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CBD’s Potential To Treat Pain, Cancer, Schizophrenia, COVID And Other Conditions Highlighted In New Scientific Review



A new scientific review highlights the potential of CBD to treat and manage the symptoms of conditions like epilepsy, pain, cancer, schizophrenia, diabetes and COVID-19, among others.

The wide-ranging 11-page review takes up the broad task of trying “to summarize comprehensively the impact of cannabis on human health,” finding that while the field has yet to be thoroughly explored, the plant and its components exhibit “neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-bacterial, analgesic, and antiepileptic properties.”

The study, “Beneficial effects of cannabidiol from Cannabis,” was published last month in the journal Applied Biological Chemistry. In addition to the overview of cannabis on human health, it “delves into recent CBD research advancements, highlighting the compound’s potential medical applications.”

“Our exploration encompasses its pharmacological properties, mechanisms of action, and the accumulating evidence supporting its use in various medical conditions,” authors wrote. “Additionally, we critically assess challenges and controversies surrounding CBD research, including regulatory considerations and potential adverse effects.”

It features sections on cannabinoids as treatment for the form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, as a promising pain relief alternative, as a way to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia and even as a possible inhibitor of COVID-19 infection. It also touches on “the diverse anticancer properties of cannabinoids” that authors said present “promising opportunities for future therapeutic interventions in cancer treatment,” as well as CBD’s apparent effects on diabetes-related biological processes.

“Cannabis exhibits neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-bacterial, analgesic, and antiepileptic properties.”

The study—from an eight-author team out of South Korea, representing Gachon University, Chung-Ang University, the Gyeongbuk Institute for Bioindustry and the National Product Institute of Science and Technology—also acknowledges industrial applications of CBD and hemp, such as for pharmaceutical drugs, skincare products, fuel, paper, clothing, rope and even massage oil production.

While many of findings of the new review, funded by South Korea’s National Product Institute of Science and Technology, may be familiar to audiences well versed in cannabis research, South Korea’s drug laws remain some of the strictest in the world. Though medical cannabis was partially legalized in 2018, marijuana and CBD are otherwise prohibited.

In the United States, meanwhile, the government has begun wading into hemp research and regulation since the plant and its products became legal through the 2018 Farm Bill.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for instance, has been attempting to work more closely with hemp growers and breeders. Last year, the department released updated guidance on how to identify, describe and evaluate different varieties of the plant.

Last month, USDA also issued a new “Hemp Research Needs Roadmap” divided into four areas: Breeding and Genetics, Best Practices for Production, Biomanufacturing for End Uses and Transparency and Consistency. The document “reflects stakeholder input in identifying the hemp industry’s greatest research needs,” USDA said in a press release.

While much of it consists of a survey of research goals around hemp, the roadmap also included a proposal to develop a public-private “hemp consortium,” saying that collaboration is “critical to ensuring value along the entire hemp supply chain.”

USDA also last month said a genetically modified version of hemp produced by researchers in Wisconsin “may be safely grown and bred in the United States” and is “unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated plants.”

The hemp variety, dubbed “Badger G,” does not produce THC or CBD but is designed to have higher levels of the cannabinoid CBG. It’s at least the second type of genetically modified hemp to get the OK from the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) after another modified plant, which produces lowered levels of THC and CBC, was approved in October.

Amid state-level legalization of marijuana and the federal government’s legalization of low-THC hemp and its derivative products, interest in research around hemp industry and commerce has ballooned in recent years.

In February, new federally funded research into how to distinguish hemp and marijuana in order to assist crime labs identified two new methods for differentiating the two forms of cannabis.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also put out a solicitation in 2022, seeking portable marijuana analyzers to quickly identify cannabinoid profiles and help distinguish between marijuana and hemp.

And in 2019, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) separately announced that it was seeking a device to “provide specificity to distinguish between hemp and marijuana” since the former crop was legalized.

USDA has also sent out thousands of surveys to hemp farmers, meant to understand how the industry is growing but also identify challenges in business and regulation. The department launched its first annual survey in 2021, and it updated the questionnaire last year before distributing it to farmers and releasing a report with findings that showed significant declines in the value and production of the crop in 2022.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for its part, is considering a proposal to allow hemp seed meal as livestock for hens.

Meanwhile, USDA has been reportedly revoking hemp licenses for farmers who are simultaneously growing marijuana under state-approved programs, underscoring yet another policy conflict stemming from the ongoing federal prohibition of some forms of the cannabis plant.

Federal hemp rules could be further amended as part of the next iteration of large-scale agriculture legislation. The 2018 Farm Bill that legalized the crop was supposed to be updated last year, but it’s been extended through much of 2024.

Last week, 21 attorneys general urged congressional leaders to take action on intoxicating hemp products that became legal through the 2018 change. Federal lawmakers should amend the definition of hemp, they wrote, and clarify that states can take their own measures to regulate the plant and its derivative products.

“As Congress prepares to embark on a new five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill, we strongly urge your committees to address the glaring vagueness created in the 2018 Farm Bill that has led to the proliferation of intoxicating hemp products across the nation and challenges to the ability for states and localities to respond to the resulting health and safety crisis,” the top state law enforcement officials wrote. “We urge Congress in the strongest possible terms to address this reckless policy.”

Lawmakers and stakeholders are eyeing a number of other proposals that could be incorporated in the new farm bill, including measures to free up hemp businesses to legally market products like CBD as dietary supplements or in the food supply and to remove restrictions on participation in the industry by people with certain prior drug convictions.

FDA has regulatory jurisdiction over that issue, but at the beginning of last year, the agency said it didn’t have a pathway to make it happen and instead offered to work with Congress on a solution.

In response, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), along with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), filed legislation last July that would remove regulatory barriers that FDA claims prevents it from allowing CBD marketing.

Congressional researchers cautioned last November that varying policy priorities among industry stakeholders could make the task of updating the federal farm bill more difficult.

The CRS report also referenced several recent hemp bills that federal lawmakers may consider folding in to the broader agricultural legislation.

One bipartisan bill filed last March seeks to end what critics say is a “discriminatory” federal policy that bars people with prior felony drug convictions from owning or leading legal hemp businesses. Another bipartisan measure would reduce regulations on farmers that grow industrial hemp for non-extraction purposes.

For the time being, the hemp industry continues to face unique regulatory hurdles that businesses have blamed for the crop’s value plummeting in the short years since its legalization. Despite the economic conditions, however, a recent report found that the hemp market in 2022 was larger than all state marijuana markets, and it roughly equaled sales for craft beer nationally.

Meanwhile, internally at USDA, food safety workers have been encouraged to exercise caution and avoid cannabis products, including federally legal CBD, as the agency observes an “uptick” in positive THC tests amid “confusion” as more states enact legalization.

21 State Attorneys General Push Congress To Regulate Intoxicating Hemp Products

Photo courtesy of Kimzy Nanney.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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