Paul Thacher is a botanist and supplement broker who has been involved in the CBD and cannabis industry since the '70s. We asked him to help us better understand the darling of cannabis media: CBD.
Weekly Alibi: So what's the big deal with CBD?
Thacher: Well it fills a need in the supplements and vitamin fields in general, and it's gotten a lot of press. It does help a lot of people. It's like anything else: It doesn't work for everybody. But for a lot of people, at the right strength, it can definitely reduce all kinds of problems—whether it's mental restlessness or a lack of ability to sleep, depression. The body is hard-wired for CBD. Human beings have CBD receptors in the body, which speaks to the relationship we've had with the plant for tens of thousands of years. When people take it, there are receptors that it immediately goes to in the body and brain. It can help your other vitamins and supplements work better.
[Some forms of CBD were] removed from the schedule I drug list, and that made it a little bit more plausible for people. A lot of people who have tried it like it a lot, so word of mouth works. Here in New Mexico, it's mostly just CBD from hemp. Almost all of it comes from Europe. Certain places like Colorado are using CBD with a small amount of THC in it. Normally, from hemp, it has 0.3 percent THC tops, and usually none at all. But what they're learning is that CBD with a measurable amount of THC—let's say you're taking 30mg of CBD oil and it has a couple of milligrams of THC in it like what they're producing in Colorado—it works better for a lot of people. THC being, of course, one of the cannabinoids that's involved in the whole profile of both cannabis plants.
That's a short rundown of it, but a lot of people find it works really well for a lot of different things.
You said it might help support other supplements. How does it do that?
Anytime you have receptors in the body for a certain thing and you supply what those receptors want, you tend to need less of other things sometimes—like other vitamins and nutrients and minerals. It just makes the body work better. Think of WD-40 in a lock—it makes your keys work better. It's a good analogy in a lot of ways.
Have you kept up at all with Epidiolex, the CBD drug that recently got approval from the FDA? What do you think that means for CBD's future?
It's just a move by Big Pharma to take over the industry at one level. People are used to something being marketed through a drug store and they'll start advertising it. But big money is really involved in the CBD industry, as well as the marijuana industry, and they want the market, because it's huge.
And ever since we've seen CBD sales pick up in the last 4 to 5 years, it's a funny little anomaly—it's probably hard to prove—but vitamin sales across the country have gone down about 8 to 10 percent. It's hard to verify, but I can see it in the numbers I track. And it tells me that it's probably working for many things. People maybe took more sleep aids before, but now they don't need them so much because they're taking CBD. There's not a scientific basis for this, but I think the people I've known and anecdotal cases, it seems people don't need as many vitamins, et cetera, as they do when they're taking CBD oil.
At the same time, the FDA is still putting a lot of pressure on CBD producers and marketers. Things like—they don't want them to put on the label things like what milligrams are in there or the dosage. They'll just tell you generally how much oil you're getting, not how it breaks down in the actual cannabidiol, the active ingredient.
It's much more complex than people are putting out. CBD, whether it's from a drug company or a local producer, contains all kinds of cannabinoids and terpenes. And to get a good CBD oil, you need to get a good profile of those things. At the moment, it's a little bit like recreational marijuana, where it's just all over the board. People are selling CBD, but what's the profile? What's the cannabinoid and terpene profile?
And what they're going to eventually discover is that different kinds of profiles—or different strains of hemp—are going to provide different effects for people. CBD can be profiled toward certain diseases and sicknesses. There's work being done on that now, but unfortunately in the green rush, those things are being swept under the rug, which is another reason that people will gravitate towards a pharmaceutical CBD product, because they'll assume that one size fits all and it's going to be good for everybody, and that's just not true.
So do you feel that full plant profile oils are better than pure CBD extracts?
For a lot of people, yeah. Almost all the stuff that's sold in the states—legally it's supposed to come from a foreign country, believe it or not. Almost all of it comes from Europe, and it all has pretty much the same profile. It's a decent product. It's exported in these crystals or in a gel.
A lot of this stuff that's kind of like bootleg out of the states where [marijuana] is legal, and they've got extra cannabinoids. None of that's actually legal under federal law. The problem is crossing state lines with it. By crossing state lines with it, people are breaking federal law.
Now I'm not one to push that, but I think it's doing people a lot of good. Everybody has to find out for themselves. Some people need a little extra THC in it for a therapeutic dose. A little more THC than is normally found in hemp can do a lot of people a lot more good.
I think one sidenote to this is that even though people talk about marijuana having CBD in it, those who smoke marijuana get very little CBD. First of all, it's mostly destroyed when smoking it. And second, there's hardly any CBD in marijuana that's produced when smoking. It's practically negligible. It can be processed out of the marijuana buds, but people don't get that much from marijuana per se.