CBD FAQs: What is CBD? Is it legal? Does it actually help?

What You Need to Know About CBD Oil

CBD here, CBD there, CBD seems to be everywhere. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused about all the CBD-infused coverage lately, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions and answers to get you up-to-date.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol or CBD is a non-intoxicating compound with various medical uses. Derived from hemp, CBD is a cousin of the popular marijuana plant. CBD can have no more than 0.3% THC (the main active ingredient of cannabis), and medical marijuana oil may contain up to 5%.

How is it different from marijuana?

Unlike the marijuana molecule delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), CBD isn’t psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t give users that high, according to WebMD.

Is it legal in Georgia?

According to a previous AJC report, “while pot remains illegal in most states, CBD, for the most part, is legal.” Georgia law allows hemp farming and CBD oil sales, but it’s still illegal to add CBD to food and drinks in the state.

What are some of the health benefits of CBD?

Some researchers and users have pointed to CBD as a natural remedy for anxiety, some kinds of pain, pediatric seizures and insomnia. Studies have also shown CBD can help folks struggling with eating disorders and addiction. But overall, the research is very limited.

"There really isn't very much evidence in humans with respect to its effectiveness," Ziva Cooper, research director at the University of California-Los Angeles Cannabis Research Initiative, told Quartz. "And when I say evidence in humans, I'm really talking about rigorous, double-blind placebo-controlled studies."

But there’s also not much research showing that cannabidiol doesn’t work. “There is just a general lack of studies — period,” Cooper said.

Is it harmful?

Dr. Nora Volkow, director for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, previously told The AJC high doses of CBD can be harmful to the liver. Emory Pain Center’s Dr. Vinita Singh is wary of the “big gray” area of CBD research. “We don’t have much data on how well it works, at what dose, how frequently to use it, and about the long-term side effects,” she said.

What are some common side effects of CBD?

The limited research out there on CBD suggests common side effects of CBD may include diarrhea, fatigue and changes in appetite. It’s always important to consult with your primary care provider before consuming CBD.

Can it help pets?

Some research suggests CBD may help anxious cats and dogs relax a bit. According to a study from Cornell University, CBD can even improve pain stemming from arthritis. But in most states, veterinarians are still not allowed to prescribe or recommend a cannabis product due to limited research. Holistic vet Dr. Gary Richter told Leafly pet parents should always “ask for a certificate of analysis to show the product contains what it claims on the label” when considering CBD products for their animals. “Check the (certificate) to confirm there are no pesticides, fungicides, fungal toxins, etc.” 

How exactly does one consume CBD?

According to Healthline, CBD is available in a variety of forms, such as oils, creams, pills and edibles. CBD can also be consumed by vaping. MarketWatch has reported CBD can be found in some protein powders, makeup, bath salts and jelly beans.

What’s a healthy dosage like?

Typically, experts recommend starting with a low dosage, but this can be tricky when you consider vape oil dosing. “Most research has used doses from 40 milligrams daily to 1,500 milligrams,” according to the Healthline Medical Network. “Some people advocate starting with 20 to 40 milligrams daily and increasing to the desired effect. But before treating a medical condition, talk with your doctor about the best approach for your specific condition.”

Can you take CBD and fail a drug test?

It’s possible. Quest Diagnostics’ Barry Sample told Consumer Reports the urine test most commonly used for drug tests doesn’t look for CBD; it actually looks for a compound created by the body after THC is metabolized. While CBD products aren’t supposed to contain more than 0.3% THC, some may have more than the label claims. Small amounts of THC from CBD products can also build up over time.

Are there prescription drugs with CBD?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only one CBD-based drug so far. The medication, Epidiolex, is used to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, a neurological disorder that leads to unpredictable seizures. With the drug, seizures from epilepsy disorders Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome can be better controlled and “have a profound impact” on patients’ quality of life, according to FDA division of neurology products director Billy Dunn.

Can CBD be mixed with alcohol?

Georgetown University Medical Center neurology and biochemistry professor James Giordano advises consumers to avoid mixing CBD and alcohol as both lower inhibitions on their own. Taken together, this can leave some people very sedated. "The more you drink, the more CBD you're taking, you get a potentiated effect that's greater than the effect of either alone," he told Vice. "The level of intoxication is going to be greater: greater loss of control, inhibition, motor coordination, and that becomes problematic."

Still, some research has shown that taking alcohol and a CBD capsule actually lowers blood alcohol levels than drinking alcohol alone. In the end, as Vice puts it, the jury’s still out and experts can’t even come to a consensus.