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What is behind the popularity of CBD, THC, and other cannabis products?

Apr 22,2023 | yhssmoke

A California model showcased a collection of cannabis-themed rings and jewelry after the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2018.

Cannabis products include oils, pain creams, patches, candies (gummy bears, sour snakes, rainbow bites - take your pick), capsules, and compounds.

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a natural extract from the cannabis plant and is ubiquitous in the United States, which is why it may seem like you can get it anywhere and that it can cure any ailment.

Users claim it can help alleviate muscle pain, anxiety, arthritis, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Let's not forget about our furry friends, as there is also CBD oil available for pets that has a smoky bacon flavor added to it.

CBD market research firm Brightfield Group estimates that the industry will be worth $5.7 billion next year and $22 billion by 2022. The group's research director, Bethany Gomez, said that the industry leader, Charlotte's Web Holdings, increased its revenue by 172% between 2016 and 2017 and is expected to generate $89 million in 2018.

But it's a controversial field, and understandably attracts attention from the investment community, with even seemingly unrelated institutions trying to get a piece of the action. Beverage maker Coca-Cola said it was "closely watching" CBD as a potential ingredient in functional beverages worldwide. BBC Capital asked Coca-Cola for further comment but received no response.

"When we made industry projections earlier this year," Gomez said, "we made a lot of people frown." But three days later, media reports surfaced that Coca-Cola was considering the CBD industry, and suddenly it made sense. "If you look at the sales of CBD products today and add in the big-box retailers and the big pharmacies that are trying to get into this space in every way possible...we're going to see a very rapid change," she said.

Before the rapid growth CBD's supporters are growing rapidly, and Zsolt Csonka is one of them. His Adriaen Block restaurant and bar in Astoria, New York, is the city's first CBD restaurant and bar. Csonka said he wanted to create a cocktail that was low in alcohol and used 16th and 17th-century ingredients, such as shrubs, berries, and vanilla, but also included CBD oil - "mixing the new generation with the old generation," as he likes to say.

"You have to drink four or five whiskeys to get drunk, but if you put CBD into the drink, you only need to drink one or two drinks with CBD in them, and you'll have a more relaxed mental state, and your stress levels will also drop," he said.

Csonka also uses CBD-infused sauces to accompany his dishes - like peppercorn sauce with his New York strip steak; his basic barbecue sauce, béarnaise, or hollandaise.

Who is buying CBD?

According to a survey conducted by Brightfield Group of 5,000 CBD users this summer, millennials are the first to buy CBD products after the legalization of CBD in various states. The number of users in their early 30s has surged, while the number of users in their early 40s (Generation X, born from the early 1960s to the early 1980s) has declined. The number of users from the baby boomer generation (born from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s) has rebounded, and this group of users purchase tinctures, topicals, and capsules for aging-related symptoms such as arthritis or chronic pain, according to Gomez.

The gender distribution of consumers is also fairly even, although Gomez said there were more female users in the past.

However, buyers should be cautious. Products containing CBD may be everywhere in the US, but there is one very special exception: you would break the law in every state in the US if you buy any form of CBD. You may ask, how is this possible when recreational marijuana has been legalized in nine states? The problem lies in the conflict between federal and state laws and how people view two very different marijuana plants: marijuana and industrial hemp.

The two main cannabis extracts that buyers are chasing are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is a psychoactive drug that can make you feel high, and CBD, which does not. Industrial hemp is defined as having less than 0.3% THC but can contain high levels of CBD. On the other hand, because marijuana has a high THC content, growing marijuana is subject to special regulations. In short, industrial hemp is completely different from marijuana, but US federal law from the 1970s still classifies both as Schedule I controlled substances, on the same level as heroin and cocaine. This classification has persisted to this day.

CBD and THC are different types of cannabis extracts, both of which can exist independently or appear together. But both are classified as Schedule I controlled substances.

In states where marijuana is legal, only businesses with state licenses can grow, process, and sell products containing THC. On the other hand, CBD can be found everywhere from supermarkets to gas stations.

CBD has always been in a legal gray area, and many retailers believe that as long as they comply with state regulations and do not transport products across state lines (which would constitute drug trafficking), enforcement agencies of federal law, such as the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), will not intervene.

A DEA spokesperson confirmed to BBC News that any form of CBD, including that derived from industrial hemp plants, is still a Schedule I controlled substance and is illegal. The only exception is a drug called Epidiolex, which contains 98% CBD and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medication to treat childhood epilepsy. The drug is manufactured by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals.