low levels, hemp cannot produce the “high” associated with marijuana.
Hemp does contain high levels of another important cannabinoid: CBD. Depending on the variety of hemp and the part of the plant used, it typically contains 1-5% CBD, a sufficient quantity for extraction.
Right now, 19 US states allow varying degrees of hemp production for pilot studies, commercial production, or both. Of those, eight have laws that “promote the growth and marketing of industrial hemp.” Outside of these states, industrial hemp cultivation is strictly illegal. Because the US is so restrictive on production, most hemp is produced in the EU (where it’s legal) and imported to the US.
Manufacturers are able to create CBD-rich products from industrial hemp, providing a great service to patients living in states without access. CBD Gum is among the leading distributors of hemp-derived CBD products. The owner of CBD Gum reports that because “the medical need is so high, [we have] seen consistent growth month-over-month both domestically and internationally,” helping patients everywhere access the products they need.
There is some debate regarding whether CBD is effective on its own, but the growth rate of patients purchasing hemp-derived CBD products speaks volumes. We’re happy to see hemp cultivators, manufacturers, and distributors step up to the plate to provide much-needed relief to patients without access.
Whether you agree with it in principle or not, testing for illicit drug use is a reality for many workers in the United States. Drug testing is mandatory for federal employees, and although it isn’t required in the private sector, more employers are implementing some kind(s) of drug screening.
When drug testing is mandated, employers almost always follow the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) guidelines because it puts them on solid legal ground. Typically, there is an overlap between testing guidelines and accepted cutoff levels for drugs and drug metabolites in confirmatory testing and screening.
Because THC is widely recognized as being responsible for marijuana's psychoactivity and euphoria, a routine urine drug screen for marijuana use consists of an immunoassay with antibodies that are made to detect it, and its main metabolite, 11-nor-delta9-caboxy-THC (THC-COOH). SAMHSA has set the cutoff level for a positive urine screen in the immunoassay at 50 ng/mL. When the immunoassay screen is positive at the > 50 ng/mL level, a confirmatory GC/MS (Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry) test is performed to verify the positive urine screen. The confirmatory GC/MS has a cutoff level of 15 ng/mL and is specific only to the 11-nor-THCCOOH metabolite.
Fortunately, the urine drug screen for THC-COOH is known to have very little cross-reactivity to other cannabinoids that are not psychoactive, such as CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBN (cannabinol), and others. This is good news for “normal” consumers of CBD/hemp oil.
That said, individuals using unusually large doses of a cannabinoid-rich hemp oil product (above 1000-2000 mg of hemp oil daily) could theoretically test positive during the initial urinary screen. Although very rare, the urine screen in these cases would likely represent a “false positive” due to other non-THC metabolites or compounds, which may cross-react with the immunoassay. When this is the case, the confirmatory GC/MS test would be negative, since CBD and other cannabinoids will not be detected by the more accurate (and specific) GC/MS screen.
Keep in mind that most of the high-quality, reliable CBD-rich hemp oil products contain much less THC than marijuana. For example, hemp contains anywhere from 1/10th to 1/300th of the THC concentration found in marijuana. An individual consuming 1000-2000 mg per day of hemp oil would thus consume approximately 3-6 mg of THC. This exceedingly high dose may result in detection of positive urine screen in up to 11% to 23% of assays.
On the other hand, there is some data demonstrating that at daily doses of 0.5mg of THC from 3-5 servings of most commercial CBD-rich hemp oil products, the positive urine screen rate is < 0.2%. Again, most servings of typical high-quality, high-purity CBD-based hemp oil products contain well below 0.1mg of THC and therefore have over 400-600 times less THC than marijuana products.
What does all this mean? Put simply, a consumer who uses a high-quality, scientifically vetted hemp-based product at the standard serving size is highly unlikely to test positive for THC and/or THC-COOH. However, it’s important to be cognizant that extremely high doses may result in a positive urine screen (that would be subsequently shown to be false via GC/MS). Ultimately, consumers need to be fully informed of the specific regulations posed by their employers and adjust their consumption of cannabinoid products accordingly.
Note: Most research suggests that for infrequent or 'non-daily' users of cannabis, a typical high-dose marijuana cigarette (containing about 40mg to 50mg of THC) would result in a positive THC metabolite screen for up to two days at this cutoff level. However, for routine and regular users of cannabis, this same screen could be positive for weeks, but this depends on many factors including, but not limited to:
how much and how often cannabis is used
the metabolism of individual being tested
the route of administration
This article is based on SAMHSA standards. Other organizations' drug testing standards may vary, so keep in mind that the findings presented in this article may differ under alternative standards. If you have any concern about testing positive for THC when using CBD-containing hemp oil, please seek advice from your health care professional.
Gustafson RA, Kim I, Stout PR, Klette KL, George MP, Moolchan ET, Levine B, Huestis MA. Urinary pharmacokinetics of 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol after controlled oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol administration. J Anal Toxicol. 2004 Apr; 28(3):160-7
Gustafson RA, Levine B, Stout PR, Klette KL, George MP, Moolchan ET, Huestis MA. Urinary cannabinoid detection times after controlled oral administration of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol to humans. Clin Chem. 2003 Jul; 49(7):1114-24.
Kemp PM, Abukhalaf IK, Manno JE, Manno BR, Alford DD, Abusada GA. Cannabinoids in humans. I. Analysis of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and six metabolites in plasma and urine using GC-MS. J Anal Toxicol. 1995 Sep; 19(5):285-91.
Huestis MA, Mitchell JM, Cone EJ. Urinary excretion profiles of 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in humans after single smoked doses of marijuana. J Anal Toxicol. 1996 Oct;20(6):441-52.
Wall ME, Perez-Reyes M. J Clin Pharmacol. The metabolism of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and related cannabinoids in man. 1981 Aug-Sep; 21(8-9 Suppl):178S-189S.
“One thing that I advocate to people when it comes to cannabis as medicine is whole plant medicine,” explained Kowlasky. “You need the whole plant as medicine. People are focusing very much on CBD-only medicine in the States, with THC removed. In essence that’s just hemp paste.”
Velasco’s response to this idea is quite fascinating. “In my opinion as a scientist, I’ve been working with [cannabis] for quite a long time. CBD is helping—we tried a lot of combinations of THC and CBD because it’s good for avoiding the side effects of the therapy […] but, definitely THC is important.”
With so much debate surrounding the issue, it’s difficult to tell which side to take.
As CBD’s medicinal qualities continue to make waves across the country, more states are starting to look into limited medical marijuana legalization laws so their residents can get access to CBD products to treat their debilitating medical conditions. If a patient is unlucky enough to live in a state with no laws in place or no legal access to CBD products, he or she may feel as if there’s no viable alternative that can provide the same relief.
Here’s where hemp-derived CBD products come in. There’s been much debate suggesting that CBD derived from industrial hemp has the same properties as cannabis-derived CBD, making it a potential alternative for patients who can’t legally access medical marijuana but can legally acquire hemp-derived CBD products. A lot of people aren’t entirely familiar with hemp-derived CBD, however. What exactly is there to know?
Some Facts About Industrial Hemp-Derived CBD
Here are a few facts about CBD derived from industrial hemp:
⦁ Agricultural hemp and medical marijuana both come from the Cannabis Sativa L. plant.
⦁ Agricultural hemp, which is often referred to as “hemp stalk,” grows differently than THC-containing cannabis, and looks similar to bamboo.
THC-producing marijuana plants are grown to an average of five feet in height, spaced six to eight feet apart. Agricultural hemp is grown to a height of 10 to 15 feet or more before harvest, placed three to six inches apart.
⦁ Hemp has little potential to produce high-content THC when pollinated.
As long as agricultural hemp plants are pollinated by members of their own crop, the genetics will remain similar with low levels of THC.
⦁ There is a strong legal argument that production and distribution of CBD oils/products derived from imported raw material industrial hemp is not a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA); in fact, one Colorado law firm has published a written opinion making the case.
Your CBD Questions Answered (submit your questions here)
Each batch of CBD is tested by third-party labs to conform to purity specifications, ensuring the product is free of pesticides, pathogens, heavy materials, and residual solvent contamination.
Whether you’re interested in learning how industrial hemp-derived CBD is made, how it helps patients, or what the future holds for CBD products, share your queries by leaving a comment and your questions will be addressed in future educational pieces about CBD oil. Your questions are important not just for your benefit, but to enrich the minds of patients all around the world. By spreading knowledge and information about cannabis, hemp, CBD, and other cannabinoids, we’re supporting safe growth of the cannabis industry while at the same time educating the masses about a misunderstood plant.
Endocannabinoid system explained
(benefits of using Cannabinoids)
As we age, our cells’ ability to communicate with each other becomes impaired. Thus, the ability of the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system to respond to problems and stay healthy can become compromised. Today we’ll examine how cannabinoids such as CBD may promote wellness against inflammatory aging, or “inflammaging.”
What is Inflammaging?
Inflammaging is the accumulation of low-grade inflammation throughout certain parts of the body. For example, it has been demonstrated that compared to their younger counterparts, older individuals have increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (non-antibody proteins secreted by cells) that promote systemic inflammation within the body.
In response, the body activates a system to increase cortisol (an anti-inflammatory hormone). The problem, though, is that a continuous activation of these systems can lead to blood sugar imbalance and diabetes, immune system suppression, weight gain and obesity, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems, and even fertility problems. Moreover, although you’d expect that an immune system continuously operating on a higher level would be more effective, it’s actually detrimental. Instead, the low-grade continuous activation actually hinders the immune system’s ability to respond effectively to injuries or infection.
The Endocannabinoid System and Neurodegenerative
Enter the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Its overriding purpose is to regulate physiological functions and restore homeostasis (or a steady state) in cells and organs. Some of the most powerful evidence we have linking ECS to overall health comes from studies where scientists have blocked the two major endocannabinoid-degrading enzymes (fatty acid amide hydrolase [FAAH] and monoacylglycerol lipase [MAGL]). In a series of elegant studies, genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of FAAH and/or MAGL led to decreases in spatial learning, and memory. Clear and predictable symptomatic relief from spasticity has also been also been noted in patients with multiple sclerosis.
In short, it appears that strategically keeping the endocannabinoid system in balance, potentially with the judicious use of phytocannabinoids, may support optimal neuronal health and wellness over time.
DiMarzo et al. Endocannabinoid signaling and the deteriorating brain. Nature Reviews (Neuroscience). 16: 30-42, 2014.
Scuderi C, Steardo L, Esposito G. Cannabidiol promotes amyloid precursor protein ubiquitination and reduction of beta amyloid expression in SHSY5YAPP+ cells through PPARγ involvement. Phytother Res. 2014 Jul;28(7):1007-13.
Esposito G, Scuderi C, Valenza M, Togna GI, Latina V, De Filippis D, Cipriano M, Carratù MR, Iuvone T, Steardo L. Cannabidiol reduces Aβ-induced neuroinflammation and promotes hippocampal neurogenesis through PPARγ involvement. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28668.
da Silva VK, de Freitas BS, da Silva Dornelles A, Nery LR, Falavigna L, Ferreira RD, Bogo MR, Hallak JE, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA, Schröder N. Cannabidiol normalizes caspase 3, synaptophysin, and mitochondrial fission protein DNM1L expression levels in rats with brain iron overload: implications for neuroprotection. Mol Neurobiol. 2014 Feb;49(1):222-33.
Phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) are a subclass of cannabinoids derived from plants, typically hemp. In the 1800s, hemp plants were widely cultivated as a fiber source and food in the form of seed oil. Even George Washington grew hemp on his farm in Mount Vernon. Today, worldwide uses of hemp encompass hundreds of consumer products, including ropes, fabrics, paper, plastics and construction materials, and even serve as a source of protein. These same hemp plants are also the major source of commercial CBD extracts, which today are being used to attenuate fear and anxiety and promote a healthy stress response.
The Endocannabinoid System and CBD's Role in Stress, Anxiety and Fear Responses
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex signaling network within the human body that uses specialized compounds known as cannabinoids to control various bodily processes by interacting with different receptors and regulatory enzymes.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is often referred to as a “phytocannabinoid.” Phytocannabinoids are plant derivatives that contain a number of diverse chemical compounds that can affect appetite, metabolism, pain sensation, inflammation, thermoregulation, vision, mood, and memory. It’s important to note that phytocannabinoids are any plant-derived product capable of either:
Directly interacting with cannabinoid receptors;
Sharing chemical similarities with cannabinoids that allow them to interact with other components of the ECS;
CBD is the second most prominent compound found in the Cannabis sativa l. plant, while THC is the first. Proponents claim that, unlike THC, CBD can be legally purchased and used throughout the United States when derived from agricultural hemp. It is non-psychoactive and is thought by some to have a much broader range of medical applications, including beneficial effects on neurodegeneration, autoimmune disorders, heart, and liver health.
Some enthusiasts believe the existence of cannabinoid receptors in the human body signifies that the cannabis plant was intended for therapeutic and recreational consumption. However, this is simply a “chemical coincidence” whereby plant cannabinoids mimic our own.
There are numerous examples of botanical compounds that have some chemical similarity to other hormones. Some of these compounds are called “phyto-estrogens” because although they are found in plants, they can interact with hormone receptors in humans. Scientists are enthusiastic to explore the potential to modulate physiologic systems in healthy individuals.
How Cannabinoid Receptors Control Stress Response
Cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2, TRPV1, GP55 and others) and the biochemical machinery necessary to synthesize and generate cannabinoids are present within areas of the brain known to control emotional behavior, mood, sleep, stress, irritability, fear and even the sensation of “craving.” These structures include the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, and periaqueductal gray (PAG) of the midbrain. Several lines of evidence in mice and other animals have clearly demonstrated that activation of cannabinoid receptors within the brain lowers heart rate and blood pressure responses to stress and reduces panic and anxiety behavior. Put simply, hemp-derived CBD administration appears to attenuate the well-known “fight or flight” phenomenon to physical and mental stress. Other studies using similar models in animals have shown that CBD administration decreases fear-avoidant and conditioned responses to pain or punishment.
Is Your Endocannabinoid System in Balance?
In humans, one of the earliest studies to document the beneficial effects of CBD on anxiety was published in 1982 (1). Using a double-blind, cross-over design where each subject served as their own control, eight healthy volunteers were given either 0.5 mg/kg tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), 1 mg/kg CBD, a mixture containing 0.5 mg/kg THC and 1 mg/kg CBD, or diazepam (Valium) as a control. The results showed that CBD blocked the anxiety promoted by THC, indicating antagonism between the two cannabinoids.
In another study using a simulated public speaking test to induce stress, a 300-milligram dose of CBD reduced symptoms of self-rated anxiety (2). Follow-up studies have confirmed and extended these results by reporting significant decreases in cognitive impairment and speech performance in subjects submitted to anxiety induced by several different procedures.
Mapping CBD’s Neurological Effects
Other more elegant studies have used single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine changes in regional blood flow and neural correlates of brain activity in response to CBD administration (3,4). Results from these studies, using doses of between 400 and 600 milligrams of CBD, indicate increases in brain activity in the left parahippocampal gyrus and decreases in the left amygdala-hippocampus complex, along with attenuated responses during the recognition of fearful facial expressions in the amygdala and the anterior cingulate. Collectively, these patterns of SPECT and fMRI results are consistent with effects on alleviating anxiety, irritability, fear and stress responses from hemp-derived CBD administration.
Interestingly, a case report was published by Shannon S et al. in the journal Integrative Medicine, on hemp-derived CBD oil for decreasing the habitual use of marijuana (5). This case describes the gradual decrease in anxiety (as measured by HAM-A: Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale) and feelings of stress and irritability from the marijuana non-use, while maintaining normal sleep quality. According to the authors, the use of hemp-derived CBD oil helped in transitioning this patient away from habitual marijuana use while avoiding negative stress responses. The neuronal circuits within the brain that control many of these behaviors and emotions appear to be positively modulated by CBD.
Given the ongoing, emerging human clinical data supporting the use of a hemp-derived CBD-rich extracts for modulating fear, anxiety and a healthy stress response, it looks like good old George Washington was a bona fide hemp pioneer.
CBD’s ability to interact with multiple organ systems, combined with its remarkable safety profile and extremely low toxicity, could signify a bright future for this 5,000 year old botanical superstar.
Zuardi AW, Shirakawa I, Finkelfarb E, Karniol IG. Action of cannabidiol on the anxiety and other effects produced by delta 9-THC in normal subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1982;76:245–250.
Zuardi AW, Cosme RA, Graeff FG, Guimarães FS. Effects of ipsapirone and cannabidiol on human experimental anxiety. J Psychopharmacol. 1993;7:82–88.
Crippa JA, Zuardi AW, Garrido GE, Wichert-Ana L, Guarnieri R, Ferrari L, et al. Effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on regional cerebral blood flow. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004;29:417–426.
Fusar-Poli P, Allen P, Bhattacharyya S, Crippa JA, Mechelli A, Borgwardt S, et al. Modulation of effective connectivity during emotional processing by Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2009a;13:421–432.
Shannon S and Opila-Lehman J. Cannabidiol Oil for Decreasing Addictive Use of Marijuanna: A Case Report. Integrative Medicine. 2015;14:6:31-35.
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