When California legalized recreational marijuana earlier this year, THC-based products grabbed all the headlines, but tetrahydrocannabinol isn’t the only chemical compound that’s seeing expanded freedom.
The easing of marijuana laws also freed up CBD, or cannabidiol, which can be derived from either marijuana or hemp plants.
Unlike THC, marijuana’s psychoactive chemical, CBD does not induce a high in consumers, and it can be used to treat a variety of conditions, Justin Benton, president of 101 CBD in Ventura and Ojai, said.
Benton, whose company uses hemp plants to create creams, oils and vaporizer pens that employ CBD, said the compound has the ability to help people with mental and physical problems.
“Our normal clients are baby boomers who don’t like pain and anxiety and want to sleep. That’s why people take CBD,” he said.
The compound can also reduce the demand for pharmaceutical drugs, Benton said, which is why proponents think it could help reduce the opioid crisis by providing an alternative to the addictive drugs.
Benton said CBD has no significant side effects, though critics aren’t so sure. A lack of scientific research has area healthcare professionals seeking more information.
Dr. Wayne Press, a chiropractor in Simi Valley, said the downsides of CBD can include diarrhea, changes in appetite, a tired feeling, and weight gain or loss, but he’s also heard from a small number of his patients that CBD has improved their lives.
In the past two years, Press said, he’s seen an increase in questions about CBD, many of which come from people who’ve heard a lot about the benefits but very little about the side effects, and some patients aren’t sure about the appropriate dose.
Press estimated that 2 percent of his patients use CBD, and of that 2 percent, four out of five are taking more than the recommended dose of 2.5 to 20 milligrams.
Press said some patients have admitted to taking 500 milligrams at once.
“Some people get amazing results and swear by it, and some people try it and said they didn’t see any result whatsoever. They stick with it for a while then drop it because it has no impact,” she said.
Part of that, Kalec said, is inconsistency among products. More than 850 CBD brands were on the market in 2017, according to Forbes, accounting for nearly $500 million in sales, according to the Brightfield Group.
Many medicines work the same regardless of brand— think store-brand ibuprofen and Advil—but with CBD, that consistency is often missing.
That’s because some producers cut corners when making their products, isolating some compounds instead of using the full-spectrum CBD drawn directly from the plant, Benton said.
Kalec said that without further scientific study it’s impossible to know if the differences are due to the products themselves or the fact that patients don’t know the best way to use it.
It may be years before science comes back with conclusive answers to these questions. In the meantime, area healthcare professionals have to trust their patients’ judgment.
“I always tell patients, ‘What it looks like in five years might be a totally different story. It might be as common as aspirin,’” Press said. “We don’t know, so we have to back it up with research.”