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A Primer on CBD: the Definitive Guide

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First things first: cannabidiol vs cannabinoids

Before anything else, let’s clarify exactly what this article is about—cannabidiol (CBD) is one of at least 113 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. When we refer to CBD, we’re referring specifically to cannabidiol, which is a molecule that is solely derivable from the cannabis plant.

While the cannabis plant has had a negative stigmatism associated with it, due solely to its other popular compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), we’re currently seeing a major shift in overall open-mindedness towards this plant. People are learning more about CBD, and this education helps. As we uncover all the benefits of CBD, many more people are beginning to accept it as something that has medicinal value.

CBD was first isolated by scientists during the 1940s, over the course of the same project that resulted in the isolation of the cannabinoid THC. Honest Marijuana Co. claims that the credit for the discovery belongs to either Roger Adams or Raphael Mechoulum. Regardless of where credit is due, this guide will provide you with an in-depth look at the benefits of CBD, the controversy surrounding it, and its legality. Ready to dive in?

Perhaps most importantly: is CBD legal?

There has been intense debate about cannabis in the US over these past few years. As a result, we thought we should set the record straight about its legality. Despite CBD’s steadily growing list of benefits that help improve the lives of countless individuals, it’s still not legal in every situation. Many communities are now beginning to see how this compound can be such a powerful healing substance. However, its connection to the cannabis plant has earned it a bad reputation, hindering progress towards its acceptance. As a result, the answer to the question “Is CBD legal?” is not completely straightforward.

It is important to define a couple more terms to help us determine if, how, and when CBD is legal to possess.


Cannabis is the formal plant species for both hemp and what many of us call marijuana.


Hemp is an industrial form of cannabis that is used for a wide range of materials and products. It has absolutely no psychoactive properties when ingested, and as a result, the production of hemp is on its way to becoming federally legal in the near future. Although it is not federally legal to produce hemp, it still is legal in a number of states. That’s why hemp-based products are already widely available, including many forms of hemp oil and hemp seed oil.


Marijuana is the more popular form of cannabis, with roots in the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression. It has both medical and recreational value for its consumers, owing to its high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the plant’s primary psychoactive compound and source of the “high” feeling users experience. It is a schedule I drug—highly illegal.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is the compound found in all forms of cannabis, and products that contain it are only federally legal if they also contain a THC concentration of less than 0.3%. This means any CBD product that passes the THC concentration test is completely legal to possess anywhere in the US. This was confirmed by the DEA in May of this year.

tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) molecular structures compared side by side to show similarities and single hydrogen atom different

How does it work? Is it like THC?

While CBD and THC molecules have a different impacts on the body, they are very similar in structure. Both have 2 oxygen atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 21 carbon atoms. These atoms’ arrangement dictates how each substance affects us differently. This means CBD does not show up on most drug screens, either.

Both molecules are chemically similar to the body’s endocannabinoids. Researchers in the field have linked CBD to reduction of pain and inflammation. That’s thanks to our endocannabinoid system (ECS), present in all mammals and involved in memory, appetite, and pain control. This leads to more blood flow in the body, and overall to a serene and calming effect. THC, on the other hand, produces a sense of mental and physical euphoria (a “high”) by binding to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors.

In contrast, cannabidiol has no psychoactive effects whatsoever. When this substance is introduced into the body, it actually counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC, giving ample reason to be viewed independently of THC. When you ingest CBD products, these cannabinoids encourage your body to use more of its own natural cannabinoids. This results in many health benefits, including reduced pain, hyperalgesia, and inflammation in the body.

macro worms eye view photograph of cannabis plants growing up into an evening sunset sky and producing cbd

The list of CBD benefits is growing quickly.

Since this compound was discovered in 1940, CBD has been studied and found to offer many health benefits for conditions like chronic pain, some forms of epilepsy, ADD, and much more.

In June of 2018, the FDA announced that they had approved the first ever CBD-based drug, Epidiolex (cannabidiol) oral solution. This medicine is the first treatment for two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the medical benefits of cannabidiol extend to anti-seizure, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, antipsychotic, and anti-anxiety effects, on top of its effectiveness in treating substance use disorders. 

CBD is also capable of helping with various diseases that were considered untreatable up until its introduction. Honest Marijuana Co. states that these include neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, chronic and acute pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), lupus, nausea, loss of appetite, osteoporosis, cancer, depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia. We can treat these diseases without any side effects other than dryness in the mouth, making cannabidiol an extremely appealing treatment option for many people.

Finally, CBD treats chronic pain—one of the biggest public health issues in existence. According to the journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, one of the biggest public health issues in existence is chronic pain. Our aging population is experiencing an excessive amount of chronic pain, and the need for treatment has become obvious to many.

Read more about how CBD products are treating a wide range of ailments:

The “Miracle” CBD Products Treating Depression, Pain and More


aerial view photograph of tractor driving through a green field of cbd producing plants

The CBD industry is booming, taking our economy with it.

Vice stated that hemp farmers and distributors throughout the U.S. are cashing in on this crop, focusing on growing CBD-only strains that will not get people high. Consumer sales for this cannabinoid in the U.S. peaked at just over $350 million this year. Some projections show that that this number should increase to more than $1 billion by 2020. If you’re in the market for wholesale CBD oil or other products, we’ve got a great post on how to balance key factors in your buying decision:

In the Market for Wholesale CBD Oil? How to Balance Quality, Price, and Other Factors

How do products like pure CBD oil relate to cannabidiol itself?

Pure cannabidiol oil is a very popular option because it is a highly concentrated form that can be easily administered. It comes from extracting the oils from a hemp plant, which can be done in several ways, but always involves using a solvent to absorb the oil from the raw plant material. Once the oil is extracted using a solvent, that new mixture is heated to evaporate the solvent. This leaves just the oils as an end product.

Pure CBD oil is the base form of this extract, and can be added into almost any product that is consumed or applied to the body. These can include ice cream, shampoo, a tincture, or a soda. CBD oil is very popular because it’s of the best ways to maximize the effects of ingested cannabidiol. We have a full-length article with more information on the topic that you can read by clicking below:

In the Market for Pure CBD Oil? 3 Things to Keep in Mind When You Buy


Is CBD Safe?

Not only is CBD useful to treat the various ailments we discussed earlier, it’s also quite safe! Despite being molecularly comparable to THC, its interactions with our bodies are rather weak, even at extremely high doses. The mental and perceptive changes people experience from THC do not occur with CBD use.

The U.S. Government conducted a review of 25 studies relating to the safety and effectiveness of cannabidiol, ranging in dosage and modes of administration. By the end, it was unable to showcase any major side effects.

Nabiximols, legal across the majority of Europe and other countries, contain CBD. They provide bountiful information on how the cannabinoid metabolizes in the body, its lack of toxicity, and overall safety. Thus, we already have a lot of evidence showing that this cannabinoid is safe.

elderly gentleman laying comfortably against a tree in front of cool water demonstrating the effects of cbd

You can legally find and purchase CBD products in many places.

Even before the explosion of the legal cannabis industry, cannabidiol and other hemp-derived products were relatively available across the US. Pure cannabidiol oil is just one of many products that come from the cannabis plant, and because hemp-based CBD products are federally legal to purchase and distribute, you can buy them at many in-person stores and online shops, including ours!

For now, the federal vs. state debates over the legality of cannabis continue to take place, while the industry grows steadily in size as well as impact. Thankfully, we at CBD For Life utilize only 99% pure CBD extract derived from stems and stalks of industrial hemp. We look forward to being a continued source of medical and health benefits for people from all walks of life.

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