By Emily Ledger
Cannabis Sativa L. has been utilised for the treatment of a large variety of ailments, as well as for industrial applications, and ceremonial uses for millennia. Evidence gathered from significant ancient sites has revealed that the plant was important, and even sacred, in many societies, including Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, and Ancient India.
However, after the plant’s longstanding popularity, the Western world entered the prohibition era – a movement that quickly spread throughout the world and drastically changed the perception of this once crucial crop.
Prohibition was fuelled by suspicion of the plant’s psychoactive properties as well as the development of stereotypes designed and used to demonise it’s users.
Free recreational use of the plant was drawn to a halt in the early 20th century, with medical cannabis also being tightly controlled and, in some cases, being likewise banned. Unfortunately, prohibition also coincided with the largest progression of medical and scientific research in history, leaving a huge gap in our knowledge of the cannabis plant and how it can be used.
Following almost a century in outlaw in much of the world, however, a new cannabis revolution is taking hold. People are once again embracing the cannabis plant for its medicinal properties, and even governments are beginning to liberalise their policies on its control.
Yet, despite the slow but steady re-acceptance of the plant, the most common (and most famous) compound produced by cannabis – THC – remains illegal in most countries. Science and the public have, nonetheless, embraced another common cannabis compound for its rounded wellness potential and lack of psychoactive properties.
The Rise of CBD
CBD is the second-most prevalent cannabinoid produced by Cannabis Sativa L. Researchers have found that the compound has promising medicinal potential, including being an anti-inflammatory and helping to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in treatment-resistant epilepsy.
Cannabidiol – known more commonly by its abbreviated name, CBD – was discovered and isolated in the 1940s. Despite the discovery that it didn’t possess mind-altering properties, ongoing prohibition meant that research around the compound remained limited.
In 1980, CBD’s potential as an anticonvulsant therapy was discovered. The anticonvulsant properties of cannabis had actually been known by societies thousands of years ago, forgotten, and re-discovered again numerous times.
Having gained increasing attention in the medical world, CBD remained relatively unheard of among the public. On the other hand, hemp wellness -though not managing to break into the mainstream – had developed (or maintained) relative popularity. This ready market may initially have helped to develop the popularity of CBD.
Expanding the CBD Market
Commercial CBD Products
CBD products entered the commercial market mainly as health supplements in oil/tincture and capsule form. However, over the last few years, a huge variety of products have emerged, including edibles, beverages, skincare, and even clothing and pillows…
This expansion may be put down to the continued legalisation of cannabis in a small number of countries. For example, the 2018 US Farm Bill legalised the cultivation and use of hemp (low-THC cannabis) at the federal level. This meant that companies were free to extract CBD and develop products for export to other states – and further afield – for the first time.
In other countries, including the UK, insufficient regulation created the perfect environment for start-up companies to jump on the CBD bandwagon.
While regulation is finally improving in the UK, there remains a large number of poor quality CBD products on the market – in some cases, these products may actually contain no CBD at all!
Medicinal CBD Products
CBD-based medications, alongside other medical cannabis products, have also been experiencing a liberation over the last few decades. Medical cannabis laws have been eased immensely, with the majority of US states, and many countries in Europe and throughout the rest of the world moving to approve access to these medicines.
So far, only one CBD-based medical product has been approved in the UK – Epidyolex. It is hoped, however, that Britain’s exit from the EU could open the door to more reforms that would allow for a thriving cannabis industry in the country.