AUGUSTA, Maine — It seems there is no limit to how you can get cannabidiol — or CBD — today. You can take a gummy or drop a tincture into your coffee or water bottle. You can snack on a lollipop or rub oil into your muscles, face or beard.
It’s not hard to find: Products containing CBD, a compound derived from cannabis plants that has no psychotropic effects and is the subject of a national wellness movement, are in standalone stores, local pharmacies and groceries, and even gas stations across the state.
Claims are often tossed around that CBD can address a variety of ailments, only some of which are clearly backed by a relatively small body of research. There has been recent confusion about the product in Maine this year as regulations have not kept up with a soaring industry expected to be worth $16 billion by 2025, according to Business Insider.
If you’re thinking about investing in a product, here are some things you might want to consider before you buy a tincture at a gas station.
CBD has some health benefits. Not many are proven and the average product probably doesn’t have a high enough dose to have an effect. Daniele Piomelli, director of the Institute for the Study of Cannabis at the University of California, Irvine, has heard it all when it comes to CBD’s benefit and how it can be consumed — in chocolates, sprays and even clothing.
“Everything goes” when it comes to marketing, Piomelli said, but there are only a few conditions that CBD has been proven effective in treating. Two forms of epilepsy can be treated with Epidiolex, an oral solution the FDA approved last summer for patients 2 years or older. So far, it’s the only CBD product the FDA has approved.
There has also been research on how CBD can be effective in treating the symptoms of schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and anxiety, but those studies are relatively limited. And there is no proof that consuming CBD through clothes or a drink has any effect, Piomelli said.
“People are treating CBD as a vitamin or a micronutrient, but it’s truly become a hype-based thing,” he said.
Furthermore, the dosage needed to produce any effects is typically in the 500 to 1,000 milligrams range, far more than what you are likely to receive in a product, Piomelli said.
“You’d probably have to drink half a bottle of tincture to get any anti-anxiety effects,” he said.
Piomelli said the CBD craze kicked into gear as states began to adopt medical, then recreational marijuana policies. Currently, 10 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted both medical and recreational marijuana laws, including Maine, where recreational sales are expected to begin in spring 2020. About 37 states allow CBD under varying conditions.
CBD’s appeal is that it can be marketed as having the same medical benefits as marijuana without the psychoactive effects, Piomelli said. But until more research is done, “I think it’s just a marketing ploy, a fad,” he said. “It’ll probably go away but for now we have it.”
Ingestible products are allowed in the state now after earlier confusion. There was an outcry from hemp growers earlier this year after the state ordered retailers to take edible products containing CBD off the shelves after the FDA said it’s not an approved food additive under federal law. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry later apologized for the move, and an emergency bill later allowed the products to be sold in Maine passed in March.
However, the state interpreted that law to only allow Maine-grown hemp in ingestible products, and no CBD or hemp raw goods labeled as consumables can be brought into Maine, department spokesperson Jim Britt said. A different bill that went into effect in September allows CBD sourced for other products to come from outside the state.
The state currently has 172 hemp growing operations, a figure that doubled in the last year after the 2018 farm bill — which took hemp with less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal chemical that causes psychoactive effects in marijuana, off the list of Schedule I substances — took effect, Maine Public reported this week.
State regulations require any CBD food product to be listed with the amount of CBD per serving in the product, Britt said. The law says food and eating establishments cannot make health claims about food or food additives.
FDA officials said in August that they were still deciding how to treat CBD while cracking down on companies that are making therapeutic claims about CBD without going through the drug approval process in the meantime.
One expert said anyone looking to try CBD should examine a product’s growing and testing process before buying. Phil Hendricks, owner of Hallowell-based CBD distribution company Gerrick Alternatives and a member of the Maine Hemp Policy Council, said buying from a reputable company is key.
Despite CBD seeming to be everywhere, Hendricks said many of the state’s smaller stores stopped selling CBD altogether after the year’s earlier confusion, although bigger chains are still selling the product.
Hendricks said the CBD market is like “the Wild West” because of states different approaches to regulation and the proliferation of companies. He said it’s not uncommon for him to get three to four product samples and phone calls every other day.
But Hendricks said he checks out every production facility for products he ends up selling, and recommends interested buyers ask anyone they buy from to provide documentation about how the hemp was grown and how the CBD was processed.