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Getting to know CBD, THC’s non-intoxicating cousin, and why it's becoming more popular among medicinal and recreational cannabis users

A sample of cannabidiol (CBD) oil is dropped into water.
A sample of cannabidiol (CBD) oil is dropped into water.
Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg Creative Photos/Getty Images

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Chances are, if you wander into a recreational cannabis dispensary in California, the majority of the products you’ll see on the shelves from flower to edibles to wax contain THC, the chemical compound found in cannabis plants that creates the “high” that users experience.

But for some people who might otherwise use cannabis for medicinal purposes, it’s the “high” that prevents them from using those products.

Enter CBD, THC’s non-intoxicating, ostensibly non-addictive cousin. Short for cannabidiol, <can-uh-bih-DY-awl>, CBD has begun to gain visibility as it appears in more products in states where medicinal and recreational marijuana use is legal, and offers users some of the same benefits they’d get from a THC-infused product with none of the side-effects like euphoria, altered perception, increased appetite, or paranoia that are commonly associated with smoking or ingesting marijuana.

CBD can be extracted from both the cannabis and hemp plants. By definition, industrial hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC, so it is often grown for the purpose of CBD oil extraction. There are also certain strains of the cannabis plant, such as Harlequin or Charlotte’s Web, that have been purposely bred for higher CBD content. According to the Associated Press, many growers in Oregon, for example, are starting to turn their attention to cultivating hemp instead of cannabis in the hopes of making more of a profit off of CBD oil extract as it grows in popularity while the state continues to experience a surplus of “usable flower,” or the dried marijuana bud you’ll commonly see associated with marijuana use.

Anecdotally, CBD has been shown to be effective in treating some of the same ailments that patients often use medicinal marijuana to treat, such as chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy and even addiction. However, like cannabis, CBD is designated by the DEA as a Schedule I drug, which limits the amount of clinical research able to be done into its potential medical uses.

Today on AirTalk, medical professionals and a cannabis cultivator weigh in on CBD’s growing popularity nationwide, what we do and don’t know about its potential medical uses, and whether cultivators and manufacturers in California are jumping on the CBD bandwagon.  


Igor Grant, M.D., director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego

Shaun Hussain, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and the director of the Infantile Spasms Program at UCLA, where he is also a faculty member with the Cannabis Research Initiative

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, a trade organization for cannabis growers