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The Straight Dope 

Tired of the euphoria, anxiety and crash from being stoned? Nonpsychoactive cannabidiol supplies health benefits without the typical effects of THC

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A Kinder Kine

A growing number of medicinal marijuana users are gravitating toward these new CBD-rich strains, and some dispensaries are catching on. In the pot-friendly community of Sebastopol—where a yearly "harvest" festival hosts revelers in full hemp regalia, sparking spliffs and jamming to didgeridoo—the local dispensary Peace in Medicine offers educational literature explaining the benefits of CBD.

"We have thousands of active members," says Peace in Medicine's general manager Johnny Nolan. "They live normal lives with jobs and families. Before, they had to put up with THC when they needed the benefits of the medicine. With CBD they have more options."

Patient consultant Royce Park, who in typical dispensary-speak talks of "patients" who "medicate" using "flowers," certainly knows his science. Park regularly attends conferences and keeps up with the latest studies to help patients choose cannabis strains for their individual needs. Park himself prefers to medicate with CBD-rich cannabis, finding it "very functional."

click to enlarge DAVID BONN
  • David Bonn

Cannabidiol users contacted through a medicinal-cannabis support group report a markedly different experience than what is typically associated with weed. "Relaxed, yet focused and alert," said one user. Another described smoking CBD as "marijuana with a seat belt." One person reported, "CBD gives me a perfect balance: a nice body high where the stress and aches get smoothed out, while leaving my mind calm and present."

"For me," said a CBD-rich cannabis grower, "the biggest advantage to CBD is its ability to relieve anxiety. For someone with an active mind and a difficult personal history, anxiety is always present. When I use CBD, relaxation sets up a base camp, guarded by a sentinel with arms folded who allows no trouble or fear to get close. CBD makes room for good things to happen."

Research into CBD-rich cannabis continues. Martin Lee recently attended a conference in Germany where scientists presented new information documenting CBD's ability to stop the proliferation of colon cancer cells and to limit traumatic brain injury caused by strokes. "Using cannabis in any form can have positive health benefits, regardless of the user's intention," says Lee. "CBD-rich pot is especially powerful." Along with Fred Gardener, Lee cofounded Project CBD, "a nonprofit educational service dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medicinal potential of cannabidiol."

Yet CBD-high weed is still very difficult to source, even in California, where new cannabis strains are developed as often as wine varietals. With the recent forced closure of so many dispensaries, those left standing struggle to keep a steady CBD supply. Peace in Medicine's Park admits the dispensary can't obtain enough of it to satisfy demand, as cultivators have yet to catch on to this less psychotropic pot. While CBD continues to show immense promise in the lab, cannabis remains firmly entombed in the federal government's airless mausoleum of Schedule I controlled substances, while speed and meth are granted the lesser classification of Schedule II, and alcohol, in seeming disregard of the number of crimes and deaths associated with its use, is hardly controlled at all.

It appears that cannabis researchers and activists will continue to push legitimate medical science—like a humongous green boulder—up a relentlessly steep bureaucratic hill, and maybe for a very long time. Still, there is hope.

"Facts don't necessarily influence policy makers," says McAllister, "but I do believe that over time, facts will push government policy in the right direction."

Lee agrees.

"The science shows that CBD is a potent medicine," he says. "It is also a potent myth-buster. It explodes the myth that medical marijuana is just for stoners."

It's a sentiment we might do well to put in our pipe and smoke.

  • Nonpsychoactive cannabidiol supplies health benefits without the typical effects of THC

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