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Is CBD a Miracle Cure or a Marketing Scam? (Both.): New at Reason

Cannabidiol is caught between two worlds.

Joanna AndreassonJoanna AndreassonJennifer Aniston uses it for anxiety. Podcast host Joe Rogan applies it for elbow pain. You can buy dog treats infused with it, as well as facial scrubs and hand lotions, tinctures, and vaporizer cartridges. It's used as an ingredient in cocktails, beer, and gummy worms. It's sold at Amish markets and at fancy boutiques and at prepper depots. In October, it received the ultimate blessing for a trendy new cure-all: It was the subject of a multipart special on daytime basic cable hosted by Dr. Oz.

"It" is cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound contained mostly in the flowers of the female marijuana plant but also in the burlier hemp plant—both strains of Cannabis sativa. Like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD attaches to receptors throughout the body. But unlike THC, it doesn't alter perception or sharpen the appetite. Instead, people who use pure CBD report feeling calmed and relaxed. As Aniston recently told Us Weekly, "CBD helps with pain, stress, and anxiety. It has all the benefits of marijuana without the high."

But alongside all the celebrity buzz and bright marketing claims, there is another, more inspiring type of story about CBD: Children wracked by dozens of severe epileptic seizures a day who are suddenly well, their desperate parents weeping in relief. Although there is a near-complete absence of data concerning casual, low-dose use in lollipops or scented skin creams, a growing body of scientific evidence shows the efficacy of large doses of pure CBD for treating certain dire medical conditions.

The growing universe of CBD products—powerful cures and spa-day fun alike—is threatened by overzealous regulators, some of whom insist that CBD be classed among the most dangerous drugs. That means the people who stand to benefit most—the sickest and most desperate CBD users—remain at grave risk.

CBD, then, is caught between two worlds: the medical reality of its effectiveness in large doses on the one hand, and the popular image of a tasty, calming, faddish cure-all on the other, writes Reason's Mike Riggs.

Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson

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