The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes that affect our everyday experience – our mood, our energy level, our intestinal fortitude, immune activity, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and more.
What happens if the endocannabinoid system doesn’t function properly? What are the consequences of a chronically deficient or overactive endocannabinoid system?
In a word, disease.
Cutting-edge science has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions. Thus, it stands to reason that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as Pal Pacher and George Kunos, scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014 publication.
By modulating the endocannabinoid system and enhancing endocannabinoid tone, CBD and THC can slow – or in some cases stop – disease progression.
There’s a lot of excitement about the healing potential of CBD – with good reason.
But it wasn’t until June 25, 2018, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized cannabidiol as a real medicine by approving Epidiolex, an almost pure pharmaceutical CBD formulation, as a treatment for two severe pediatric seizure disorders, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
This was the first time since the peak of the reefer madness era 80 years ago – when “marihuana” became a crime instead of a cure — that the federal government had given an official thumbs-up for a cannabis-derived product.
In response to the FDA’s historic decision, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced in September 2018 that it had removed Epidiolex from Schedule I classification, a category reserved for dangerous drugs with no medical value. Henceforth, Epidiolex would be considered a Schedule V drug, the least dangerous designation under the Controlled Substances Act.
But the DEA kept cannabis and CBD itself on Schedule I as an illegal narcotic. In the world according to Uncle Sam, pharmaceutical CBD is officially the only good cannabinoid while the rest of the plant remains an ‘evil’ weed.
Given CBD’s reputation as a popular, artisanal remedy, one would think that Epidiolex would command a lot of “off label” attention. After all, physicians often prescribe pharmaceuticals off label to treat conditions that were not the actual focus of clinical trials. But the costly price tag for Epidiolex (more than $30,000 annually) precludes off label prescribing as well as affordable access for tens of millions of Americans without health insurance.
For those who can’t obtain pharmaceutical CBD, there are numerous internet storefronts, community markets, coffee shops, health clubs, chiropractic offices, upscale boutiques and gas stations that retail various hemp-derived CBD oil products, including pure CBD isolates comparable in chemical make-up to Epidiolex.
CBD oil products and flower with varying levels of THC and CBD are also available for smoking or vaping at cannabis dispensaries in states that have legalized the herb for therapeutic use.
In response to massive consumer demand, a huge, unregulated market in CBD oil products reached a critical mass in 2018. A surge of consumer interest in all things CBD was suddenly newsworthy with hosanas of praise coming from athletes, film stars, soccer moms, and parents of desperately ill children.
CBD oil has been touted as a curative for the sick and a preventive for the healthy, an all-purpose palliative for pets as well as people of all ages.
But along with a growing awareness of cannabidiol as a potential health aide, there has also been a proliferation of misconceptions about CBD and cannabis therapeutics.