You’ve done your research, you’ve talked to budtenders at local dispensaries and you’ve read multiple stories online, because you’re careful about what you consume.
Everybody seems to agree that CBD is nonpsychoactive because it doesn’t get you high. But is CBD really nonpsychoactive?
The quick answer is no.
How we talk about cannabis — and knowledge about the impact its various cannabinoids have on our individual and collective bodies — is key to helping more people understand the power in this plant.
Southern Oregon Good Herb rounded up some of the best experts on CBD in Southern Oregon and beyond and asked them whether it is correct to say CBD is nonpsychoactive. The answers may surprise you.
Brie Malarkey, owner of Sun Breeze Inc., Sun God Medicinals, Sunna Ra Acres farm and Breeze Botanicals dispensaries in Ashland and Gold Hill, says. “THC binds mostly with the CB1 receptors in our nervous system, and that is why many people feel ‘high.’
“Interestingly CBD can help modulate the effects of THC, as it acts as an antagonist on the receptor. CBD binds mostly with the CB2 receptors of our endocannabinoid system, which is found in our immune system. Researchers are focusing on the anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic effects many people report when using CBD dominant products.
“As a result of our whole plant blends at Sun God Medicinals sometimes people who use a CBD dominant product report the slight effects of THC and vice versa some people who use our THC dominant products report less of a high then they are used to. We attribute this to all the cannabinoids working together to help the body modulate the medicinal herb within our own endocannabinoid system.”
Stacy Page, owner of Market Street Wellness in Medford, says, “People get confused. Psychoactive means it alters the mind, so CBD is psychoactive. People who have anxiety take CBD and get less anxious, but the wording they are referring to is euphoric or intoxicating. CBD and THC are both psychoactive, but only THC is euphoric. Everybody thinks psychoactive is the term for high, but it’s not the term. It’s really just euphoric and they don’t understand the difference.
“I wouldn’t suggest people get a euphoric feeling with CBD, because that just muddies the water. One thing I would suggest — and I say it to people — is that CBD is just the next cannabinoid, but there are over 113 cannabinoids in the plant. So there are going to be other products. Other cannabinoids affect the body — that’s why it’s important to have a full spectrum. They all work in unison. It’s important for people to not think there’s a cure all end all, there will be more products that will become more specialized as they do more research.”
Amy Parscal, co-founder and director of operations and soil science at Ebb and Flow Farm near Ashland, says, “It’s a language thing. We are very close to this plant and understand its nuances and the way it functions in the body, so these words are really important. The way people use the words are a little bit off from what’s actually true. We use the word ‘intoxicating’ to describe how you feel under some sort of chemicals, but we don’t want a negative connotation toward cannabis, because THC is actually a beneficial compound. It’s problematic, but I’m not as offended by it. It’s a simple way to communicate what it is. It has to distinguish itself from THC, and CBD is not THC, it doesn’t affect your brain in the ways THC does.”
Charles McElroy, founder of Goldleaf, a science-forward printing company for cannabis growers, patients and enthusiasts based out of Fairfield, Ohio, says “Communicating the experience of cannabis is still a new and evolving thing and there have been positive steps forward in the past few years — further distancing the industry from the old ‘stoner-culture’ terms and descriptions. This is progress, but people’s desire to update the vocabulary has outpaced the scientific study and the communication of that study, at least in the U.S. This has led to seemingly thoughtful and ‘science-sounding’ terms to be commonly misused in an attempt to thwart the bad language habits of the past.
“A common communication error is calling CBD ‘nonpsychoactive.’ A more correct descriptor would be ‘non-intoxicating’ since, by definition, CBD is psychoactive — which simply means ‘affecting the mind.’ I think the intent here is well meaning, to clearly differentiate from the intoxicating and psychoactive THC; but the inaccuracy is still present.”
Anna Symonds, education and partnership manager at East Fork Cultivars, a CBD-focused farm in Talikma, says, “You want people to be using the language that is the most accurate and precise regarding this, yet there is this big educational gap and you have to meet people where they are. People are going to feel effects and interpret that internally how they experience it. So there is a degree of subjectivity to it. But leaving accuracy aside, are those terms helpful to people? I don’t think that using the terms psychoactive or nonpsychoactive is the most helpful in educating consumers or industry.”
Tina Janke, brand manager at Sun Breeze, says, “The more accurate term for this would be that CBD is non-intoxicating. There are many things that are psychoactive and not necessarily intoxicating, such as caffeine and even lavender, as these things can change mood and cognition in gentle ways. CBD can, as well, just not in the profound and inhibiting ways that other cannabinoids or drugs may. When marketing any cannabinoid products to consumers, it is important to emphasize that every person’s body is different and there can be no possible guarantees. We each have our own unique endocannabinoid system, as well as other factors within our own bodies that may contribute to experiencing the effects of plant medicine differently than someone else.”
Zoe Sigman, program director at Project CBD, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical uses of CBD and other components of the cannabis plant, says, “[CBD] is considered psychoactive. It is an anti-anxiety compound and interacts with many different neuroreceptors. If a compound has an impact on your neuro-chemistry or mental condition, it is considered psychoactive, because it affects your mind. As a compound with anti-anxiety properties, CBD is psychoactive, though not intoxicating. People think ‘psychoactive’ and hear ‘psychedelic,’ which they associate with smoking weed. CBD is not psychedelic, it’s not intoxicating, and won’t give you hallucinations. It can, however, provide a great deal of benefit to people dealing with all sorts of health issues.”
Katie Stem, co-founder of Peak Extracts, a single-strain chocolate company that sells edibles and topicals through a variety of retailers in Southern Oregon, says, “The broadest definition of psychoactive is a substance that has an effect on the brain, although some reduce it down to something that has a discernible effect on mood, perception or behavior. There are many substances that have an undeniable impact on brain chemistry, but little to no intoxicating effect. Caffeine, antidepressant medications and nicotine are often described in this way.
“The semantics of the THC/CBD descriptors are particularly thorny, because the word psychoactive is often thrown about as a synonym for intoxicating. Because CBD does not produce significant perceptive, behavioral or intoxicating effects, some people label it ‘nonpsychoactive.’ However, because of its demonstrable, significant impact on brain chemistry, this is an arguably negligent assertion. There is strong evidence to support its categorization as an analgesic, anticonvulsant, and an anxiolytic, all of which require psychotropic/psychoactive activity. A more appropriate way to describe CBD would be nonintoxicating or noneuphoric.”
Emma Chasen, co-founder and CEO of Eminent Consulting in Portland, says, “CBD should not be labeled nonpsychoactive because it is psychoactive. Psychoactive by definition means that the compound engages with the psyche or brain in some way. Psychoactive does not mean that the compound will make one feel high. Therefore, CBD is psychoactive because it does engage with receptors and neurotransmitters in the brain. Think of it like pharmaceuticals like SSRIs (commonly used to combat anxiety and depression), for example. They do not make people feel high, but they are incredibly psychoactive as they engage with serotonin receptors in the brain. Instead of nonpsychoactive, brands should use nonintoxicating or nonpsychotropic. I would encourage brands and dispensaries to thoroughly educate consumers on products. Discuss dosing guidelines, best storage practices, how to consume. And when discussing effects, emphasize that everyone experiences cannabis differently, and you are providing them with a prediction for how they might feel. Definitely steer clear of any language that suggests a definite, universal experience among users, and never claim that cannabis is a cure-all.”
You can follow Liz Gold on Twitter/Instagram @lizstacygold or read her blog at www.14karatliving.com.