Dec. 15, 2017 — A compound found in the cannabis plant is not harmful, has health benefits, and does not have abuse potential, experts at the World Health Organization say.
The WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence focused on cannabidiol, or CBD, one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis plants.
After reviewing evidence from animal and human studies, the committee concludes that “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.”
The experts also say that CBD might be able to treat epilepsy (where most research has focused), although results are mixed. Other conditions it might treat are Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, anxiety, depression, and other maladies. CBD may ease inflammation, provide antioxidants, and relieve pain.
Based on its research, the committee concluded that current information does not call for scheduling of the drug. In the U.S., CBD is a Schedule 1 controlled substance. These are defined as drugs with no medical use and likely to be abused.
Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes. Other states, including Georgia, have legalized the possession of CBD to treat specific disorders.
It remains a federal crime, however, to have or sell any form of marijuana, including CBD. Despite those federal regulations, CBD is an ingredient in popular products sold over the counter as oils, extracts, supplements, and gum to treat many ailments.
CBD usually is given as a capsule or dissolved in liquid to be taken orally, under the tongue, or as a nasal spray. CBD does not produce the high that another cannabinoid — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — does, experts say. In fact, CBD appears to have effects opposite of THC.
The WHO announcement drew a positive response from marijuana advocates and criticism from those who don’t want it to be legal.
The experts produced the report in November, while the WHO announced its conclusions this week. In May, the committee will study cannabis and cannabis-related substances more fully.
Other major studies have shown marijuana and its products can relieve pain, nausea related to cancer treatment, and multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms. But using cannabis has well-known short-term and long-term health effects, such as learning and coordination problems.
Because federal law makes it a crime to have marijuana and CBD, researchers must pass strict government scrutiny just to study its usefulness.