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The current federal prohibition of marijuana, in other words, does not align with the public’s view – though state-based legalization shows that society is moving on without the blessing of politicians on Capitol Hill. U.S. recreational marijuana retail sales may reach US$8.7 billion in 2021, up from $6.7 billion in 2016.

However, medical research on marijuana is severely restricted by federal law.

“Broad spectrum” CBD typically contains at least three other cannabinoids, as well as some terpenes and flavonoids – but still no THC. “Full spectrum” CBD, also called “whole flower” CBD, is similar to broad spectrum but can contain up to 0.3% THC.

Retail CBD

The Drug Enforcement Agency categorizes cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning it handles cannabis as if there is no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Scientists don’t know exactly how CBD works, nor how it interacts with other cannabinoids like THC to give marijuana its added therapeutic effects.

Both hemp and marijuana belong to the same species, Cannabis sativa, and the two plants look somewhat similar. However, substantial variation can exist within a species. After all, great Danes and chihuahuas are both dogs, but they have obvious differences.

Michigan State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Though 15 states have now legalized recreational marijuana, it remains illegal federally in the United States. Technically, those in possession of marijuana in a legal weed state can still be punished under federal law, and traveling across state borders with cannabis is prohibited.

For the layperson with legal access to cannabis, the easiest of way of doing that is to visit a trustworthy dispensary, where you can ask for products derived from plants that have a high CBD-to-THC ratio. The aforementioned Avidekel, for example, is about 18:1. You can also ask for lab results that show the exact breakdown of a plant’s chemical compounds.

In the months since that first hit, I’ve tried out CBD in many forms. I’ve dropped tinctures under my tongue to help me sleep, whipped Whoopi and Maya’s CBD-enhanced raw cacao butter into hot milk to ease cramps (yes, that’s Whoopi as in Goldberg), and massaged Lord Jones’ piney scented CBD lotion into a stiff neck.

With these sorts of benefits, it’s little wonder that there’s a booming market for CBD—and readily willing suppliers promising miraculous results.

How CBD works

As with marijuana, the modes of consuming CBD are limited only by one’s imagination. Curious gourmands can sip it in a CBD-laced “Stoney Negroni” at the West Hollywood restaurant Gracias Madre, and aesthetes can rub it onto their lips via rose-scented balm. For a more traditional medicinal experience, CBD also comes in soft gel capsules, droppers, and sublingual sprays. (In more than 20 countries outside the US, one such spray is prescribed to multiple sclerosis patients who suffer from muscle spasms and stiffness.) And of course, since CBD is derived from the flowers of cannabis plants, one could just go ahead and smoke a high-CBD strain of marijuana the old-fashioned way, by rolling it into a joint or lighting up a bowl—or the new-fangled way, by vaping distilled cannabinoid oils in a Dosist vape pen that vibrates to alert the user they’ve reached the recommended dose.

I took a little hit, and soon after, felt my body pleasantly melt into a lawn chair, my ability to socialize not at all impeded. Truth told, at the end of a physically exhausting vacation and a can of Tecate, I was already pretty relaxed. But the CBD seemed to deepen that state.

Recently, at the end of a surf trip with several friends, my pal Tim passed me a pipe packed with sticky green buds. I’m not much of a social smoker (more of a one-hitter-before-chores type) so politely declined.

This is often called the “entourage effect,” or as Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School calls it, the “ensemble effect.” (Like so much of the research surrounding cannabis, which is heavy on anecdotal evidence and light on hard science due to marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, the entourage effect is the source of healthy debate.)