Formerly lurking in a legal gray area, the 2018 Farm Bill removed restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products and explicitly allowed the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial purposes. Hemp is defined as any cannabis that has <0.3% THC, but the amount of CBD is not limited, which has kicked the door open for this popular cannabinoid. Right now, CBD is absolutely everywhere.
A New Approach to Consumption
Unlike the THC world, dried cured flower is not driving the industry. Vapes, edibles, and balms are the preferred ways for the cannabis-curious to try CBD. Beverages notch right into existing preferences for health drinks and sodas, and include a social element evocative of cocktail parties and coffee bars. Topicals are particularly popular due to their potential for treating localized disorders such as arthritis and sore muscles, and there is promising research suggesting CBD as a treatment pathway for acne and other inflammatory skin conditions. Cosmeceuticals are hot.
CBD Pairings & Ratios
After the craze subsides, we are going to see CBD combined with other cannabinoids and trendy bioactives to keep its market edge. The CBD market is primed to embrace the values of whole plant medicine with its emphasis on minimally processed, minimally preserved products. Adjacent is the slow food movement which will value small batches, organic processes and heritage (landrace) strains. Seed-to-sale tracking is the law in Washington state, but a byproduct is a more solid knowledge of a product’s origin. We will know who grew the plants that made our face cream, where, and what methods they used.
Ratios, long employed in the THC market, will come into the general public consciousness soon. Expect to see products with specific cannabinoid ratios proudly displayed, customized for specific ailments. Given the notoriously individual experience of cannabis, personalization options are a possibility as well. Imagine ordering your preferred cannabinoid balance and formula features online, to be delivered by Amazon to your front door.
Customers are increasingly interested in how their purchases effect the planet. Hemp’s planet-friendly applications are well documented. Plants grown for CBD extraction can later be used to create clean biomass fuel. There is a labeling opportunity there to help consumers direct their funds at farms that put “waste” to good use.
Regulatory requirements will soon be more stringent — which, while destined to be implemented imperfectly, nets to a good thing. Potency will be required on the bottle and QA testing will be the norm. With luck, not just potency but harvest/processing date, terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and pesticide levels will be regularly listed. (The large amount of industrial hemp required to make CBD concentrate has some worried about accumulated pesticide residues.) Discerning customers will want to see the numbers.
We can expand product development to include parts of the plant besides the trichomes (resin glands) where cannabinoids are made. Hemp seeds are already widely used by health nuts; with their high omega oils, fiber and satisfying crunch, their application potential is incredibly broad. They add bulk and decrease hunger as well, and could be combined with appetite-reducing THC-V as a food additive. Juicing has previously been used in medical circles to retain the largest number of bioactives only present in the fresh plant. Cannabis green smoothies? Yes please.
A dose of reality
CBD deserves its day in the sun; it is a wonderful tool in the cannabinoid kit. It’s not ideal in every circumstance, however, and it’s important that we recognize there may be other cannabinoids that work better for other ailments. CBD is not ideal for sleep, for example: though it doesn’t prevent it, it is CBN and THC that are the real agents of somnolence. When eaten, it also a less potent anti-inflammatory than several other cannabinoids. And perhaps most importantly, CBD is exceptionally weak in isolation; it really shines when combined with other cannabinoids. To overcome this, the dosage must be high to be effective — and there is currently no mandate for testing or labeling potency on the bottle. Independently conducted testing has shown all manner of contaminants, inaccurate potencies, and the presence of THC in concentrations greater than .03%. Customers simply cannot be sure of what they are buying.
Buzzwording, overwrought design, niche marketing, and inert applications like mascara and hair pomade have flooded the market. The sheer breadth of claims being made for CBD sets the stage for disaffection; it cannot possibly live up to the boundless expectations placed on it. While it is a wonderful healing agent, it must eventually suffer the fate of all trends. But the enduring legacy of the CBD boom will be opening the door for cannabis-derived products and softening the public perception of them. CBD gummies and lollipops are sufficiently abstracted from the plant that they appeal to those still wary about cannabis. Conversations around psychoactivity and inebriation are happening. People’s grandmothers are using CBD for their arthritis and realizing hey, this cannabis stuff might not be the devil we were told it was.
Even without the steady march of THC legalization, hemp plants have so much to offer us. They might even save the world.