Does CBD Only Come From Cannabis and Hemp?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is exploding in popularity, but its uncertain legality has created barriers between consumers and providers. But what if cannabis and hemp were not the only sources of CBD?
Chemists have been able to synthesize CBD in the lab for years, but it’s wildly expensive (from one research supply source, it’s $159/10mg, and many require hundreds of milligrams to achieve therapeutic benefits) and you’re required to have a Schedule I DEA license to make the purchase. On top of that, it’s not intended for human consumption.

So instead of turning to the beaker, others are considering ways of manipulating the machinery of organisms to create CBD.

CBD From Hops

One recent notable example of alternative CBD sourcing comes from the hops plant. Isodiol International Inc. claims to have created the only source of CBD from a non-cannabis plant (including hemp).

Hops are well known for their distinctive flavor they impart in the brewing of beer. But can the hops plant, Humulus lupulus, be made to produce cannabinoids like THC or CBD? Isodiol International Inc. has not shared any data supporting their ability to create CBD from hops, nor did they respond to my request for comment. So, does their hops-derived CBD product, ImmuneAG, actually contain CBD? Maybe, and in theory, it can be done.

 

CBD From Yeast

Others are turning to yeast to do the hard labor of creating cannabinoids. Yeast do not naturally produce cannabinoids, but give them the right tools and it’s possible.

Librede, a California-based company has done just that. They hold a patent and have received federal funding to mass produce cannabinoids from yeast. By manipulating their DNA, yeast can produce CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids or terpenes that would naturally be found in the cannabis plant. And they do it for far cheaper than traditional cultivation methods.

It’s a one-step process: add sugar and let the bioengineered yeast do the rest. Liberte estimates that they’ll be able to create a gram of CBD for 20 cents, far less than cultivation and extraction of CBD from cannabis or hemp plants.

Plus, there’s the added benefit of a lower environmental impact. Cannabis and hemp plants require a substantial amount of water and energy (especially for indoor grow operations). Many growers also commonly use pesticides and fertilizers that can contaminate local water supplies, which has a significant environmental impact.

 

The Recipe for Producing Cannabinoids

To create cannabinoids, you need two basic features: 1) the precursor molecules from which cannabinoids are made, and 2) the enzymes which convert the precursor molecules into particular cannabinoids.

In order for hops or yeast to create cannabinoids, they must first be able to produce hexanoic acid and geranyl diphosphate (GPP). Hexanoic acid is common in many plants and is eventually turned into olivetolic acid (often simply referred to as OA), where together with GPP, it is synthesized into cannabigerolic acid.

Creating cannabigerolic acid is a key milestone in the pathway to create cannabinoids. Once you’ve reached it, all you need is the right enzymes to convert it into THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids (note: technically, the enzymes convert cannabigerolic acid into the acid form of THC or CBD—heat then converts them into the familiar THC and CBD we know and love).

But this is a major holdup, as plants other than cannabis don’t possess the DNA that allows them to naturally produce these enzymes.

 

Adding the Ingredients

Bioengineers have developed the tools that enable yeast to produce the key ingredients in cannabinoid production. Yeast have been engineered to produce hexanoic acid (which you’ll recall is the precursor to OA) as well as the enzyme that converts cannabigerolic acid to THC acid (THCA). Librete claims that the entire process, from sugar to cannabinoid, takes less than a week. Once THCA is produced, now all you need is a flame to get high.

Is it possible to turn the hemp plant into a cannabinoid producer? Yes. The new gene-manipulating technique known as CRISPR can do just that. CRISPR is a method that allows scientists to cut out a certain region of DNA and replace it with DNA of their choosing. Using CRSIPR, scientists could insert the DNA for the enzymes that convert cannabigerolic acid into THC or CBD, thus converting the hemp plant into a cannabinoid producer. Is this what Isodiol has done? They won’t say.

The issue of the medicinal effectiveness remains. For instance, whole-plant extracts of CBD-rich cannabis are known to have stronger anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing qualities than CBD on its own. Yet, by bioengineering plants or yeast to create a spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, with time and research, the optimal combination of “ingredients” can be created for each condition.

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Mexico Could Make History By Treating CBD Like A Supplement, As It Should Be

As Mexico transitions to a federal medical marijuana program, lawmakers’ leeway toward cannabidiol (CBD) could help the so-called “miracle” compound become as common and low-drama as vitamins and minerals.

Last year, Mexico drew international attention when its government moved to legalize medicinal marijuana, perhaps using a more direct path than its neighbors to the north. On June 19, 2017 President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bill into law that officially legalized the cultivation, production, and use of medical cannabis products with less than 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in Mexico.

Known for its psychoactive effects (and some related therapeutic uses), THC is one of at least 113 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that are found in marijuana and hemp (both belonging to genus cannabis) and may stimulate the body’s endocannabinoid system in various ways.

Both THC and CBD are found in higher quantities in marijuana than in hemp, but unlike its chemical cousin, CBD has been shown to be non-intoxicating and to have fairly astounding applications — potential and otherwise — for preventing and treating numerous health conditions. And while THC (for all its strengths) can have negative effects for some users, science has deemed CBD almost unavoidably benign.

In the United States, unlike Mexico, CBD products have been marginally legal under federal law for decades, but only in low concentrations and if derived from (lots of) hemp, and not the more potent marijuana; until pretty recently, hemp has frequently gotten a hard time from lawmakers, too.

As a result, U.S. products claiming to contain CBD have been significantly under-regulated, inconsistently enforced, and effectively unavailable to most would-be patients and preventative users — despite the fact that studies increasingly suggest that many or most of us should consider it as an option for our personal health regimens.

According to Raul Elizalde, President of HempMeds Latin America, Mexico’s distinctive new law will give producers the freedom to start putting CBD in everyday health products; it could also give consumers unprecedented access to this seemingly healthful substance.

“A good point about this regulation in Mexico is that any product with a THC concentration higher than 1% can still be registered with the government, and sold as a prescription,” Elizalde commented by phone.

“But the best part is that [cannabinoids] with below 1% THC content can be in medicine, supplements, lotions, food, anything. This is very, very good for our country, and I think we’re one of the very first in the world to take that path.”

Even setting aside its compelling health uses, “The Mexican government understands that CBD is not a danger to public health, so regulating quantity just doesn’t make sense,” Elizalde said. “Usually people take around 60 mg per day for medicinal purposes, but studies showing no health risks have tested dosages of up to 250 mg per kilogram weight of the patient before researchers basically gave up. But you don’t see products like that.”

In other words, someone who weighs a little more than me could rest easy consuming 15,000 mg of CBD a day.

Spending anywhere from $800 to $1500 in the current market for that dose and (depending on the product) consuming that much volume could still be unsettling, though.

At this point in our understanding of CBD, Elizalde said, governments and the public need to be aware of the level of safety and medical value that science has established — and to learn to separate their ideas of medical and recreational marijuana products.

For one thing, he said, medical patients are still being hurt due to stigma and hesitation (variously warranted or not) around recreational marijuana, as both a product and an industry. “Medical and recreational are totally different,” he said. “Nobody buys CBD to get high, nobody buys it to try to abuse it, and the only thing that will happen if it’s scheduled [as a controlled substance] is that it will become a black-market drug.”

“But it’s not a drug,” he added. “It’s a supplement.”

Elizalde explained that he himself didn’t know much about marijuana’s medical value until his family had a need for CBD, but no way to get it in Mexico. “I was not involved in the cannabis industry or movement, I came from a very conservative family, but my daughter suffers from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a very hard kind of epilepsy,” he said.

While his young daughter Graciela suffered nearly 400 seizures per day, he and his wife were “desperately trying to find a treatment that worked,” Elizalde said. That included all the anti-epilepsy drugs on the market, including new ones in development, and even brain surgery, but nothing helped. And then they came across CBD, which has shown significant ability to reduce epileptic seizures, and fought a court battle to allow them to import it from the U.S. to Mexico.

In 2016, the family won their case, and started importing CBD to supplement Graciela’s other medications, at it’s often used. Graciela is doing “much better” with the added CBD, and the reduction in seizures was quickly “very good,” Elizalde said: rather than 400 seizures a day, Graciela now experiences closer to 20.

“When we started treatment, she could not even go out to dinner with us; every 30 minutes, she was having a crisis,” Elizalde said. “Now she’s showing improvement in her physical therapies, in her swimming lessons, in her interactions with her sisters — she can now look her parents in the eyes.”

“It’s something I never believed was going to happen, and less so with a supplement. It changed her life, but also mine and my whole family’s.”

Regarding CBD’s role as a medicinal treatment or supplement, Elizalde also pointed out that “medicinal” and “pharmaceutical” don’t mean the same thing, nor should they under the law.

“In the future, we will have medicines that use CBD, but it will not be limited to medicines. That’s the way it should be,” he said. “Just like Vitamin C: you can find it in medicines, but also supplements and oranges.”

“If you [consume] Omegas, this will help with your brain. If you take Vitamin C, it will help with your immunity. CBD is something that has been studied for reducing inflammation, anxiety, seizure, pain, and if you only allow its use as a drug, you will limit its benefits to only a few persons.”

Elizalde said that regulating CBD as a medicine would limit the number of products out there, and likely result in only one or two pharmaceutical companies getting to sell it as a medicine by prescription.

“I know some pharmaceutical companies try to register CBD, but you could always sell hemp oil, which has CBD, so it’ll be a matter of legality and how you sell and market your product.” He continued, “You can’t own something that’s botanical, and having a patent on a botanical system or molecule is almost impossible.”

At present, access to CBD and other marijuana products in Mexico still remains limited despite last year’s legal change.

Voice of San Diego reported in March, “Currently, Poway-based Medical Marijuana, Inc. is the only company from which Mexicans can get legal permits to import cannabidiol or CBD products with a doctor’s prescription. In 2016, it started a Mexican subsidiary, HempMeds Mexico, to lobby for broader medical marijuana regulations in the country.”

Since California legalized adult recreational on January 1, 2018, many Mexicans living near the border have also been taking advantage of the state’s easier access to different marijuana products, the site reported.

Going forward, however, Elizalde and others are hopeful that Mexico will be able to cultivate a thriving medicinal and recreational marijuana marketplace, as well as start to repair the decades of damage caused by the cross-border drug war.

“In a country where we have suffered so much from drug violence, we know that drug policy is wrong. Last year, our president said that drug policy has failed,” Elizalde commented. “I think we need to do something different, and maybe that difference is to make marijuana recreational, make it legal, so that states could regulate it, and promote regulation over prohibition.”

Following Mexico’s recent presidential election, and some supportive deliberations about CBD by the World Health Organization, Elizalde and others have the chance to get their wish, though the work’s not done yet.

Last week, president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who’ll have the job of overseeing rule-making and regulations around Mexico’s new marijuana law, unveiled a plan to change the country’s drug strategy in several big ways.

Olga Sanchez, the proposed interior minister for López Obrador, said that an integral part of the government’s security strategy will be “transitional justice,” which “typically involves leniency for those who admit guilt, truth commissions to investigate atrocities and the granting of reparations for some victims,” Reuters summarized.

Sanchez also told Reuters, “Not only will it be amnesty, it will be a law to reduce jail time … We will propose decriminalization, create truth commissions, we will attack the causes of poverty, we will give scholarships to the youth and we will work in the field to get them out of the drug situation.”

In the mean time, businesses, patients, and recreational users on both sides of the border will likely be watching Mexico’s progress closely. And perhaps waiting to see which way the wind blows before they distribute seeds, or light up.

Given the present out-of-pocket cost for a few weeks’ worth of modest CBD doses, which a family member of mine takes to supplement her pharmaceutical (and insurance-paid) seizure drug, I’ll definitely be among them.

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THC-free cannabidiol offered at Ybor’s new Chillum Glass Gallery and CBD Dispensary

Owner and manager Carlos Hermida (pictured) recently launched one of Tampa's first CBD dispensaries in Ybor City. Chillum Glass Gallery and CBD Dispensary offers products derived from the industrial hemp plant, not cannabis. Photo courtesy of Carlos Hermida, Chillum Glass and CBD Dispensary. Chillum Glass | Special to the Times

YBOR CITY— As the former vice president and activist for the Florida Cannabis Coalition, Carlos Hermida knows how difficult it can be in Florida for companies to open a dispensary.

Hermida says the strict laws in the cannabis industry can make it a very long and expensive process to obtain the necessary licenses and pay for the costly operational costs.

For this reason he decided to open Chillum Glass Gallery and CBD Dispensary, in historic Ybor City, to help companies desiring to get into the cannabis industry by distributing their products and educate people on the benefits of cannabidiol or CBD.

Although cannabidiol is present in the cannabis plant, it is not cannabis.

It is derived from the industrial hemp plant and lacks tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, which is the component of marijuana that gets people high.

In addition, CBD is legal in all 50 states, it offers many of the same medical and therapeutic benefits that the cannabis plant can, it relieves stress and anxiety, increases focus, but dispensers don’t have to follow some of the strict regulatory guidelines and patients do not need a medical identification card.

CBD Chillum Glass Gallery and CBD Dispensary distributes products from Florida-based companies such as Provida and Mindful Medicinals such as hemp powder, hemp joints, hemp blunts, coffee, tea, cough syrup, lotions, dog treats and more.

The glass gallery side displays functional glass art from local artists, which means the hemp flower can be placed in the glass and smoked.

“Chillum Glass Gallery and CBD Dispensary is a celebration of alternative culture,” said Hermida in a press release.

“We want people to understand this is art, this is culture.”

Art from the glass gallery ranges anywhere from $1 to $800 and products from the dispensary can range anywhere from $4 to $200.

Chillum held its grand opening Friday (June 29). The dispensary operates from 12 to 11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and is located at 1717 E 7th Ave in Ybor City.

For more information visit chillumglass.com/

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CBD oil: Placebo or breakthrough?

New medication means new laws, new questions about its use.

CBD oil: Placebo or breakthrough?

ELWOOD — Sitting inside the cool lobby of Rebellious Makeup By Morgan, owner Morgan Johns talked about why she uses canabidiol (CBD) oil as a natural pain solution for her osteoarthritis and hip issues.

She said her doctors offered her pain relievers and muscle spasm medication to relieve her pain, but she was not interested in a fistful of prescriptions.

“I did not want to go down that path with the opioid crisis as crazy as it is right now,” Johns said. “Anyone can get addicted to anything if given enough or they become dependent on it.”

A friend encouraged Johns to try the CBD oil, and while she was skeptical, Johns said she agreed. A two-fluid-ounce container cost her less than $50.

“I knew an instant reaction within about 45 minutes of energy,” Johns said. “I felt like I had a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso.”

But she had no other side effects and the pain was still present.

“Then I would say about a month and a half in, that was when I really started to notice I felt better,” Johns said. “I’ve read people call it a placebo effect, but even if it is, I have tried other things and this works. If it is a placebo, why wouldn’t I have a placebo effect with anything else?”

Bringing CBD oil to Elwood

Johns decided to sell the oil in her salon and went to city officials and the chief of police to talk about selling it in the community. Johns said she was not saying CBD oil was a cure-all; she just wanted to offer it as an option.

At first she could not keep up with the sales, and then signs started popping up around Elwood where others were selling CBD oil.

“When the market flooded, I just started directing people to others selling this product,” she said holding her bottle of oil.

Johns said people need to be careful what they buy because not all CBD oils are the same. She recommends looking for a full list of ingredients, asking to talk to other customers who use it, and researching the company that makes it.

“If you don’t know what it is or you can’t research what they call it, there may be a reason why you don’t know what is in it,” Johns said. “They don’t want you to know what is in it.”

CBD oil and your health

The Herald Bulletin reached out to doctors and nutritionists throughout Madison County to talk about the risks or benefits of CBD oil, but no one in the medical field responded to the request for information.

Medical advances with CBD products, however, are underway.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug containing purified CBD, to be used to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy.

The FDA states the approval for the drug is an important medical advancement, but the agency stresses this is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components.

“This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use,” according a press release by the FDA. “It’s being delivered to patients in a reliable dosage form and through a reproducible route of delivery to ensure that patients derive the anticipated benefits.

“This is how sound medical science is advanced.”

Contrary to popular belief, the FDA insists it has been supportive of the research of marijuana for medical uses.

The agency has an active program to assist drug developers who want to investigate marijuana or its components through properly controlled clinical trials, to demonstrate the potential for safe and effective uses.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I compound by the FDA with known risks so the treatment of medical disorders must be conducted under the same standard as other drug compounds, according to the agency.

The FDA notes that a growing interest in the development of therapies derived from marijuana and its components, such as CBD oil, has developed within the past decade.

Proponents of medical marijuana claim the plant is effective in treating a number of medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. But these claims do not sit well the FDA.

The agency said it is concerned by the “proliferation and illegal marketing of unapproved CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims.”

Actions have been taken by the FDA against companies distributing CBD oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas, topical lotions and creams that claim the products can be used to treat or cure serious diseases such as cancer with no scientific evidence to support such claims.

“We’ll continue to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims,” the FDA stated in a press release. “We’re especially concerned when these products are marketed for serious or life threatening diseases, where the illegal promotion of an unproven compound could discourage a patient from seeking other therapies that have proven benefits.”

New CBD laws

The Low Cost Prescription pharmacy in Elwood has a sign on its building that says they sell “hemp CBD oil.” No one inside the pharmacy knew much about the product and they directed customers to a handwritten sign hanging next to the pharmacy window that says the oil is used to treat diabetes, anxiety, cancer and more than a dozen other ailments. A seven-day supply of the oil sells for $30, or a 28-day supply sells for $100.

“We don’t know anything about it,” said a woman named Brittney behind the counter. “All we have is a paper hanging over there about it. We just know what people tell us.”

A new law that takes effect today will change the way CBD oil can be sold in Indiana.

As of today, all low-THC hemp extracts must be packaged with a scannable bar code or QR code linked to a document disclosing the manufacturer of the finished product, a certificate of analysis verifying the hemp extract is the product of a batch tested by an independent lab and contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, along with the results of the testing sample.

The scannable code must also provide a batch date, expiration date and ingredients.

Johns said the changes will help people make informed and safe decisions about the products they are consuming.

“Do the research,” she said.

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