Are CBD and Marijuana the Same?
Wrong question, actually. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid. These are chemical compounds that can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana. CBD one of more than 100 cannabinoids derived from Cannabis Sativa, the ür-plant of hemp and marijuana. The CBD contained in the over-the-counter consumer products widely available on the Internet (and written about on InStash.com) are derived from hemp.
Hemp is essentially a leggy Cannabis Sativa plant with less than 0.3% THC. It’s mostly grown for fiber or food-grade seed, but the plant’s flowers can be processed for a wide variety of cannabinoids, including CBD. In its concentrated form, CBD-rich hemp oil is pungent, bitter, and not water-soluble. It’s blended with other oils, like fractionated coconut oil (MCT), hemp seed oil, or even olive oil to dilute it for taste and strength. Blending lowers the cannabinoid ratios to within legal THC limits for shipping across state lines. CBD is non-psychoactive and medicinal.
How is CBD Made?
Chemical solvents are used in the extraction process to separate the raw hemp oil from the chlorophylls, waxes, and cellulose biomass of the hemp flower. Much of the wholesale hemp oil on the market today is extracted using ethanol, which is the most cost-effective method. The resulting oil, however, can retain trace amounts of ethanol residue, which is difficult and expensive to purge off completely. This type of oil is sufficient for food-based products, like coffee, and cosmetic products, like massage oils, but people with medical conditions should consider CO2-extracted oils, which have zero solvent residue.
The concentrated raw hemp oil is sold wholesale in bulk to consumer product manufacturers in one of three concentrations: full-spectrum (containing all the plant’s cannabinoids, including THC at percentages less than 0.3%), THC-free “broad-spectrum,” and CBD isolate. The potency and effectiveness of consumer products is determined by the quality of this essential ingredient.
Cannabinoids and “phytocannabinoids” are essentially the same term and refer to all the active chemicals in Cannabis Sativa. Endocannabinoids are similar compounds produced by the body itself, which is why hemp oil is so effective—it’s chemical components mimic the body’s own efforts to regulate itself.
Is CBD Legal?
Yes. Though it’s an awkward, little-known fact that to synthesize CBD or other cannabinoids from hemp, the hemp biomass must first go through an extraction process, which results in an increase in the concentration of THC above the legal limit. Hemp biomass and consumer end-products cannot exceed 0.3% THC, but the raw oil extracted from hemp often contains high THC levels, typically 1–5% THC.
This raw extract is diluted and refined to bring THC levels to 0.3% or less. Then it’s incorporated into retail consumer products. But processors are temporarily in possession of a Schedule I controlled substance during much of the extraction process. This legal Catch-22 is still being hashed out.
Companies that produce and sell CBD-infused consumer products purchase diluted hemp oil as an ingredient from extractors. The science of extraction is specialized and expensive and left to the experts. One pound of CO2-extracted hemp flower, for example, only produces approximately 41 grams of oil. This means thousands of pounds of hemp flower is required to produce at the volumes necessary for profit.
As with everything, there’s an ROI curve to extraction. CO2 extractors shoot for extracting 90% of the plant’s oil per batch. It can take as long to get the last 10% as it does the first 90%, so supercritical CO2 extraction machines are usually turned off when 90% extraction is reached. The resulting biomass is landfilled.
Is All CBD the Same?
No. And little of this complicated process is apparent at the checkout aisle. Consumers need to research online to identify where brands source their oil and how this oil has been grown and extracted. Retail companies rely on a COA (certificate of authenticity) when purchasing CBD-rich hemp oil from wholesale extractors. Reputable brands post this information for consumers to evaluate.
CBD-infused products are considered Dietary Supplements and not verified by the FDA, so there is no objective measure by which to confirm safety and potency. This is left to the consumer, for better or worse. Research a company’s reputation and experiment with different products. You will zero in on the most effective product for your needs in short order.