Over the last five years, an often forgotten piece of US federal legislation – the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill – has ushered in an explosion of interest in the medical potential of cannabis-derived cannabidiol, or CBD.
After decades of debate, the bill made it legal for farmers to grow industrial hemp, a plant rich incannabis-derived cannabidiol. Hemp itself has tremendous value as a cash crop; it’s used to produce biofuel, textiles and animal feed. But the cannabis-derived cannabidiol extracted from the hemp plant also has numerous medicinal properties, with the potential to benefit millions through the treatment of seizure disorders, pain or anxiety.
Prior to the bill’s passage, the resistance to legalising hemp was due to its association with marijuana, its biological cousin. Though hemp and marijuana belong to the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, they each have a unique chemistry, with very different characteristics and effects. Marijuana possesses tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces the characteristic high that is associated with cannabis. Hemp, on the other hand, is a strain of the cannabis plant that contains virtually no tetrahydrocannabinol, and neither it nor the cannabis-derived cannabidiol derived from it can produce a high sensation.
As a professor and chair of the department of pharmacology at Penn State, I have been following research developments with closely and have…
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