CBD Disinformation: Some Debunking
While this article is roughly a 20-minute read, it's important to tackle all the CBD disinformation out there attempting to mislead consumers.
Note: originally published on HempforFitness.com
Without doubt, a lot of CBD disinformation floating around and it’s only getting wilder. As we head into a world where American hemp farming is once again a boisterous reality, it’s more important than ever consumers like us understand what’s happening. This article aims to help in that effort.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor nor licensed guru… merely a writer, researcher and longtime cannabis consumer – both recreational (psychoactive) and hemp products (seed, fiber, and extracts). If something published below is flat-out wrong, outdated, or research has recently shed new light, please let me know in the comment section and I’ll update in short order. Again, the goal here’s to assist the overall effort of public education as we step into a brave new world of American hemp farming.
Let’s get to the most common misunderstanding concerning cannabinoids in general, well, except THC.
Everyone and their uncle knows where that comes from…
#1: Hemp & ‘Marijuana’ CBD = Same Thing Dude!
Technically, this is true. By itself as an isolated plant compound, CBD is exactly the same whether derived from mature psychoactive THC-dominant cannabis buds or extracted from the flowers of its taller leaner cousin hemp.
However, when in CBD-dominant ‘Whole Plant’ or ‘Full Spectrum’ form for consumer products sold online, these oils, concentrates, and extracts offer incredibly unique combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes – not to mention secondary ingredients. Psychoactive cannabis – known as Marijuana – provides far more vibrant and robust mixtures of THC-dominant cannabinoid/terpene profiles, often characterized by the aroma gauntlet from deep skunky (Indica) to sharp or light citrus (Sativa). The last decade in psychoactive cannabis horticulture has developed a symbiotic evolutionary relationship with the plant humans have perhaps NEVER enjoyed access to.
The Confusion: Cannabis sativa L. as a plant species is incredibly versatile. Depending on genetics, you can grow a few varieties of the historically known low-THC hemp for fiber, seed, or now more recently in the modern era CBD-dominant cultivars, or the whole fantastic spectrum of psychoactive high-THC cannabis. While I’ll continue to hesitatingly use the term in this article to make it easier to understand, there’s no such thing as Marijuana. It’s made up government slang, a creation of the legal system used to dupe legislators into instigating (then maintain for near a century) cannabis prohibition based on lies, deceit, and crony capitalism. It legally designates cannabis with higher than 0.3% THC content. Really there’s just cannabis. Hemp is also a made up work but goes WAY back deep into human history though, always used to designate the non-psychoactive fiber or seed cultivars.
Hemp NATURALLY shows near zero THC and more CBD in its flowers, with a tempered chemical profile appropriate for fiber and seed-class plants. If you need to know why beyond this article simply study the plant itself and the wonders it creates using cannabinoids, for example fiber we can make ten times the strength of steel. Meaning CBD as part of a ‘Medical Marijuana’ product or a hemp product aren’t only different chemically but legally for practical agricultural reasons.
This point was made exceedingly clear by Dr. Jamie Corroon and Rod Kight in a Nov, 2018 article for Project CBD entitled, The Evolving Regulatory Status of Cannabidiol:
“The source of CBD is critically important in determining its legal status. The most common source, botanically speaking, is the plant Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabis), which encompasses both marijuana and hemp. There are various schema for differentiating marijuana from hemp (e.g. Genotype, phenotype, Drug-type Cannabis v. fiber-type Cannabis, etc.), but from a regulatory standpoint, the difference between marijuana and hemp is based on chemical composition, specifically as it relates to the concentration of THC, the primary intoxicating compound found in Cannabis. Hemp is legally defined as a cultivar of Cannabis sativa with low concentrations of THC.“
Might sound confusing, but once you see how differently the plants look, smell, grow, are handled, and what can be done with them once matured it becomes quite clear – one plant variety can be used to create tens of thousands of different things, while the other is just grown for its buds. A good portion of the confusion around CBD was created by the initial ‘hemp CBD’ market in America where providers had to extract (or claim they were) CBD from the ‘stalks and stems’ of fiber-class hemp to stay within the grey areas of prohibition laws.
Truth is, when you look at the Hemp CBD products coming from American hemp today, it’s being extracted from the flowers of hemp! So yes, the cannabis plant grows flowers on both ends of the spectrum, from fiber-class plants with flower to THC-dominant cannabis with the big sticky stinky buds brimming with gooey trichomes of cannabinoids.
For our purposes here though the fact remains…
“Hemp-derived and medical marijuana-derived CBD each have their own unique regulatory status and consequent legal implications due to THC content.”
For the most on-the-ground perspective, ask a farmer if you can folks.
Talk to cannabis growers on both sides of the spectrum and within 5 minutes you’ll know you’re talking about two COMPLETELY different versions of cannabis. There has been and will likely continue to be two legal perspectives of CBD depending on the plant it comes from, which itself will be categorized by overall THC levels and cultivar – ‘marijuana’ or ‘marihuana’ (in some regulatory definitions) and ‘industrial hemp’. Medical cannabis has a gargantuan amount of strains, my goodness, while hemp has for tens of thousands of years only really provided a handful.
More hemp cultivars will be created by farmers and enterprise responding to the prolific consumer demand for hemp-derived CBD (not to mention hemp seed-based food products, hemp fiber textiles, and building or construction materials once domestic supply opens up). Yes! And Medical Marijuana strains will increasingly be an option with the high or similarly low levels of THC (0.3%) and high concentrations of CBD. But again, while CBD itself is CBD, when in a marijuana product or a product labeled as ‘full spectrum’ or ‘whole plant hemp’ we’re talking about two different things.
In closing on this section: both the words hemp and marijuana were created to distinguish between the two opposing sides of the cannabis spectrum. Hemp to designate fiber and seed cannabis; marijuana to designate high-THC psychoactive cannabis.
This leads us to our next bit of disinformation.
#2: There’s No Difference Between CBD Isolate & ‘Full Spectrum’
When any consumer invests in a ‘CBD’ product, steps should be taken to ensure they understand whether they’re purchasing a synthetic isolate made from human-constructed CBD molecules in a lab, a plant-based isolate where all the other essential oils and compounds have been stripped away leaving only CBD, or a ‘full spectrum’ concentrate that’s supposed to be an extract often created via the common supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) process.
Note: Ideally these whole plant or full spectrum extracts have been treated with heat, or decarboxylated, thereby transforming the acidic phytocannabinoids into their more bioavailable chemical structures. This makes them easier for the body, or endocannabinoid system to use. So, the heat causes the CBDA, or Cannabidiolic Acid, to change into CBD, or Cannabidiol.
With synthetic and some plant-based isolates you can see massive mg potencies, while with the natural ‘full spectrum’ concentrates they should be lower. Ballpark estimates would be say, a 99% pure CBD isolate vs. a 20-60% whole plant hemp extract.
Now for one of my personal favorites, because it really begins opening up a fundamental understanding of the human endocannabinoid system.
#3: CBD Isn’t Psychoactive
Once again, technically, whether we look at legal or medical definitions of this plant compound…yes it’s not psychoactive. I use the expensive hemp extracts myself and can attest they aren’t what I’d classically consider intoxicating…but…
As Dr. Dustin Sulak put it in his March, 2018 Leafly article concerning the Common Myths and Controversies About High-CBD Cannabis:
“Both lay and scientific literature have classified CBD as a “non-psychoactive” substance, meaning that it does not alter one’s consciousness. But how could CBD fail to impact consciousness when it’s been shown to have anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, anti-craving, alerting, and mood-elevating effects in human studies?”
Are you kidding? CBD 110% impacts your consciousness! The big differentiator here is the mechanism. Cannabinoids are to the body, as water is to a river. Putting cannabis into the human body supplements the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) which creates mimetic endocannabinoids – Anandamide is the body’s equivalent to THC, while 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is our body’s equivalent of CBD.
Does the body know the difference between 2-AG and cannabis CBD? I don’t honestly know the answer to that question. Research shows me medical literature considers it mimetic to CBD. For example, this highly-cited and referenced article for Drug Development from 2016:
“Two primary endocannabinoid receptors have been identified [CB1 & CB2]. CB1 receptors are predominantly in the brain and nervous system as well as in peripheral organs and tissues. These are acted on by the endocannabinoid Anandamide. The other main endocannabinoid, 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), is active at both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Its mimetic phytocannabinoid is cannabidiol, CBD; that of Anandamide is THC, responsible for psychoactive effects. Both 2-AG and CBD are involved in appetite regulation, immune function, and pain management.”
This means the human body is creating our own forms of CBD and THC, everyday, when we feel pain, depression, anxiety, hunger or satisfaction, sick or healthy, and so forth.
What’s important to note is that CBD and 2-AG are both what I call anti-high compounds, especially when it comes to THC intoxication. But, this goes for complimenting or modulating other anxiety and depression-causing endogenous compounds as well. Cannabinoid and ECS science are quite fascinating.
Does CBD get you high or anything resembling hard drug, marijuana or alcohol intoxication? Absolutely not. Quite the opposite. But, it does impact your consciousness.
#4: CBD Will Put You to Sleep
True for some, but not for all! Myself for example, wow, if I put a dropper’s worth of full spectrum hemp extract high in CBD on my tongue anytime before noon…I’ll be up all night with a very natural non-coffee-like energy. For others, it puts them right at ease and they can drift off to sleep. Same could be said for psychoactive cannabis though, for example indica strains tend to put people to sleep while sativa’s are known for energy.
Now, see, some claim hemp doesn’t have the same quality of terpene profile because it’s so much more streamlined. And I admit, they’re quite different. But then why would hemp extracts make some people sleepy and others feel totally energized and empowered? Terpenes play a role, but they aren’t the whole ball of wax. The plant’s natural combinations seem to bolster the power of many cannabis compounds.
You’ll find out which side of the spectrum you’re on after the first dabble. Personally, I often suggest folks start off with simple full spectrum or whole plant hemp extract capsules from reputable providers like Hemp for Fitness. Because they typically come in 5mg to 30mg dosages, it makes it easier to judge.
What About CBN?
There’s a high likelihood whole plant hemp extracts and concentrates have varying, albeit small, amountss of another cannabinoid – CBN, or Cannabinol, which is increasingly being categorized as the ‘healthy sleep aid’ cannabinoid.
#5: CBD is a Cure For…
Each passing day another anecdotal testimonial is added to the growing digital list, whether at the bottom of a relevant article, in a forum, a product or company review, or on social media, where individuals claim medical issues were ‘cured’ through cannabis use. Some swear by hemp extracts, while others stand by medical marijuana.
Doctors and medical professionals, yeah, no, you’d have a difficult time finding them using the word ‘cure’…
These issues range from opioid addiction, chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and on and on. What’s surprising is the cultural knowledge gap in America concerning this topic. For most of America’s history she was largely an agrarian society of farmers. And, until prohibition really kicked off in the late 1930’s, the VAST majority of these farming families across the nation were intimately familiar with hemp (including a stint during WW2 by government mandate to help with the war effort). Truth is, cannabis medicines were among the most commonly used and prescribed not just in America but…around the globe for centuries.
Cannabinoids were invaluable to the human world for many, many thousands of years. Same goes for hemp being as important to the pre-WW2 world as oil is to the post-WW2 world. In that time, yes, cannabinoids have helped the Endocannabinoid Systems of people likely deal with endless ailments. To say western medicine waited until the 19th century to adopt cannabis into its vernacular would be accurate, but in reality doctors were prescribing medicines and herbal supplements containing elements of cannabis to patients in ancient times.
Why does it have so many physiological applications? Is it a cure all? A wonder herb?
Again, using cannabis products simply supplements the ECS – the primary goal of which is to maintain health and homeostasis throughout the mind and body. Cannabinoids like CBD aren’t really curing or doing anything, the ECS is, using both endogenous and plant-based cannabinoids as fuel. In essence, the ECS is like a mother immune system. Through supplementation we’re learning how to boost levels of cannabinoids to never seen before levels in the human body and thus far results have driven America to end cannabis prohibition.
We’re returning to using the same cannabis tinctures our ancestors used, just improved through modern technology and agriculture.
Not everyone sees relief. Not everyone is cured of anything. Not everyone experiences positive results. Such is the nature of, well, nature. The good news is there’s roughly a 99.9% chance natural organic whole plant hemp extracts won’t hurt you, with no negative side effects and you won’t get high. So worst case scenario, it doesn’t work and you invested some money into what amounts to a powerhouse nutritional supplement.
#6: Hemp Products Can Cause Urinalysis Failure
True and false. Depends on a variety of factors. These are the three common forms of consumer cannabis products:
Industrial Hemp Seed
The idea you can eat hemp seed-based foods (milk, protein, butter, bread, raw seed, seed hearts, etc.) and fail a piss test is utter nonsense. It’s disinformation. First of all, the seeds used to make these products have to be certified that they contain less than 0.3% THC to be on any store shelf. In reality, they contain so little that lab tests show regulators ‘N/A’. When you purchase hemp seed milk (I drink endless gallons of this stuff) off the supermarket shelf, I attest that there’s ZERO cannabinoids in that milk. Mainly because cannabinoids aren’t going to be present in seeds…they’re produced later in the life cycle of the plant!
You would die before you drank enough hemp seed milk, or ate enough hemp seed protein to fail a urinalysis. Same goes for using hemp seed oil in cooking, topicals or cosmetics. For large scale Canadian companies like Nutiva or Manitoba Harvest who’ve been selling Americans billions in hemp seed products, these seeds are certified STERILIZED so they a) cannot be planted in the soil to grow more hemp, and b) contain no cannabinoids. Trying to extract CBD or THC or any other cannabinoid from hemp seeds would be ludicrous.
Full Spectrum Hemp Extracts
Now we’re talking about a plant-based, not seed-based, extracts which to be considered full spectrum must contain the plant’s natural elements: an array of phytocannabinoids, terpenoids, flavinoids, etc.
These days the extracts are going to be made using the hemp flower and perhaps to a lesser degree the stalks, but this will change as fiber and seed markets grow. Do keep in mind a full spectrum hemp extract should have some THC – from 0.1% to 0.3%. If there’s absolute zero, it’s not full spectrum. Therefore using these extracts is risky and ill-advised if urine tests are a reality for you. They could cause you to fail a test, yes, depending on a couple different variables like your body weight, fitness level, and how much you consumed within a week or two of the test. Hemp extracts with zero THC are more processed, or are claiming to be full spectrum when in reality they’re combining single cannabinoid isolates or just adding the CBD isolate to a product and deceiving consumers.
Simply Put: Full Spectrum and Whole Plant cannabis is going to include tiny amounts to high percentages of THC depending on the plant source.
Yeah, using cannabis products with high-THC is going to cause you to fail a urine test looking for THC! But what about newer strains which claim to have near zero THC and high levels of CBD like hemp? It’s a gamble in my opinion, because psychoactive strains of cannabis by nature innately creates more THC – in general, while hemp does the opposite and focuses more on CBD to help it do what it does during its time on earth. Myself personally, if urine tests were a part of my life and my career depended on coming up clean, I wouldn’t consume any products labeled as marijuana.
#7: Marijuana is an Ideal Source of CBD – The Entourage Effect
The entourage effect pertains to the fact cannabinoids seem to be more effective in the human body when in a natural state, which is a mixture of the plant’s cannabinoids, essentials oils, terpenes, resins, etc. Again, to summarize the spectrum of cannabis:
Industrial Hemp: Naturally low THC, higher CBD, less extravagant chemical and terpene profiles.
Marijuana Strains: Naturally higher levels of THC, and overall cannabinoid content, along with far more complex (or fine-tuned) terpene profiles.
That being said, industrial hemp’s terpene and cannabinoid profile may not be as extravagant, but consider the plant we’re discussing. It uses this profile to create a plant capable of supplying us with an estimated 20,000 different eco-friendly products! This is one serious plant we can use to build cars, homes, our clothes, and fuel the nation. It manages to create all this potential, using a more streamlined CBD-dominant chemical profile. The idea that psychoactive cannabis is somehow better, is nothing but a mixture of disinformation and marijuana industry marketing. Keep in mind the hemp industry, for CBD alone, just CBD and nothing else, is set to breeze past $2-3 billion within a couple years. Marijuana growers are competing for a slice of that action!
But here’s the fundamental realities: a) Marijuana is for THC, while Hemp is for CBD by nature, and b) both plants have unique chemical profiles which each offer an entourage effect. One is not better or worse, it just depends on the circumstance and specific application.
#8: Hemp’s a Dirty Phytoremediator
This has to do with the overall cleanliness of cannabis products. That’s what this is really concerning. In truth, there has been some distressing findings on both sides – whether we’re talking about marijuana samples containing lots of icky chemicals growers are using to try and compete in their markets, or the usage of recycled industrial hemp plant residue for CBD oil after it’s been used in textile manufacturing which often includes tons of toxic chemicals and solvents.
In truth, three epicenters of hemp globally – China, Europe, and India – do indeed use hemp primarily in textile manufacturing, especially China. Europe generally speaking uses a good portion of its hemp for construction-based industries. So, yes, if they’re using a bunch of leftover nasty help to derive extracts from…that’s not good. I’m sure it’s happening, which is why I myself personally have only used hemp products from Hemp for Fitness because they have a public track record of lab testing their products for both cannabinoid profiles and cleanliness.
As a consumer, I don’t have much trust of the industry. I typically suspect the products are either primarily hemp seed oil (no cannabinoids), or potentially dirty.
It’s also true that hemp is an incredibly effective bioremediator, but by definition phytoremediation is the use of plants for the purpose of cleaning up soil and groundwater. Assuming the hemp plants are being grown for extract and seed purposes (not textiles or construction), this means they aren’t grown in soil for phytoremediation! We’re talking about hemp plants grown in farming soil.
Your best bet is to purchase products from very visible companies who have too much to lose should one of their products test positive for toxins or heavy metals. Each month that passes, consumers demanding lab test results is becoming more commonplace.
Note: It’s absolutely true Cannabis sativa L is a powerful phytoremediator. In fact, the plant’s developed a strong resistance against lead, cadmium, mercury and chromium. Around the world initiatives to clean up farming soil with hemp should be kicked off with ferocity! Yes, we can clean our soils of heavy metals like those mentioned above using cannabis.
#9: You Can’t Trust the Labeling of Hemp CBD Products
I’m going to be perfectly frank with you here, this is sort of true. I’d advise you not to blindly trust anything written on industrial hemp product labels (extracts only, seed-based food products are pretty safe) that are outside any official regulatory checks and balances – in other words nearly the entire U.S. hemp CBD industry as these words are being written in early Dec, 2018.
Who can we trust? Well, I’d say Hemp for Fitness for one, because they’re the only company I personally know and have used their products myself over the span of couple years. If you’re interested, I actually wrote a decent article on Testing Hemp CBD Products to make sure there was in fact CBD content.
But that’s all my amateur-hour home testing can show me – there’s a good percentage of CBD in them. No different than when you buy a pint of beer and feel a buzz, you know there’s alcohol in what you bought. It’s just with CBD being non-psychoactive, the self-actualizing process becomes bit more interesting.
Aside from that though, let’s say you look at some lab tests a company offers. Like you contact Hemp for Fitness and ask for one of their lab tests concerning a specific product. Fine. Great. I’ve seen plenty of them myself directly through the company’s account on SC Labs or Iron Labratories. However, those results only reflect ONE BATCH of an extract. Just the one batch. That batch may constitute 50-1000 tinctures of product or something, but that’s it. And that goes for every lab test for all the products out there.
Considering the limited supply and gargantuan demand, and the sheer amount of international sources, and the many various labs doing the testing…it’s convoluted. Keep in mind this is before there’s even a real domestic supply of hemp in America! Good lord…
Best Bet = find a single supplier who works for you that you’ve contacted, verified, checked lab tests, talked with, etc., and stick with them! For me, that’s been Hemp for Fitness.
#10: CBD Gives You a Hangover
Where’s this even coming from? Before putting this article together I Googled around on CBD disinformation and myths and stuff, and this kept coming up. What the…listen, as we’ve covered, cannabis hemp extracts along with CBD, as full spectrum or whole plant extracts, are:
Non-psychoactive in that they’re non-intoxicating. They shouldn’t impair your mind, but the opposite. At least for most outside some ultra-rare circumstances.
So far there’s no known toxic levels. Meaning you could guzzle hemp extracts (to a degree of course) and you’ll probably feel a little, um, something, but you’ll be fine. This doesn’t take into account any negative interactions with pharmaceuticals already in the body or other unique circumstance revolving around the new concept of Endocannabinoid System Deficiencies. By itself, a hemp extract should be completely non-toxic.
No widely known negative side effects I’ve come across in the last five years. There can be complications when taken with certain widely-used pharmaceutical drugs because CBD slows down the processing of certain compounds in the liver. Thus whenever possible, people should consult their physicians. Anecdotally, tons of people claim to lower their intake of common pain relief, anxiety, and depression-related ‘meds’ after supplementing with hemp (and marijuana) extracts – plant cannabinoids. CBD is the big player here though, not THC by itself.
Alrighty, that about does it for this episode of debunking the CBD disinformation campaign. We ended up with a 4,100 word article and that’s really pushing it for today’s standards. But hey, if my efforts help even one single solitary soul out there get interested and decide to invest in hemp, I’ll consider it some of the best work I’ve ever done. No kidding.
Thanks for your time and support, it’s appreciated!