Rashidian: Looking back to 2014, people were just learning about Charlotte’s Web, and now I can’t turn a corner in Manhattan without seeing CBD somewhere, mainstream stores and otherwise. Has any aspect of how CBD has taken off surprised you? Did you see this coming? What’s your general feeling about how prevalent CBD popularity is?
“I don’t think it should just be pharma route,” Gupta said about the CBD regulations under consideration by the FDA, which will determine whether the compound can be in food and supplements, or only in pharmaceuticals.
Gupta: There’s plenty of supplements out there and the supplement market has been pretty unregulated. And I think that that’s been a concern aside from from CBD. When we think about regulation, I would say that there’s three phases to trialling these things from a pharma standpoint, which is: one, to prove that it’s safe, two, to prove that it’s effective, and three, to see how it compares to other existing therapies. I don’t know that I would necessarily say that CBD has to receive the same sort of approvals as pharma by any means. I think that’s not practical. It’s very expensive and that would certainly make it not available to people more widely.
But I do think it needs to be shown to be safe, so at least the first phase of that. We were at some of the FDA public hearings that they had back in May, and I think that was issue number one. There are some unscrupulous actors in this space. These people, whoever they are, I mean, when they say it’s the Wild West, that’s what it sort of looks like, because they’re taking advantage of the absence of regulations to pump out cheaper, sometimes entirely synthetic, and sometimes dangerous products in the market.
Cannabis Wire co-founder and editor Nushin Rashidian caught up with Gupta to learn more about the latest documentary, and his thoughts on forthcoming FDA regulations that will determine the future of the so-called CBD craze.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Published on Sep 27, 2019 6:50AM EDT Q&A
Shortly before wrapping up, Gupta took a look at the promising side of CBD. There are myriad potential benefits to using the product, in particular when it comes to helping addicts manage pain without the use of opioids. More research, however, is needed in this area. There is a paucity of research on CBD, Gupta says, with only five studies examining its potential therapeutic benefits.
In it, Gupta attends the World CBD Expo, visits the Stanley brothers of Charlotte’s Web in Colorado again, and re-tells the story of Charlotte Figi, “patient zero” of the CBD craze. He briefly looks at the countless CBD products available at the expo, from balms and lotions to bath bombs and pet products.
“It’s been more than six years since our first investigation into medical marijuana,” Gupta begins. “Since we first introduced you to an ingredient in the cannabis plant. Then, it was a word few could even pronounce: cannabidiol, or CBD. Now, it’s part of our daily dialogue, and it’s ignited a multibillion-dollar industry. That got us wondering: Has it gone too far?”
The Risk Posed by Unethical Companies
After addressing the national craze CBD has ignited, Gupta focuses on the controversial side of things.
The lack of regulation in the CBD industry poses problems, Gupta says. In one research study, for example, researchers tested 84 CBD products. Over three-quarters were improperly labeled.
“Many [people think] because it’s non-psychoactive, it’s safe – [they’re] thinking, can’t hurt, might help, why not?” Gupta says. “Because CBD is not regulated, the products are not required to go through safety testing or even prove they are authentic. While CBD itself is generally safe and non-psychoactive, there are unscrupulous players taking advantage of people. We went out to investigate if the craze had gone too far. And what we uncovered was surprising, to say the least.”
What exactly prompted Gupta to produce this CBD documentary for CNN?
Charlotte Figi, the girl who inspired the CBD movement, recently died at age 13
“I think there is a huge amount of interest in the patient community regarding what [over-the-counter] CBD can do and what it can’t do,” Thiele said. “But I don’t think until we have the data, we can say ‘Yes, it’s good for this’ and ‘No, it’s not good for that.'” While CBD creams, for example, may help ease pain according to anecdotal reports, “we need a lot more science on a clinical level . not only with CBD but with the other [cannabis] compounds,” Thiele said.
Cannabis: the state of the science
Cannabis used for medical purposes has achieved some well-deserved notoriety, with therapeutic applications ranging from the treatment of nausea associated with chemotherapy to easing muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis, among others.
“Studies have shown that CBD may actually decrease oil production and be useful in people who are acne-prone,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
“People are pushing their bodies — with triathalons; CrossFit; boot camp — these are extremely challenging physical experiences — and so they are taking CBD topically and internally to protect against inflammation . hoping that CBD will alleviate it.”