Tips on buying hemp products for anxiety, insomnia and pain

Tips on buying hemp products for anxiety, insomnia and pain

By Marcia Heroux Pounds, Contact Reporter

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Hemp products such as CBD oils have been around a long time, but medical professionals and other experts caution consumers that they don’t always know what they’re getting at the natural food store or gas station.

Off-the-shelf products may not meet their label claims, could have bacteria or toxins, or come from overseas, which is illegal, experts say.

Here are some guidelines for consumers interested in buying hemp-derived products known as CBD or cannabidiol, a chemical compound in cannabis. Unlike marijuana, hemp doesn’t give the user a “high.” But some people say they’ve found the oil and other hemp products helpful for anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.

Who might benefit from CBD?

Peter Grinspoon, a Massachusetts General Hospital staff doctor who teaches at Harvard University in Boston, said while it is important for consumers to do their homework, he believes hemp-derived products can have valuable health benefits.

Grinspoon said he often recommends CBD to patients who have chronic pain or insomnia. An estimated 50 million adults, or 20 percent of the U.S. population, have chronic pain, according to a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I like to try it for people having chronic pain. It takes the edge off. Or if someone is having trouble sleeping, and melatonin doesn’t work,” he said.

A CBD vaporizer could be carried for use in anxiety attacks, he said, for example. A cream made with hemp oil could ease arthritis pain for some.

“Overall, CBD seems to be a very safe product,” he said but added that patients should talk with their doctors about how much to take and when to take it. But be aware that hemp products may not mix with certain medications, such as blood thinners, he said. And some CBD products are best used before bed, as they can make one sleepy.

For cancer patients and others who have strong pain — but want to avoid addictive opioids — CBD combined with a higher THC is likely to be more effective, Grinspoon said.

Those higher THC products need to be purchased from medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida. Patients need to see a medical marijuana-certified doctor and get enrolled on the state’s medical marijuana registry.

How much CBD is in the product?

Alexander Salgado, CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based CBD product maker Veritas, says consumers should look for products that are made from “full spectrum hemp oil,” which means it is from the whole hemp plant.

He said many products just mention “CBD,” which probably means they’re made from “isolate,” or powder. While isolate products can still be beneficial, they may not have the impact of full spectrum, Salgado says.

Also, check whether the manufacturer provides a “certificate of analysis” on the most recent batch for the product, he said.

“Ultimately, if you feel like your brand isn’t being completely transparent, that’s a bad sign,” Salgado said.

Some hemp products are made from hemp seeds and do not even contain CBD oil, warns Deerfield Beach-based CBD maker Green Roads on its site. Green Roads says its products are all lab-tested for their CBD content before distribution.

Is the product regulated?

While Florida doesn’t yet have a licensed hemp program, other states do.

Veritas’ CBD products are regulated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, for example. The products also are independently tested by Colorado-certified laboratories for compliance, CBD content, and purity, Veritas says.

Jessie Kater, senior vice president of manufacturing for Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, says medical marijuana companies that are already state-regulated are better positioned to bring quality and testing to hemp production in Florida. Curaleaf, which has medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state, said it also hopes to enter the hemp market in Florida.

“There are very few companies that do the kind of testing at a cannabis company. We’re used to following regulations,” he said.

Are CBD products legal?

While hemp-derived products with a trace of THC — less than 0.3 percent of THC — are considered legal under federal law, Florida’s regulations have not yet been issued.

Matthew Ginder, a lawyer in the cannabis law practice at Greenspoon Marder in Fort Lauderdale, said there’s still much to be worked out before farmers can produce hemp. “Right now, we’re in a period of uncertainty with hemp-derived products. We have a law, but we don’t have any regulations yet,” he said.

Ginder points to the recent news of Sarasota police recently delivering cease-and-desist notices to gas stations and stores to stop carrying CBD products. Police said they had seven complaints from people who had fallen ill after using the products, according to aFeb. 13 report by the Herald-Tribune newspaper in Sarasota.

And the Food and Drug Administration has been cracking down on edibles.

After the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued cautioned that it is still unlawful for food containing CBD or THC to be sold interstate or to market CBD or THC products in dietary supplements.

As the popularity of CBD has grown, the oil has been infused in items such as pizza and shakes at some South Florida eateries.

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