Hemp and the CBD Craze
In Part 1 of this article, we explored the differences between hemp and medical cannabis. Also, in our article “CBD Fact and Fiction,” we reported on how CBD—another cannabis compound—has become wildly popular in the past few years as its medical benefits have become known and the fact that, unlike THC, it does not cause a high.
Marijuana entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on the new demand for CBD and circumvent the federal marijuana ban have increasingly turned to industrial hemp grown in other countries as an alternative source for CBD since importing hemp products is legal. However, while it’s true that hemp contains trace amounts of CBD, these quantities pale in comparison to the high-CBD strains of cannabis.
Unfortunately, rather than being a viable source of CBD for medical cannabis patients, it was revealed recently in a Project CBD report that people have gotten seriously sick as a result of taking contaminated hemp products marketed for its CBD.
As we covered in our blog about the report’s findings, the risk of contamination runs high in commercial hemp cultivation since hemp is known for sucking up heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and other toxins from the soil. These toxins then become concentrated and passed along through extraction into the final product.
The report also exposed the enterprise of manufacturing CBD-infused hemp products for what it really is – get rich quick schemes riddled with fraud and corruption.
The Hemp Industries Association’s Official Position
The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), concerned about the misrepresentation and misbranding of CBD products marketed as “hemp oil,” issued a June 2014 statement (PDF) to clarify the issue. In it, they state:
It is important for American farmers and processors of hemp to understand that most CBD in products mislabeled as “hemp oil” is a co-product of large-scale hemp stalk and fiber processing facilities in Europe where the fiber is the primary material produced at a large scale.
The HIA defines “hemp oil” as hemp seed oil, (a cooking oil and ingredient in food and body care products) and further states that:
CBD is not a product or component of hemp seeds, and labeling to that effect is misleading and motivated by the desire to take advantage of the legal gray area of CBD under federal law.
The stalks and fiber of hemp don’t contain CBD either, so where does the CBD in hemp come from? “Indirectly, as a co-product of flowers and leaves that are mixed in with the stalks during hemp stalk processing for fiber,” states HIA.
Hemp is known for sucking up heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and other toxins from the soil. These toxins then become concentrated and passed along through extraction into the final product.
What this means is that hemp has not been grown or processed specifically for CBD, but rather CBD has been an incidental by-product. The hemp processed for fiber is not meant for direct consumption. Hence, up until its dual purpose with CBD extraction, the consequences hadn’t been noticeable if it was grown in contaminated soil.
In a surprising twist, the federal government introduced a 2014 Farm Bill with a provision that takes advantage of the fuzzy definition of “hemp” to also include high CBD cannabis strains with less than .3% THC in their flowering tops. As a result, research can now be done without the plants being treated federally as “marijuana.” This provision also allows “industrial hemp” (the high CBD strains under .3% THC) to be grown for the purpose of producing and selling CBD extracts in states where hemp cultivation is legal. The HIA differentiates these from general hemp, which it clearly states is “not suitable for producing CBD.”
However, what is less clear is whether states that permit hemp cultivation understand this difference and offer consumers protection in the event that profiteers decide to extract CBD from the usual hemp variety with the dubious value and hazards that it entails.
High quality CBD oil comes from the buds and flowers of CBD-rich strains of cannabis, not from by-product plant material. We are proud to say that Constance Pure Botanical Extracts was among the first in the world to grow high CBD cannabis, and the first in northern California to make CBD oil.