In the United States, non-FDA approved CBD products are classified as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that production, distribution, and possession of non-FDA approved CBD products is illegal under federal law. In addition, in 2016 the Drug Enforcement Administration added "marijuana extracts" to the list of Schedule I drugs, which it defined as "an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant." Previously, CBD had simply been considered "marijuana", which is a Schedule I drug.
Two cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, manufactured in the UK, are licensed for prescription but only for very specific uses. Sativex has been available in the UK since 2010 and uses THC and CBD to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis. And a new CBD-only drug, Epidiolex, was approved in June in the US to treat rare childhood epilepsies, with a similar decision expected imminently for Europe and the UK.
Cannabis consumers have long prized potency (a high THC content) as one of the main factors that makes a particular strain more desirable. Though traditional demand for THC has caused an oversaturation of high-potency products, many consumers are starting to prefer less intense products that are lower in THC and higher in the non-intoxicating compound called cannabidiol (CBD).
The popularity of high-CBD cannabis oil has lit up in recent years, especially since the CNN documentary “Weed” captured the miraculous story of 5-year-old Charlotte Figi, whose seizures decreased significantly with the orally-administered concentrate. Using hemp or high-CBD cannabis strains, CBD can be extracted and rendered into a non-intoxicating oil. This oil can be ingested, added to a capsule, or mixed into food or a smoothie.
“The pain and stiffness that comes post-workout or from overexertion certainly has a pro-inflammatory component to it, so it’s reasonable to think CBD or other cannabinoids might have benefits, but we have no research to support this yet,” Gregory Gerdeman, a neurophysiologist and cannabinoid expert at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, FL., told Schultz.
Blessing’s clinical manager contacts did not perform formal studies on CBD. They didn’t want to open themselves up to legal challenges from the CBD companies, and in any case saw very little reason to bother challenging a product with a name like “100% Pure organic cbd oil hemp seed oil for skin with cheap price” that ships in bulk from Alibaba. They see a market littered with items like this and assume that no customer would reasonably assume it’s of high quality.
Despite this, CBD is something nobody knows much about, and certainly nobody is monitoring it properly. CBD is widely marketed as a supplement, despite the Food and Drug Administration saying it does not qualify as such (this is because it is an active ingredient in drugs which are either approved or under investigation to be approved). CBD goes largely unregulated by the agency; on the FDA’s FAQ page, a vague answer maintains there are “many factors in deciding whether or not to initiate an enforcement action.” The Department of Agriculture handles research grants and pilot programs for hemp, but that’s where its involvement ends.