A decade of mainstream CBD: what have we learned?


Ten years ago, when we started Care By Design, the most often asked questions were: “What are cee-bee-dee-bees (meaning CBD or cannabidiol)?” And “What do you mean this type of cannabis likely won’t get me high? What’s the point then?” 

Since then, CBD has undergone a remarkable journey. It became the darling of the wellness movement for a period, only to be turned on its head and morphed into something that’s very much the antithesis of healing. But even with those detours, CBD-rich cannabis has endured as a therapeutic modality with untapped potential. 

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The rediscovery of CBD 

CBD is a naturally occurring, (mostly) non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant, which has a long history of use for treating health problems. Queen Victoria reportedly used a CBD-rich cannabis tincture to ease the discomfort of menstrual cramps in the late 1800s. 

But by the end of the 20th century, few people in the U.S. knew much about the medical applications of cannabis. Under the spell of prohibition, medical cannabis had retreated to the shadows. The lingering stigma of reefer madness deceived many into thinking that “marijuana” was a dangerous street drug with no therapeutic value. And in America’s cannabis breadbasket — northern California’s Emerald Triangle — renegade cannabis horticulturists nearly bred CBD strains out of existence in favor of euphoria-inducing high-THC plants. CBD became a casualty of the decades-long war on drugs, which suppressed legal access to medical cannabis while fostering a robust, illicit market. 

Fortunately, several prominent scientists, including the late Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, never lost interest in CBD. Their groundbreaking research inspired Project CBD and a handful of allied cannabis advocates who understood the importance of this neglected compound. They also inspired a small number of gutsy product makers, dispensary operators, and other early adopters who were willing to take a gamble and invest in CBD-rich consumables at a time when the shelves were stocked entirely with high-THC options. 

The people’s remedy 

By the mid-2010s, more people were curious about the potential of CBD—but they weren’t necessarily trying to inhale. By utilizing modern cannabis oil extraction techniques, it was possible to craft novel non-smokable CBD-infused products. 

The new medical cannabis landscape featured tinctures, edibles, and topicals with measured doses and precise ratios of CBD and THC, allowing for better patient management of cannabis’ psychoactive effects.

Both CBD and THC have remarkable health potential. So, too, do dozens of lesser-known cannabinoids, flavonoids, and aromatic terpenes found in cannabis. What’s more, these compounds tend to complement one another’s effects, meaning they’re more effective in combination than individually… as Mother Nature intended. 

Given the history of Reefer Madness in this country, it’s not surprising that the PR strategy of some CBD brands would spin CBD as the “good” cannabinoid and THC as the “bad” cannabinoid simply because the latter can make one high. 

But is a dose of euphoria a bad thing? Good fun is good medicine. Stress, anxiety, and depression are known to decrease immune function, disrupt sleep, and shorten life expectancy. So, if occasionally getting high lifts one’s spirits, there’s nothing wrong with that. Our company’s philosophy is that medicine has to work, but “taking your medicine” doesn’t have to be unpleasant. 

But we also recognize that some people find the effects of THC to be unpleasant. A lot depends on how one metabolizes THC. Non- and low-intoxicating CBD-rich products with little THC are made to order for those who don’t want to get high — for whatever reason. 

The CBD craze 

The idea that one could benefit therapeutically from cannabis without having to smoke it and without getting uncontrollably high from it would prove irresistible to lots of people. Before long, it seemed that everyone was talking about CBD. Hemp start-ups started hawking everything from CBD-infused pillows, sportswear, bras, bum cream, and dishware to CBD-infused coffee and rum, eventually prompting the hashtag #stopthecbdmadness. 

All fads must come to an end. So, too, with the CBD Craze, which quickly “jumped the shark.” Before long, CBD fell out of favor as the wellness industry’s “It Girl.” 

Frankly, at Care By Design, we were relieved to see the hysteria wane. While we’re strong believers in the scientific evidence and credible anecdotal reports attesting to CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anxiety-reducing properties, we never believed it was a silver bullet.

Unfortunately, the CBD madness didn’t end so much as morph into a more sinister kind of derangement on the heels of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and its “derivatives.” CBD entrepreneurs were faced with a conundrum: What to do with all the huge stockpiles of hemp biomass when the market was in a free fall? 

The answer for numerous CBD manufacturers (and countless illicit producers) was to chemically convert CBD isolate into delta-8 THC and other intoxicating compounds, slap a label on the product calling it “federally legal hemp,” and sell it in every corner bodega and gas station across the country for a fraction of the cost of authentic cannabis.

The authors of the 2018 Farm Bill never saw it coming. 

Initially heralded for its gentle, non-intoxicating effects, CBD is now being used primarily as starter material to create a raft of synthetic THC knockoffs — the cannabis equivalent of bathtub gin — that have nothing to do with wellness or medicine. 

True to our roots 

Our approach to cannabis therapeutics is enduringly simple. We believe that at its best, cannabis medicine is part of an active, healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition, exercise, purposeful work, and a supportive community and that good medicine starts with healthy plants in a garden — not a shelf of chemicals in a laboratory. 

Moreover, with the antiquated research restrictions starting to lift, the therapeutic potential of CBD and cannabis can now be put to the test in clinical trials. We are hopeful that this approach, one that emphasizes medical science over marketing hype, will help restore cannabis to its rightful place in the pharmacopeia of herbal medicines.

This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Tiffany Devitt Tiffany Devitt heads up Regulatory Affairs for CannaCraft and March and Ash, a vertically integrated California cannabis company. She previously served as vice-president of the California Cannabis Industry Association’s board of directors and was the long-term chair of the organization’s legislative committee.