Hemp is one of the oldest plants cultivated and used by humans. The oldest recorded history of hemp dates to the 3rd century BC in ancient China. Back then, China was known as the land of hemp and mulberry leaves, because these were the two most commonly cultivated plants in the land. Hemp was woven into a fiber and used to make the clothes of the peasantry, while mulberry leaves were fed to silkworms and the silk harvested was used to produce the clothing of the royalty. Besides being used to make clothing and fiber, hemp has also been used medicinally and recreationally since these early times. Use of hemp was widespread throughout North Africa and India. It was also well known to the ancient Greeks who enjoyed hemp steam baths.
In the current era, early Christian churches outlawed the use of hemp as a sacrament and made wine the only substance they allowed. Northern Europe became a large cultivator of hemp during the industrial revolution and used a great deal of hemp to create everything from rope to clothing. The psychoactive effects of hashish, the psychoactive potent resin of hemp plants, caught the imagination of the renowned romantic poet Charles Baudelaire, who wrote about the substance in his collection Artificial Paradises. He describes humans as, “having a taste for the infinite” that he says can be satisfied by altered states of consciousness.
In the United States, hemp derived medicines were commonly prescribed by doctors and thought to hold great therapeutic potential. However, in the 1930’s once the prohibition of alcohol ended, the focus of prohibitionists was shifted over to hemp, or as it was known in Mexico, marijuana. Many factors led to the outlawing of marijuana, among these were lobbyists from big cotton companies denouncing hemp to snuff out competition in the textile industry, racist fear of immigrants coming into the country from Mexico, and it has even been proposed that those working in the prohibition offices didn’t want to lose their jobs, so they began pushing for the prohibition of marijuana to have something to do. During the cultural revolutions of the 1960’s and 1970’s, there was a resurgence in the use and study of hemp. Clinical trials were begun considering the use of hemp to treat a number of illnesses.
Despite promising evidence in support of hemp-based treatments, the federal government announced that marijuana would be included in its War on Drugs. Marijuana was given a Schedule I drug listing, meaning it was thought to have no medical applications and a high probability of abuse. Many documents have been released revealing that this illegal status was mainly enacted to disrupt radical political groups. Government agents would have reason to make arrests and raid the homes of political organizers under the guise drug enforcement.
The legal status remained unchanged until the 1990’s when California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use, the first time a state went against the federal ruling. Then, in 2012 Washington State and Colorado became the first two states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, meaning that people could now go to dispensaries and purchase marijuana without needing a prescription from their doctor. Since then many states have followed suit and it would not be unreasonable to assume that in the next decade everyone living in the United States will have access to medical marijuana.
Even with the legalization of marijuana in multiple states, it remains a Schedule I drug at the federal level. One of the main problems with this classification is that it makes obtaining research-grade marijuana incredibly difficult. As of this year, there is still only one source for research-grade marijuana and that is the University of Mississippi. This means that to perform an officially recognized scientific study of marijuana, the cannabis must come from the University of Mississippi. Researchers are unable to simply go to their local dispensary and use that marijuana for their studies. A major problem that arises from this process of research is that the marijuana being studied is not necessarily the same as the marijuana people are actually using.
The limited source also fails to consider the different forms of marijuana that are available these days, including tinctures, oils, various forms of hash, and edibles. With even the most minimal research into marijuana, it begins to seem crazy that marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, despite decades of scientific studies demonstrating its medical value and thousands of years of traditional therapeutic use.
Unfortunately, under the current administration, there is little hope of the federal status of marijuana changing anytime soon. In fact, the current administration has pledged to prosecute those breaking federal law and distributing marijuana at a state level. This crackdown of marijuana has yet to be seen, but some suspect the reasoning behind the decision is that members of the current administration have strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry. One thing that studies on marijuana consistently show is that when someone begins using marijuana to treat their ailments, a significant drop in the use of other medications occurs, especially regarding opioid-based medications. Meaning, the companies creating these other medications stand to lose a lot of money if the therapeutic potential of marijuana is realized. Even with multiple hurdles to overcome, studies have continued and more people than ever are experiencing the benefits of marijuana.
Researchers have begun to develop a better understanding of how marijuana interacts with our bodies. They have identified about 100 different active chemical compounds in the plant. The two most common of which are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Through laboratory testing, researchers proved that THC is the compound responsible for marijuana’s psychotropic effects. Using this knowledge, people cultivating marijuana for the black market have sought to increase the level of THC in their plants to create more potent marijuana.
This increase in THC is achieved through years of cross-pollination, in which two plants or combined, creating a hybrid with specific traits from each plant that the growers desire. Since CBD not only doesn’t get you high but also has been shown to limit the psychoactive properties of THC, many cultivators have attempted to breed it out of modern strains. In traditional hemp plants, THC and CBD shared almost equal parts, but today in most marijuana the ratio of THC to CBD can be higher than 20:1. The distinction between hemp and marijuana usually comes from if the plant has been bred to have higher levels of THC. Those that have been bred to be higher in THC are known as marijuana and those that have been unaltered and still contain significant levels of CBD are known as hemp. Since studies regarding the medical potential of marijuana have pointed to CBD holding a great deal of promise, some growers have begun creating CBD heavy strains, such as Charlotte’s Web, which boasts only a 0.3% THC content.
Charlotte’s Web has also made a name for itself because of a CNN program that told the story of a little girl suffering from childhood epilepsy who when given CBD oil went from having hundreds of seizures a week to only one or two. The lack of psychoactive side effects present in these high CBD strains makes it an ideal candidate for use as a medicine. Especially since many drugs used to treat illnesses such as epilepsy can have extreme side effects. CBD has also been found to be useful in the treatment of chronic pain and as an appetite stimulate.
A recent development in the proliferation of and access to CBD has been the rise of CBD oil as a dietary supplement recognized by the food and drug administration. As of this year, CBD oil can be legally purchased online and in all 50 states. Since it comes from food grade hemp and contains very low levels of THC it is not considered a drug. There is, however, a catch, cultivating hemp in the United States for commercial purposes is still illegal. Therefore, nearly all the hemp used for CBD oil is imported. CBD oil not only contains high levels of CBD but also has high antioxidant properties and many other nutrients.
CBD oil differs from hemp seed oil, which is extracted only from the seeds of the hemp plant and contains no CBD, in that it is extracted from the leafy matter of hemp plants that contain high levels of CBD and almost no THC. Full plant extracts, such as Rick Simpson Oil, are made by including the plant’s flowers in the extraction process, where most of the plants THC is found. Since CBD oil contains only trace amounts of THC it doesn’t have any psychoactive effects and can be used without worry of overdosing.
While research and studies are ongoing, CBD has been found to interact with a system of neurotransmitters known as the endocannabinoid system that works to balance our immune systems, as well as other functions such as appetite, sleep, and pain reception. CBD, therefore, has been recognized to help treat a number of ailments and to promote overall health by helping to maintain homeostasis or a well-balanced system. One of the great things about CBD is how safe it is and that there are very few side effects that result from using it. So, if you are interested in seeing if it works for you, you can do so without worrying about it negatively affecting you.