My son rarely reads the newspaper — and never in print. But when he came over after work last week, the day’s edition was sitting on the table. And when he saw the front page headline — “Crackdown coming on CBD oil” — he got a worried look, sat right down and read the whole article without even asking the usual, “What’s for dinner?”
In case you missed it, the story discussed the Sarasota Police Department’s intention to imminently remove all cannabidiol (CBD) products from local store shelves. CBD is a noneuphoric relative of cannabis (marijuana) that’s derived from the hemp plant, the growth of which was made federally legal with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last December.
When he’d finished, he looked up, worried, and asked, “Is it true?” When I said it appeared so, he looked stricken. “What will I do?”
You see, my son — like many others who suffer from anxiety or a variety of other issues, from pain to sleep problems — has been taking a few drops of CBD oil daily for the past six months. We’ve both followed, with interest and hope, research and clinical trials showing CBD’s effectiveness in helping with some psychiatric conditions and its possible future role in the treatment of psychotic disorders.
He learned of CBD through the owners of the dog boarding and training facility where he works, which stocks the oil for its canine customers; it’s proven useful in reducing their compulsive or neurotic behaviors. After discussing it with both his psychiatrist and his psychologist and getting their blessings, my son began taking a regular, small dose, to cope with anxiousness over work-related stresses that, in times past, have sabotaged his employment.
The CBD, he says, helps him feel “calmer and less moody.” But more importantly, as far as I’m concerned, it has also allowed him to remain on a minimal dosage of a much more powerful (and potentially dangerous) pharmaceutical drug, which at higher levels can cause serious side effects, and even permanent damage.
In the article, Mike Harrell, a retired Tampa police detective who serves as a civilian investigator in the narcotics unit for the Sarasota Police, told Herald-Tribune reporter Nicole Rodriguez that the decision to crack down on CBD locally was precipitated by “roughly seven” complaints from citizens who said the products made them ill. (I’m not sure how, or if, that connection was substantiated.)
“We don’t want somebody to have a bad medical reaction … and we allowed this to happen when we could have done something about it,” Harrell said.
Harrell also warned that using CBD, which could contain trace amounts of THC (the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana), might result in a failed drug test. That caught my attention because I’d wondered about just that when my son’s doctors gave him the green light to try CBD. At the time, I called the owners of two local facilities that do drug testing; both assured me there was almost zero potential for a positive test and neither had ever encountered such a situation in the hundreds of employment tests they do weekly.
Of course, there is the whole debate about whether CBD derived from hemp is legal. The federal government says it is; Nikki Fried, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, says, under current state law, it’s not. But that’s part of why she recently appointed a new state director of cannabis, in order to make the adjustments necessary to “do a CBD program here in our state.”
But the main objection from SPD, apparently, is the lack of quality control over CBD products being marketed. Critics say the unregulated oils and creams can contain harmful toxins, THC levels higher than what is permissible (less than 0.3 percent), or no actual cannabidiol at all.
That’s why, when my son decided to try CBD, we didn’t pick it up at the corner gas station or head shop. While we stopped short of having the product lab tested, we did research the manufacturer’s reputation and legitimacy, sought recommendations from knowledge sources, and bought from a reputable source.
Did that mean we were taking a risk, medically or financially? Probably. But so is anyone who purchases vitamins, nutritional supplements, weight loss aids, energy “boosters” with enough caffeine to blow the lid off a nuclear reactor or age-defying beauty creams that promise to disappear my Georgia O’Keeffe wrinkles. (Clearly, the evidence is in on that.)
What about the fact that, if you’re over 21, you can purchase enough liquor not only to obliterate yourself but, should you step behind the wheel, possibly someone else too? After all, among people with mental health challenges, alcohol is the self-medication of choice. And yet, perfectly legal.
And while we’re on the subject of legal drugs … If you watch network television at all (I try not to), you’ve seen plenty of commercials encouraging consumers to try the newest miracle drug — even when the list of possible side effects from Xarfenupziltip (I made that up) includes everything from blood clots to kidney failure.
I understand it’s important to clear up the contradiction between state and federal statutes around CBD, and that’s apparently underway. But ultimately, what any of us choose to put into our bodies, legal or not, is just that, a choice. And if you are interested in responsibly trying a “natural” product — especially one that appears to work — over something produced by Big Pharma and pushed by doctors who eschew alternative medicine, shouldn’t you have that option?
It seems not just silly, but hypocritical for local police to single out CBD as a pernicious threat. Particularly when there’s a substance they’re administering regularly to others, without consent, that can (according to medical references) cause “agitation, high or low blood pressures, cardiac arrhythmias, shortness of breath, pulmonary edema, abnormal brain function, seizures, coma and death.”
That’s the list of potential “serious side effects” for the opioid-overdose reversal drug Narcan.