If you live in a town with a population of over 1,000, chances are good that you’ve heard about CBD. But what is it? Weed, hemp or something else? Actually, CBD is sort of both and neither at the same time. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis plants that reportedly has the potential to treat everything from anxiety to certain forms of epilepsy.
One of dozens of compounds in cannabis called cannabinoids, CBD can be extracted in high amounts from certain strains of hemp, a form of cannabis with 0.3 percent THC or less that was legalized federally at the end of 2018. However, CBD can also be found in certain marijuana strains that carry THC amounts much higher than 0.3 percent — and while hemp has been legalized federally, CBD products still exist in a gray area in states that haven’t addressed hemp or legal marijuana. Fortunately for Coloradans, our state is ahead of the pack.
Colorado’s marijuana and hemp laws have made hemp-derived CBD clearly legal in this state, with food, drinks, lotions and other products infused with CBD for sale in a wide range of businesses. Still, there’s plenty of confusion over CBD and what it does.
Here are the ABCs of CBD in Colorado:
The Science Behind CBD
A decade ago, CBD was a little-used substance, but then medical and recreational cannabis research began showing the cannabinoid’s potential to treat certain medical issues without the intoxicating effects of THC found in traditional marijuana. Noticing the increased interest, marijuana and hemp growers began selectively breeding strains to get their plants to levels as high as 30 percent CBD. After videos of CBD oil putting a stop to seizures suffered by epileptic children swept the Internet, the exposure brought more attention to CBD’s other uses, and has helped advance cannabis legalization efforts worldwide.
Limited studies have shown that CBD has the potential to help treat patients suffering from opioid addiction, chronic pain, inflammation, skin disorders, anxiety, poor blood sugar levels and other ailments ranging from mild to very serious. But that doesn’t mean it’s a cure-all. The human body has what’s called an endocannabinoid system, which receives cannabinoids like THC and CBD and acts as a sort of messenger, moving them into the brain’s receptors — and nobody’s brains and bodies are exactly the same. Some endocannabinoid systems don’t react optimally to CBD. Other users find that it does little more than make them groggy (but not high, and that’s the beauty of it). Because of this uncertain effect, it’s important to try CBD in small doses at first unless recommended otherwise by a doctor.
CBD products sold at marijuana dispensaries will contain a mix of THC and CBD for various medical and recreational purposes. Outside of dispensaries, you can find CBD products made from hemp that are non-intoxicating and, other than smoking or vaping items, generally don’t have an age limit for purchasing.
Current Laws Surrounding CBD
Colorado may have one of the least restrictive sets of CBD laws, but buying CBD is still not as black and white as buying a candy bar, or even alcohol or tobacco. Here’s the bottom line: If you’re inside Colorado, then CBD products made from hemp and licensed by local health agencies and the Colorado Department of Agriculture are legal and don’t have an age limit for purchase (though some stores will apply their own). Between 2012’s legalization of recreational marijuana and subsequent legislation to further define hemp-infused goods, anything made with CBD by a licensed company can be sold at any retailer, such as smoke shops, gas stations or grocery stores.
But that’s just the case in Colorado and a few other states with expansive hemp laws. The federal government may have hemp somewhat figured out, but extracted CBD is still very ambiguous to Uncle Sam, as the 2018 Farm Bill gave the Food and Drug Administration authority over CBD products, but no regulations regarding those products. The FDA held its first hearing about future CBD regulations in June, but until those are set, any food infused with CBD is technically federally illegal (not that that’s stopping businesses both inside and outside of Colorado from making them). And some states, such as Idaho and South Dakota, haven’t addressed or recognized hemp’s federal legalization at all, prohibiting legal trade of any CBD products, like lotions or oils, within their borders. Keep that in mind when traveling outside of the state.
How to Consume It
Once you’re ready to give CBD a try, it’s important to know what you like and what you’re using it for, because it’s not cheap, and you can find it in just about anything right now. Coffee, tea, sports drinks and a long list of foods infused with CBD are available for medical or relaxation purposes. Or you could buy extracted CBD isolate or oil for oral ingestion, or make your own infused dishes and drinks. You can also smoke and vape high-CBD hemp flower and concentrates, much like tobacco or marijuana, for immediate effect.
Lotions, balms and bath bombs infused with CBD and hemp oil are quickly becoming a popular skin-care technique — and they’re easier to find nationwide, because the FDA doesn’t treat them like consumables, such as food and drinks. Food and drug retailers like Kroger and CVS now have agreements in place to start carrying CBD topicals.
CBD products aren’t just designed for humans, either: CBD-infused foods and medications for dogs, cats, horses and other animals are available at retailers and online. Studies from Colorado State University have shown that CBD could help with anxiety and pain, among other ailments that older animals face.
Where to Find It
CBD has become relatively easy to find around Colorado and the rest of the country, but many stores don’t know how to advertise it because of the unclear laws. Just about any smoke shop will carry some form of CBD products (usually vaporizer items and CBD concentrates), while health-food stores and high-end groceries like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have been known to stock certain CBD-infused foods and beverages.
Liquor stores such as Total Beverage and Argonaut now sell CBD products, while CBD boutiques like ArenaLife, Canna World Market, Color Up Therapeutics, Discover CBD, Flora’s Mercantile and Native Roots Wellness carry hemp and CBD products exclusively. Marijuana dispensaries carry a vast range of CBD products, but with varying amounts of THC in them.
Retailers aren’t the only brick-and-mortar locations pushing CBD food and drinks. Certain coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants and even cocktail bars sell drinks and dishes infused with CBD. The Nickel at Hotel Teatro and Habit Doughnut Dispensary sell cocktails containing CBD oil, while Glazed & Confuzed and Thornton’s Urban Eatery & Daylight Donuts add it to food. Some food trucks, such as La Xochitl, offer CBD for an extra charge.
A Word of Caution
There are a lot of bold claims and snake-oil salesmen out there hawking CBD miracle products (especially online), so it’s essential to know that your products are lab-tested. Search for some form of state agricultural department seal on your CBD products to ensure that they’re certified.
And fair warning: Heavy CBD consumption has led to a rising number of failed drug tests if products carry more THC than they claim — another reason that you should avoid purchasing CBD online unless you’re familiar with the provider.
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