Cannabidiol, or CBD, is taking the country by storm amid the surrounding controversy over the legalization of marijuana. But CBD, which comes from industrial hemp, is not to be confused with marijuana.
Although they both derive from the cannabis plant, the difference between the two lies in a key psychoactive ingredient called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
According to West Virginia State Code, a specific cannabis plant with less than one-percent THC is industrial hemp, which is legally classified as an agricultural crop. Any cannabis plant with more than one-percent THC is marijuana, which is an illegal Schedule I substance, the same category as synthetic opioids.
But according to U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, federal law says CBD is legal if derived solely from hemp and its THC concentration is less than 0.3-percent.
For Devonna West, understanding substances like CBD is no complicated matter, especially working as pharmacist for 26 years.
“The whole idea of CBD, and cannabis, and THC… it’s very confusing, especially to the average person,” West said.
For her chronic pain patients, opioids pose unique risks including addiction.
“You see people come in with their opiate prescriptions to treat their pain,” West said. “Even though we have an opiate crisis, people still have pain. Because of that, you get tolerance to prescription pain medications. It requires more and more, and it really is just putting a band-aid on the situation.”
West believes CBD’s medicinal capabilities could really help curb the crisis.
“[It is] something that’s more natural… less addicting… easier to get,” West said. “Something that creates a more healthy lifestyle.”
Since studying the cannabis substance three years ago, she opened up two dispensaries. One is in Oceana, Wyoming County. The newest of the pair stands right outside of Beckley in MacArthur.
Tisha Walker was one of the first customers at the MacArthur dispensary. When recommended by her chiropractor to take CBD for complications of Grave’s Disease, she said she had no idea what to expect.
“It really relieves the tightness in your muscles and just a general well-being feeling,” Walker said. “It just makes you feel better… There’s no use for someone to stay in pain all the time. It really works. You just have to try it.”
But with the craze comes mass confusion, especially with some of the close similarities between hemp and marijuana. West stressed how important it is to be educated on the source of the substance.
“Is it CBD from hemp? Is it CBD from marijuana? Because it does mean a whole lot,” West said. “It means a whole lot to the consumer… the authorities… [and] to the governing agencies that are making sure you have a product that is legal.”
Both West and Walker hope the fog will clear for CBD and its use.
“If it was your loved one, and they have tried everything in the world to get relief from their disease, and this was the only thing that may help them or that might save their life… wouldn’t you be willing to try that?” West asked.
“It’s a miracle,” Walker said. “It makes you feel totally better. I feel like a different person.”