Though marijuana and hemp both come from cannabis plants, they have important differences in their effects and legal status.
In December 2018, as part of the Farm Bill, Congress quietly changed federal law to generally allow the cultivation, transport and possession of hemp -as long as it does not contain more than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC refers to the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana and hemp that causes the feeling of being “high”.
But what about the related compound of cannabidiol (CBD), which is mainly found in extractions from hemp?
Despite legal issues, CBD products are big sellers
Proponents argue that CBD has many medical and wellness benefits. Under Tennessee state law, hemp-derived, low-THC CBD is legal to possess if prescribed by a doctor for intractable epilepsy. The only FDA-approved drug containing CBD, however, is Epidiolex, which can treat a form of pediatric epilepsy
Despite questions of legality, many people are buying CBD products online. Some are probably unaware of the substance’s questionable legal status and are simply trying to relieve symptoms. The problem is that the safety of CBD products is not closely regulated.
Adulterated, contaminated or mislabeled products
Unfortunately, many CBD products are adulterated, contaminated or mislabeled. Some contain more THC than is listed on the label, according to a 2017 study by two major university medical schools. Some contain more or less CBD than was advertised, or none at all.
That’s not all. A recent story in Consumer Reports illustrated the problem of other contaminants. When several patients entered a Salt Lake City ER after ingesting a CBD product, they were suffering symptoms including loss of consciousness, seizures, agitation and confusion. CBD shouldn’t cause any of that.
The doctor bought the same brand of CBD and had it tested, along with samples found with the stricken patients. It turned out the product, Yolo CBD, contained no CBD at all. Instead, it contained a dangerous synthetic cannabinoid called 4-CCB.
In other tests, CBD products have been found to contain another synthetic form of marijuana called 5F-ADB. That substance can cause panic attacks and paranoia, along with heart and blood pressure effects, convulsions, organ damage and sometimes death.
Others contained dextromethorphan, an over-the-counter cough medicine that teens sometimes use to get high.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell pure CBD products from mislabeled or adulterated versions. Buyers should beware and do their best to buy only from reliable companies. If you are injured or sickened by a CBD product, contact an attorney to discuss a possible product liability or personal injury claim.