The Wonder Drug

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122918/wonder-drug

Indeed, hemp oil products have grown out of a market largely devoid of regulations or safety protocols. The state of the CBD industry harks back to the age of elixirs and potions hawked from covered wagons to the awed denizens of pioneer towns. There are no industrywide standards in place to ensure that CBD oils are consistently formulated batch-to-batch. There is no regulatory body screening products for pesticides, heavy metals, solvent residues, and other dangerous contaminants. The laboratories that companies contract to test their CBD products are themselves neither standardized nor consistently regulated…

Today, dozens of companies produce CBD in an array of forms. CBD can be inhaled through vape pens, applied in topical salves, ingested in edibles, or swallowed in oil-based tinctures. Oil has become the dominant CBD delivery method for kids with epilepsy, since it is easy to administer and ingest, and there is no shortage of it available for sale online. There are dozens of companies boasting names like Healthy Hemp Oil, Dose of Nature, and Natural Organic Solutions, each of them selling CBD products at prices ranging from trivial to dizzyingly steep. You don’t have to look hard to find them. If you have a PayPal account and $100 to spare, you could have a vial of hemp oil delivered to your doorstep…

In February, as part of an investigation into the marketing claims of six hemp oil companies, the FDA analyzed 18 CBD products. What it found was disturbing: Many of these supposed CBD products were entirely lacking in CBD. Of the products tested, six contained no cannabinoids whatsoever. Another 11 contained less than 1 percent CBD. The product that tested highest in CBD, at 2.6 percent, was a capsule for dogs. In states that have legalized CBD, regulations can require CBD products to contain at least 5 percent CBD, more often 10 or 15 percent.

Low concentrations of CBD aren’t the only concern, either. Cannabis plants are hardy and tough, and their thick stalks possess a special property: bioremediation. When grown in contaminated soil, hemp plants absorb heavy metals and other chemical waste, effectively cleansing the terrain. While all plants absorb some chemicals from the soil, the structure, size, and genetic makeup of hemp make it especially adept at this task. Cannabis is so effective that crops of industrial hemp were planted in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster to help purify heavily irradiated soil. When hemp stalks are used for fiber, paper, and other nonconsumptive industrial purposes, the contaminants absorbed into the plants pose no threat to humans…

Then, in May, the FDA announced it was excluding products containing cannabidiol from its definition of dietary supplements altogether…

GW Pharmaceuticals, a U.K.-based firm, has developed a “pure CBD” medication called Epidiolex that has shown promising test results. It is currently on a fast-track to receive FDA clearance… 

The arrival of Epidiolex is unlikely to erase the unregulated CBD market, however. For one, Epidiolex has been studied only in connection with a small number of epileptic conditions. If and when Epidiolex makes its way to drug stores, it will be approved only for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, two rare forms of catastrophic epilepsy…

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