Both hemp oil and cannabidiol (CBD) oil are gaining popularity among athletes and other individuals who live active lifestyles, putting their body through physical stress (recreational or work-related) on a daily basis.
Similarly, the potential benefits to those working or serving in the military seem obvious. However, there are several questions that arise when contemplating the use of CBD oil and related products for those that serve in the United States armed forces.
With seemingly ever-changing regulations surrounding cannabis and CBD oil, are either of these substances safe for those in the military to use? And, do the benefits that those in the military can get from these products outweigh the potential risks?
A Quick Lesson on CBD, THC and the Cannabis Plant
CBD, and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), are two of 200+ compounds found in cannabis. THC is the psychoactive component of the plant that is responsible for giving you that ‘high’ feeling and impairing your judgement, memory and ability to operate machinery. This is what can cause you to feel sleepy and ‘stoned,’ lose concentration, and even crash a car.
On the other hand is CBD reacts differently in our bodies and, thus, does not get you high. Adding CBD to a THC-heavy product can actually reduce its psychoactive effects. This compound is most commonly associated with the medicinal properties of cannabis, though THC can also relieve pain and ease inflammation. CBD is being used to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, and even some types of epilepsy.
Now, back to the plant as a whole. Cannabis does not just mean weed as you know it. Cannabis is simply the genus name of the plant family that produces both marijuana and hemp. While both plants contain CBD, hemp has negligible amounts of THC.
Because hemp is regulated, farmers are required to ensure that their hemp plants have 0.3 percent or less of THC. This is such a small amount that you would most likely have no trouble passing a drug test after using a hemp-based product.
Where Does CBD Oil Come From?
Under current US regulations, CBD oil must contain 0.3 percent or less THC in states where cannabis (recreational or medical) is not currently legalised.
Hemp oil is derived from hemp, not marijuana, but it still contains dozens of phytocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids found in plants.
These cannabinoids, such as CBD, connect with receptors in our bodies that are part of our endocannabinoid system. It is believed that everyone produces some compounds, like anandamide, that are similar to the compounds found in cannabis. If we have a deficit of our natural cannabinoids, we can seek replacements from the plants.
Hemp oil is made from the seeds of the hemp plant, while CBD oil can be extracted from the hemp or marijuana plants. Carbon dioxide extraction is considered one of the cleanest methods of extraction, as others, like ethanol extraction, can include potentially dangerous chemicals.
Because both types of oils contain CBD, they both offer the same effects, including:
- Inflammation relief;
- Pain relief;
- Relax muscles;
- Help with sleep;
- Regulate our circadian rhythm; and
- Treat seizures.
While oil is one of the most popular ways to consume cannabis, there are several ways to use the medicine. There are:
- Edibles in the form of gummies, chocolate or powder you can put into drinks or food;
- Vaping oils you can take with a vaping pen;
- Other products like sublingual applications and patches;
- Smoke hemp flower, though that has only gained popularity recently; and/or
- CBD cream or lotion, or alternatively hemp salve, is one of the most common ways to use CBD.
While topical’s will not get CBD into your bloodstream and provide systemic effects on your body, such as anxiety reduction, creams and other topical oils can relax muscles and ease inflammation.
How does CBD Work?
Our endocannabinoid system contains millions of receptors for cannabinoids throughout our bodies that are associated with every other system, affecting our skin, gut and brain, among other things. Thus, when we use CBD products, we are sending that cannabinoid throughout our bodies to our digestive system, pulmonary system, brain and more.
Researchers believe that the endocannabinoid system serves to protect our nerve fibre system and immune system. It also impacts our autonomic nervous system. All of these systems can affect our sleeping habits, appetite, stress levels and feelings of pain. Therefore, it is believed that using CBD or other cannabinoids can help regulate our bodies in these areas. Some researchers believe that some people have deficient levels of cannabinoids and need to supplement with those from plants to reach homeostasis and cure problems like irritable bowel syndrome or anxiety.
CBD and THC have different effects because they react differently to the receptors. THC acts like anandamide and fits perfectly in the receptors, giving us a ‘high’ feeling just as anandamide gives us the feeling of a ‘runner’s high’ after exercising.
CBD, however, acts to suppress some of those effects. This can take the edge off of a product that contains both cannabinoids. It can also relieve anxiety, which is a side effect that some people experiencing when using THC. The endocannabinoid system can impact both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, due to its placement in the central nervous system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems control our ‘fight or flight’, as well as our ‘rest and digest’ responses, affecting our responses to danger and our recovery periods.
What is Legal & What is Not?
Hemp was illegal under the US Federal Controlled Substances Act, which states that marijuana is a Schedule I drug and that marijuana includes products with resin from any part of the cannabis plant.
But that changed in 2018 with the passage of a new US Farm Bill. The legislation included an amendment legalising hemp, so that farmers can once again produce the plant for its thousands of uses – which include dietary supplements, clothing and even car parts. Hemp is highly regulated, so growers must be careful to keep the THC level below 0.3 percent.
Recreational and medical marijuana are also now legal in many US states, but because it is considered federally illegal, military personnel are not allowed to use it. This is common in many government jobs, and even some private corporate employers that are hesitant to run foul of federal rules.
Before using a CBD product, do some research on the official stance that your branch of the military service has on hemp or CBD with no amounts of THC. Because cannabis is such a politically hot topic, the views and regulations can often change, so it is important to keep up with the news.
A Problem in the Industry
Synthetic cannabis is a rising problem in the industry. It is made from chemicals and can be found in products like Spice or K2. It does not come from the cannabis or hemp plants, and thus is not natural or organic like many CBD products.
The chemicals are sometimes sprayed over other products like tobacco, and they can cause severe problems. Synthetic cannabis can be anywhere from two to 100 times stronger than THC and can cause strong, unwanted side effects and even death. Synthetic cannabis was associated with more than 11,000 emergency room visits in 2010, the vast majority involving men, according to data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network.
The US Department of Defense has mentioned synthetic cannabis when it instituted regulations on products related to any type of cannabis. In August 2018, at least 76 people overdosed on K2 at a park in Connecticut. They suffered breathing problems and vomiting episodes. However, it was discovered that the K2 was a ‘bad batch’ and laced with an opioid, causing the severe symptoms. It did not have anything to do with natural CBD, hemp, or even marijuana and THC.