CBD 101

The last few years have seen a boom in the promotion and use of CBD oil. The internet has exploded with claims that it has amazing medicinal effects on a host of maladies and chronic conditions.

What Is CBD Oil?

If you ask the average person on the street, most would say that it’s marijuana or a product made from marijuana. But that’s not the case.

CBD or cannabidiol is one of more than 100 chemical compounds found in cannabis plants called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids have been found to react to parts of the body in both animals and humans that affect appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.

The CBD oil that’s widely available in the United States is derived from hemp. Hemp is a form of cannabis that’s doesn’t have the psychoactive effect of its popular cousin marijuana. This psychoactive effect that marijuana provides the user is caused by a cannabinoid in the plant known as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Hemp has nearly zero THC, while marijuana has high amounts of THC. In addition, hemp has high CBD, while the amount in marijuana can vary based on the strain of the plant.

The History of Medical CBD

Both hemp and marijuana have a long history as a medicine in the Middle and the Far East. As European powers started gaining a foothold in Asia in the 1700s, scientists and physicians of the time started investigating various indigenous medications.

One such person was Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy. O’Shaughnessy was living in India in the 1830s and was introduced to cannabis by local residents in the Calcutta area.

While there, O’Shaughnessy was a member of the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta. As part of the organization, he published his first scientific paper on the uses of cannabis.

The paper cited the use of the plant by local residents for a number of illnesses.

During his time testing the plant, he had the following successful tests:

  • Relieving of the pain associated with a patient’s rheumatism
  • Eliminating the convulsions (possibly of epilepsy) of an infant
  • Reducing the spasms in patients who had rabies and tetanus

He returned to Great Britain in 1841 and brought cannabis plants with him and introduced them to the public. The use of the plant as a medicine quickly spread throughout Great Britain and Europe. Within a decade it had made its way over to the United States.

By 1850, cannabis had been accepted as a medical treatment via its inclusion in the annual drug and pharmaceutical manual The United States Pharmacopeia.

The book cited cannabis as a treatment for the following:

  • alcoholism
  • anthrax
  • cholera
  • convulsive disorders
  • dysentery
  • excessive menstrual bleeding
  • gout
  • incontinence
  • insanity
  • leprosy
  • neuralgia (nerve pain)
  • opiate addiction
  • rabies
  • snakebite
  • tetanus
  • tonsillitis
  • typhus
  • uterine bleeding

The use of cannabis for these and other issues was popular until the end of the 1800s. Part of the reason was that the plant was easy for pharmaceutical companies to cultivate, as such, it became widely available for people to buy at local stores. Prescriptions for cannabis were not required and the cost of it was much cheaper than other pharmacological options of the time.

From the beginning of the 1900s to the 1940s, the medical use of cannabis in the US would decline. There were many reasons for this.

First, at the time, it was difficult to determine the correct dosage to give to patients. Potency could vary from manufacturer to manufacture. Cannabis crops could vary wildly in the different cannabinoid content (as cannabinoids weren’t even discovered at the time) so the effectiveness as a medicine varied from person to person.

At the same time, opiate-based drugs and synthetic drugs became more popular. Also, in 1865, the hypodermic syringe was invented and by 1900, a 1-handed syringe had been patented, allowing for opiate-based and synthetic drugs to be injected into a person to affect pain in a rapid manner.

A government misinformation campaign regarding marijuana also had a major impact on its use. Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger went to war against the plant. His campaign used racist imagery, such as the association of marijuana and jazz musicians (who at the time were largely comprised of African Americans) and unproven scientific propaganda claiming that cannabis users were turned “insane” after even only 1 use of the substance.

The campaign was successful in getting every state to rescind the over the counter status of cannabis by 1936. The following year, a federal law called the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed by Congress. This law banned the recreational use of cannabis. The law also created new requirements for prescribing it as a treatment. And while the American Medical Association opposed the law, President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law. By 1941, Anslinger had convinced The United States Pharmacopeia to remove cannabis from their list of legitimate treatments for illnesses.

Despite the shunning of cannabis by the government and The United States Pharmacopeia, it was still legal to possess for medical and scientific purposes. In 1942, a chemist named Roger Adams isolated the first cannabinoid, CBD. Soon after, Adams would create synthetic THC. He never actually discovered it in the plant, but he theorized its existence and created the THC molecules based on the hypothesis. Over 20 years later, an Israeli chemist named Raphael Mechoulam would finally isolate an actual organic THC molecule.

For a short time in the 1960s, cannabis was legal again. This is due to legendary psychedelic recreational drug advocate Timothy Leary. He was arrested for violating the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 for failing to declare that he had cannabis in his possession when at a customs border checkpoint. While the possession didn’t violate the act, his failure to declare did. But if he declared he had cannabis, it would have run afoul of state laws in Texas (where he crossed back into the US), thus making him incriminate himself.

The case, Timothy Leary v. the United States made its way to the Supreme Court where the justices unanimously sided with Leary and found the law unconstitutional.

The freedom to consume cannabis was short-lived, however as Congress passed and President Richard Nixon signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which not only made Marijuana illegal but classified it as a Schedule 1 drug which are substances that have high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns.

This didn’t kill off the drug’s potential for medical use though. Despite more vilification in the 1970s and 1980s, experiments continued with cannabis.

In the 1980s, Raphael Mechoulam continued his cannabis research. He conducted controlled clinical trials that showed direct evidence of the anticonvulsant effects of medical marijuana, specifically the cannabinoid CBD, in seizures.

California Leads the Way

Cannabis gained more momentum for other reasons as well. A medical crisis occurred in the 1980s and 1990s with the advent of AIDS. Thousands of victims of AIDS and HIV died each year. The treatments for patients at the time involved cocktails of anti-retroviral drugs be administered to ease the condition. However, these drugs had the effect of patients losing their appetites. Researchers found that cannabis helped patients regain their appetites (this had also been found to be the case with cancer patients as well).

The AIDS epidemic impacted the state of California the hardest. Several Hollywood luminaries succumbed to the disease including stars like Rock Hudson and Liberace.

Because of this, many activists in California looked towards their state government to legalize the medical use of cannabis.

While the legislature tried to pass medical cannabis legislation in the 1990s, the efforts were thwarted when the governor at the time vetoed legislation that would have legalized the use.

Frustrated, medical cannabis advocates, collected 775,000 signatures for the qualification of a statewide ballot initiative in 1996. Known as Proposition 215, The Compassionate [Cannabis] Use Act of 1996, was approved by voters with 56% of the vote. The initiative legalized the use, possession, and cultivation of cannabis by patients with a physician’s recommendation.

Prescriptions could include treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”. The law also allowed patients and their caregivers to grow cannabis. Finally, the act prompted legislators to accommodate the “safe and affordable distribution of marijuana”

Legal Status of CBD

Up until recently, both federal and state laws painted hemp and marijuana with the same broad brush. Because scientifically, they’re both cannabis plants, they were both illegal. As states started passing medical marijuana laws and then recreational decriminalization laws, legislators started crafting laws that distinguished between hemp and marijuana.

The federal government created 2 laws that legalized the use of hemp in the US. These laws are:

  • Agricultural Act of 2014
  • Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018

The 2014 law removed federal restrictions regarding the growing of industrial hemp. It allowed any states that have legalized its manufacturing to set up research programs to study the benefits of cultivating it.

The 2018 law removed the restrictions of growing hemp as a crop and the transportation across state lines. The law defines hemp as having less than 0.3% THC.

While federal law has removed the growing restrictions for hemp, the status as a health supplement is still up in the air. In order for it to be deemed as such, the Food and Drug Administration must classify it as such. Thus far, it hasn’t.

Also, the legality in several states is questionable.

While prescriptions for the CBD prescription drug Epidiolex is legal in all 50 states, some states still have to address the legality of CDB as a state without a prescription.

States where CBD is legal (either help or marijuana-derived) are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

States in which CBD is prohibited are:

  • Idaho
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota

All other states have CBD in legal limbo or have legalized it in a limited fashion. Many states have pending legislation to clarify any ambiguities in the law. It is fair to say that in the near future, the vagueness of these laws will be clarified and CBD will be available to all who wish to use it.

CBD Processing and Forms

CBD can be extracted from either hemp or marijuana plants. In the United States, only CBD extracted from hemp is legal under federal law.

This is because of the THC or tetrahydrocannabinol content. Under federal law, hemp is defined as having less than 0.3% THC. So extracting CBD from these plants is legal.

The most potent CBD source within the hemp plant is the seeds, and so pressing the seeds is the most common way to extract CBD from hemp.

And while the seeds are the most potent sources of CBD, the entire plant can be used to extract CBD as it does contain CBD as well.

When extracted, manufacturers can choose to sell it in various forms. These include:

  • Oils – The most common form of CBD is CBD oil. These oils are liquids that are taken sublingually (under the tongue) using an “eye-dropper” like device that usually doubles as the cap for the oil bottle.  These oils come in varying potencies based on the manufacturer. The potency that a user should take is based on the type of issues the user has and the effects the user feels after taking a few doses. (For example, if the person gets too tired after taking the oils, they may cut back to increase attentiveness).
  • Pills or capsules – Another common form is pills or capsules. This, like popular over-the-counter pain relievers, can come in the form of hard pills, capsules that can be pulled apart and soft gels. While these tend to work fine, they work slower than other methods such as oils as they have to metabolize in the digestive system.
  • Vapes – A form that’s growing fast is the vape form. A vape is an electronic device that’s used to simulate smoking. The device has a section where the CBD liquid can be inserted into it. The device then heats the liquid and generates a vapor via an aerosol that the user inhales much like the smoke of a cigarette.
  • Topical creamsTopical creams are used for both skin conditions and as a topical analgesic. The CBD is mixed with beneficial creams or oils such as tea tree oil or coconut oil. It can also be paired with other known remedies such as menthol.
  • Edibles – Among the more popular method of ingesting CBD is to eat it. The internet has exploded with hemp-based recipes. But cooking at home isn’t the only option. Suppliers sell CDB in the forms of gummies, candies, lollypops, baked goods, and more. Recently, the burger chain Carl’s Jr. offered a one-day event where it offered the Rocky Mountain High Cheese Burger Delight. It was a double meat burger with pickled jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, waffle fries, and the chain’s Santa Fe sauce infused with hemp-based CBD oil.
  • Suppositories – While not the most popular method to take CBD, one of the more effective ways is to take it as a suppository. Suppositories can come in rectal or vaginal form. These dissolve and is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. The vascular system carries the CBD through the bloodstream.
  • Beverages – Much like edibles, CBD infused drinks are becoming more commonplace. People wanting to drink CBD can find energy drinks, teas, water, coffee and more.
  • Transdermal patches – Similar to the over-the-counter pain patches that can be purchased at local drug stores, transdermal patches adhere to the skin and the CBD is absorbed through the pores.


A common question you might have when starting out taking CBD is the correct dosage to take. Unfortunately, there’s not a “cookie-cutter” answer to this question.

The effects of the CBD on your body can vary based on such factors as:

  • The concentration of CBD in the product
  • The type and severity of the condition that the CBD is being used for
  • The body weight of the individual
  • The user’s body chemistry
  • How long the person has been using CBD

Generally, most CBD manufacturers will recommend 1–6MG of CBD for every 10 pounds the user weighs. This is still a wide gap. So 2 things are recommended. First, consult your doctor before starting a CBD regime. They can help you with the dosage based on your condition and medical history. Second, start out low and adjust over a few weeks’ time. Your body will need time to adjust to the CBD as well. Taking too much can cause drowsiness throughout the day. Not taking enough is obviously ineffective in treating your condition.


CBD can be an effective tool in reducing symptoms of a number of conditions including:

New laws have opened up the possibility of research into the use of CBD in treating symptoms of more disorders as well.

If you’re considering CBD as a treatment for one of these conditions, do your research, talk to your doctor, and follow the instructions for dosages (either by your doctor or the manufacturer). CBD is effective, but only when used correctly.