Still, as the saying goes, absence of evidence isn’t necessarily evidence of absence, and there’s a reason we don’t have a ton of solid research on CBDs yet — “to study it, we need a good source, ” said Ziva Cooper, who is an associate professor at Columbia University and was on the National Academies committee. CBD is hard to get because it’s still technically a Schedule I drug, which limits its availability, Cooper said.
Scientifically, the difference between what we refer to as hemp and marijuana comes from the intention the strain was bred for. The main difference between hemp and marijuana is the level of THC in the plant. Hemp has high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana is recognized for having high levels of THC and lower in CBD. In order to be considered hemp, the plant must have less than 0.3 percent THC. High levels of THC are responsible for the intoxicating feeling that marijuana is known for.
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An important issue in the discussion around cannabis-derived oils is: how much THC is a legal CBD product allowed to contain in order not to be considered a narcotic? Authorities sometimes choose to deal with these regulations in a pragmatic way, recognizing that laws once designed to control marijuana abuse may not be fully applicable to hemp. For example, in the Netherlands, a maximum level of 0.05% THC is allowed in CBD products, even though, formally, any detectable trace of THC is illegal according to Dutch narcotics laws. This approach is based on the fact that even hemp varieties of cannabis produce a small amount of THC, and therefore naturally derived CBD extracts will carry some THC in the final products.
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CBD oil differs from CBD creams, ointments and salves, for it is produced in a different way and also is typically consumed orally, or with the mouth through a dropper. The oils vary in potency, depending upon the source of extraction. Both industrial hemp and cannabis can be used to extract amounts of CBD in order for the oil to exist, but oils generated from industrial hemp tend to hold a lower potency, although this is not always the case.
That said, both Blessing and Carson warn that CBD should still be considered a drug, which means it can interact with other drugs. “CBD does interact with drugs that people are taking,” says Blessing. “So if you’re taking an opioid cough suppressant, or you’re taking serotonin-based medicine, like an SSRI, you can have strong drug interactions.” While most coffee shops are likely using doses too low to cause such interactions, Blessing says it’s something to be aware of. “If a coffee shop happened to have a way of making a product with a lot of CBD in it, then that could really interact with the medication this person is taking, and the effects they think are due to CBD could partly be due to that medication interaction,” she says.
The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.
“Research shows that CBD content decreases when it is exposed to heat. It’s likely that the reduction in efficacy is due to the lower content. For instance, studies show that 71 degrees F can accelerate the degradation of CBD in a solution, resulting in less CBD. Potentially adding CBD to hot coffee may degrade it and reduce the amount of CBD available for absorption."
Though a CBD latte might not do much for you — at least not beyond what caffeine and the placebo effect combined can do, which isn’t nothing — it’s also probably harmless in most cases, says Carson, and may even have positive benefits we aren’t yet aware of. “I suspect there’s probably some antioxidant benefit to CBD like there is with coffee,” says Carson. “There’s tons of good things in coffee that we still don’t fully understand, and I think the marijuana plant is much the same way.”