The fight to legalize marijuana extends beyond giving people the right to smoke cannabis — the oil derived from the plant has incredible medicinal properties that are being largely overlooked.
If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’re not being given the right to decide for yourself and your family whether cannabis oil can help mitigate the effects of certain health issues. That’s because cannabis oil is only legal in 15 states and is still so controversial that many experts politely declined my request to be interviewed about it. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the many chemicals found in marijuana. It contains a minimal amount of THC and has been found to help children who suffer from seizures, which is why states like Florida and Alabama are on board with the plan to offer it in limited amounts to patients — treating it more or less the way they would any other prescription medication.
Unfortunately, because so many lawmakers are still terrified about getting involved with anything related to pot, few people know about the health benefits of cannabis oil and few clinical studies have been performed about how cannabis can help when applied topically. Anthony Franciosi, founder of Honest Marijuana Company, explains what we do know:
“CBD (cannabidiol) oil is proven to help with seizures, especially in children, as well as decrease inflammation,” Franciosi says. “CBD is also a great treatment for social anxiety disorder because it decreases activity in the limbic system. It also plays a large role in the formation of memories. Anonymous Colorado grower and dispensary owner Johnny Hempseed has tried CBD oil for social anxiety and agrees that it is great for people who want therapeutic benefits while avoiding the psychoactive effects of traditional cannabis.”
Franciosi says CBD doesn’t seem to make people “mind-alteringly high” because it has very little effect on the CB1 receptors in the brain — that regulate learning, coordination, sleep, pain — and CB2 receptors in the immune system. In studies, Franciosi says participants who had smoked cannabis strains low in cannabidiol were significantly worse at recalling text than they were when not intoxicated. Those who smoked cannabis high in cannabidiol showed no such impairment.
In addition to potentially helping with a variety of health problems, we’re only beginning to discover some of the benefits of topical use of cannabis oil, Sandra Hinchliffe of Hempista Magazine says.
“Cannabis oils and salves are applied to the skin typically where the issue is — such as for rashes and psoriasis or on sore muscles or joints,” Hinchliffe says. “This oil has become very popular with massage therapists in legal states as an addition to massage oils and creams. Clients report a relaxing effect on the muscles and joints without the high that is typically associated with cannabis when it is vaped or used orally.”
Sounds dreamy, but good luck getting your hands on authentic cannabis oil. While hemp seed oil — which is used in cosmetic oils and even clothing — is legal in all states, Hinchliffe says you cannot purchase authentic cannabis infused lotions, oils or any other cannabis product outside of legal states, and these products cannot be legally shipped to you via the mail. “These products can only be purchased from a legal dispensary or caregiver in a state where this is legal,” she says. “And you should consult your attorney regarding any questions about purchasing cannabis in your state.”
And be careful: Even if you think you’re purchasing cannabis oil from a credible dispensary, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re getting an authentic, cannabis-infused product. Some of the precautions Hinchliffe says you should take include ensuring the product was manufactured, purchased and consumed in a legal state; reading labels to make sure they’ve disclosed all of their ingredients; and being aware of the specific cannabinoid levels in a product.
“This is a new industry, people are getting their feet wet, and it is to be expected that there will be some evolution and more regulation over time — but right now consumers need to be aware in states where cannabis dispensaries operate and offer lotions and other spa products to the public,” Hinchliffe says.