Unlike most drugs that have multiple effects it’s very hard to pick out any particular side effect of CBD that’s problematic. Some of the products on the market are promising that they will cure almost every condition, however this has not been proven…
During the last years there has been a large influx of new CBD producers which consequently place thousands of different products on the shelves. Companies have to heavily advertise their product as unique to reach a steady number of consumers, and as a consumer it is hard to figure out which one to buy. Due to these factors the sale and presence of CBD products have been sky-rocketing in recent years. According to New Frontier Data from July 2019, the size of the CBD market was estimated to be EUR 800 millions globally.
WHAT IS CBD?
The primary source of naturally occurring cannabidiol (CBD) is the plant Cannabis sativa L. According to Americans for Safe Access when these plants contain more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by weight, they are often referred to as marijuana plants. When THC does not exceed 0.3%, these plants are legally classified as industrial hemp and are referred to as such.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the phytocannabinoids produced by Cannabis sativa L. It is the most common cannabinoid in hemp plants, and the second most common cannabinoid, after THC, in some of the high-THC chemovars. In humans, CBD (compared to THC) is not psychoactive. According to the World Health Organization (among others), it describes that “CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential”. Also, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.
WHERE IS CBD HELPING?
The clinical use of CBD is most advanced in the treatment of epilepsy in the case of the Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome. There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions like inflammation, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, vomiting and many others.
SO IS CBD MEDICINE OR FOOD?
It can be both, including a food supplement. But only those people having CBD prescribed by a doctor can say they have medicinal CBD (e.g. Epidiolex®). CBD prescribed by a doctor is s pharma grade medicine that has been approved for two specific types of seizures. For that reason some governments recognise CBD as a medicine so that patients have an easier access (and possibly even reimbursement) to this medicine. Therefore, if your CBD product is not prescribed to you by a doctor, you are buying CBD products regulated as a food. Which means that there is no real control over the cultivation and manufacturing of the cannabis plant used for extraction of the CBD.
WHERE ARE THE RISKS?
In 2016, 2018 and 2019, the ICCI – International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute’s PFC – Patient Focused Certification program, in cooperation with the first European laboratory certified by the program PFC operating at the Department of Food Analysis and Nutrition of the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague (VŠCHT), conducted independent quality testings of cannabidiol (CBD) products available in the European Union and the UK*. The results of this testing confirmed an urgent need for safety standards and certification of cannabis-based products across the industry, as mislabeling of the CBD and THC contents was a common issue.
The quality analysis uncovered a problem in the lack of awareness of customers on the composition of the given product: no THC labeled, THC % incorrect, CBD % incorrect. An excessive THC content in the blood after using CBD oils represents unexpected risks for customers all too often.
THC is another medicinally active substance from cannabis, but it is psychoactive as opposed to CBD. Even relatively low amounts can cause changes in perception among more sensitive individuals, and that can threaten their capacity to drive and make decisions in general – especially in case of being unaware of the possibilities of having one’s mind influenced by an external substance.
Another problem may be drivers testing positive for THC during traffic controls, which can lead at the very least to losing one’s driving privileges at least temporarily. Generally speaking: any psychoactive substance unknowingly present in one’s body is always a problem. It is therefore important for customers to be informed accurately and truthfully about THC content right on the product packaging.
“People don’t know that they have in their bodies a strictly controlled substance, and may, therefore, run into problems not only during traffic accidents but also in employment relationships,” emphasises Dr. Pavel Kubu, ICCI CEO.
Furthermore, a small percentage of the products analysed contained Multi-core polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Steph Sherer, ICCI president and director for innovations explains: “PAHs such as benzopryrene are classified as carcinogens and genotoxic mutagens of class IIa – according to the classification of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). That means they are substances whose carcinogenicity was proven experimentally on animals, even though not on people (otherwise being prevented by ethical reasons), they have nevertheless been proven by a multitude of epidemiological studies. This especially pertains to ill persons trying to utilise the beneficial effects of CBD, but polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are unquestionably hazardous, mainly upon long-term (chronic) reception.”
HOW TO FIND A TRUSTWORTHY SOURCE OF CBD OIL?
Since CBD oils are regulated as a food or a food supplement, the quality of these products are not that heavily controlled. The European Union came up last year with new regulation on Novel Food (and it seems that UK will utilise the same regulation) which is defining CBD as a Novel Food ingredient that needs to be assessed as safe, before the product is placed on the market. This will allow consumers to recognise which products have been assessed by the European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA) as safe and which not.
Until this regulation will be established and properly enforced, consumers have to rely on tests of CBD oils done by third parties, like the ICCI and others. Independent testings of the quality of cannabis-based products designed for human consumption affirm the need to introduce and observe standards for safe production and distribution.