CBD or Cannabidiol, is one of the main compounds found in the cannabis plant and, thanks to increasing scientific research, is increasingly lauded for its health benefits – particularly in helping treat childhood-onset epilepsy. This use especially, is stimulating governments around the world to take another look at its legal status.
Cannabis oil on the other hand, is usually made from the flower of the plant and, unlike CBD oil, can be intoxicating, as such, in most places it remains illegal. To the lay public it may all sound like oil and all sound like cannabis, so what’s the distinction? And, are they both medically useful?
CBD – Cannabidiol explained.
One of the hundreds of active compounds found in cannabis, CBD is the cannabinoid currently garnering major scientific, and now public, attention. All thanks to its helpful effects in treating a range of medical conditions from stress and anxiety to severe childhood epilepsy.
Often delivered in an oil base, CBD oil can vary in potency and reliability from low potency oils found widely in European health food shops (which are CBD only or contain negligible amounts of other cannabinoids), to highly concentrated medical-grade CBD oil that is prescription only. Till recently it was not possible to market CBD oil as a medicine in the UK.
What is Cannabis oil?
By contrast, Cannabis oil can contain other cannabinoids alongside CBD, including THC, the compound largely responsible for getting you high, and these oils also come in varying degrees of potency. The UK press tend to use the two synonymously but the main difference is cannabis oil may be intoxicating, whereas pure CBD oil is not. And, in countries where cannabis is still illegal, this is the controversial rub of it.
Childhood Epilepsy – and how it reforms the judicial landscape
This past summer the case of Billy Caldwell, a 12 year old from N.Ireland, forced the British government to reassess their current perspective on Cannabis oils and may prove to be the catalyst for a change in the law there.
Billy’s severe form of epilepsy, would regularly result in up to 100 seizures a day. After becoming the first child in the UK to be prescribed cannabis based medicine on the NHS in 2017, he reportedly went 300 days without a seizure. When this prescription was later retracted, because of the uncertain legal status of the medicine in Britain, his mother went to Canada to get it. The medicine was confiscated at customs upon her return, because it also contained higher levels of THC than allowed. Without the medication, within a matter of days, Billy was hospitalized in a critical condition.
Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, drew public attention and sympathy on social media when she went public with the story and the resulting outcry led the UK government to first issue an emergency licence for his prescription, and then to another child with a similar predicament. MP’s called for a more compassionate, humane and logical approach. As a consequence a panel has been asked to look into the medical rescheduling of cannabis for medical use and research.
In that same summer British company GW Pharmaceuticals, who have been human testing their second cannabis based product, Epidiolex, over the last few years, has become the first company in the world to have a cannabis-based medicine formally approved by the FDA (American Food & Drug Administration). Till now the only cannabis-like drugs e.g. Dronabinol, have been synthetically made; Epidiolex is the first approved medicine to be derived from the plant. It is notable that it is the product not the cannabinoid itself that has been given the green light.
GW Pharmaceuticals are looking to become the world’s leading producer of cannabis based medicine, and since receiving FDA approval have launched a $300 million stock sale. They are looking to sell their MS medication, Sativex, next to Epidiolex more widely, as well as develop other cannabis based medicines.
Cannabis researchers around the world are looking into the interaction of different cannabinoids and how this so called ‘entourage effect’, may actually affect a variety of conditions. THC is thought to have considerable medical potential itself – including reducing spasms, nausea and pain. And researchers, including the well-known Ethan Russo, who used to work at GW Pharmaceuticals, say there is good evidence that the cannabinoids taken in chorus are more effective than when singled out.
Perhaps personal stories like that of Billy Caldwell, especially alongside the legitimising factor of Big Pharma’s interest and success in making cannabis-based medicines, will make the summer of 2018 a tipping point in the acceptability of cannabis oils of all forms.