Let’s Talk About It: What is CBD?

Posted by Colleen O'Neil on 3/9/2022

If you are anything like me, your attention span is not quite what it used to be and your capacity to learn has been challenged for the past two years. So, how do we even begin to try to understand something new? Or better yet, how can we be assured that the information we have available is accurate with the right information? These questions were at the heart of this month’s topic: CBD.

First, what is CBD? This can be difficult to understand and I think it is important to know since the marketing of this product can be very confusing and misleading. CBD is one of over one hundred cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is non-intoxicating and touted as a “natural” substance that can help with some medical conditions as well as some mental health issues. You can find products from dog treats to lotions to CBD-infused clothing (yes, you read that correctly). This is where it gets a bit tricky. Marketing can be misleading and many companies state that their CBD products can help with anxiety, depression, aches and pains along with other mental health challenges and other ailments. When in doubt, always talk with your doctor and refer to the FDA guidelines that are available.

Let’s first clear up some common misconceptions around certain words that are sometimes used when discussing CBD and use the correct terminology:

  • Cannabis: An annual, flowering plant that contains various levels of both CBD and THC, two of over one hundred compounds found in the cannabis plant. There are two main varieties of cannabis plants: indica and sativa.
  • CBD: Is the non-intoxicating compound that can be found in cannabis plants and is often referred to as cannabidiol (pronounced ca-nuh-bi-DYE-ol) and is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis.
  • THC: The mind altering compound that is responsible for getting one “high”
  • Hemp: A specific variety of cannabis that contains 0.3 percent or less THC content by dry weight.
  • Marijuana: psychoactive compound from the leaves, stems and flowers of the cannabis plant that contains THC above 0.3 percent. Also referred to as another variety of cannabis.

Hemp plants and marijuana plants are both the same species, however, they will contain different levels of CBD and THC. Legally, hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent or less THC, while marijuana is a cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC. CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana plants. Hemp and marijuana are to cannabis as lemons and oranges are to citrus. Two related but different plants, from the same 'family.’  

Let’s take this a step further: because of the Farm Bill in 2018, hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances list since it is used for many other products and does not contain enough THC to constitute this stringent label.  The problem is, there is little to no federal regulation around CBD products, allowing for inaccurate labeling and product verification. The bigger question is, which plant was the product derived from and is the information on the label accurate?  

Is CBD a healthy alternative for some medical conditions? Some say yes, others say proceed with caution. I say, contact your physician and do your research. There are articles from the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and the National Institute of Drug Abuse that may be worth reading if you would like additional information on the use of CBD products.

As parents, it is difficult to stay up to date with all the various influences that students are faced with. Social media plays a huge role in this as well. One cannot glance through Instagram or Facebook without ads popping up along the way. Sadly, many of these ads are misleading and confusing. My hope is that you can be better informed and prepared to have the conversation with your child by being up to date on those trends that influence the youth of today. It is never too late to learn, and as a parent or caregiver to adolescents, it is important for you to have accurate information in order to point out any inaccuracies your child may have around anything related to substance use.

As always, my hope is that you have enough information at your fingertips to help your student and if given the opportunity, you can say, “Let’s Talk About It!”

Colleen O'Neil

Colleen O’Neil, LADC, CPP
Anoka-Hennepin School District Chemical Health Prevention Specialist
Phone: 763-506-1145
Email: colleen.oneil@ahschools.us