PHOTO Alistair Hamilton
Along with bold and unsubstantiated promises of health and wellness, most marketing materials for products containing CBD claim that CBD, a compound found in cannabis that alters mental processes and behaviors, is non-psychoactive.
That’s not true. If CBD does in fact reduce anxiety, or fight depression, those are by definition psychoactive effects. But one effect CBD products are absolutely not supposed to have is a “heart-pounding” hallucinogenic experience, like the one a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate student suffered last year.
As The New York Times recently reported, the unidentified student contacted the school’s forensic toxicologists after vaping some liquids made by a company called Diamond CBD and having a very bad time. His experience mirrored that of more than 100 U.S. service members, some of whom were hospitalized with hallucinations after vaping products said to be CBD oil — experiences that track more closely with ingesting spice than CBD, which studies have found to be mostly benign even at high doses.
When VCU toxicologist Michelle Peace tested Diamond CBD products, in four of nine samples examined, she found a compound called 5F-ADB — which is a synthetic cannabinoid that has no therapeutic potential, according to the World Health Organization, but can trigger acute psychosis and, in extreme cases, convulsions and death.
Fake cannabinoids, keep in mind, are subject to a blanket ban by regulators in the United States and have been linked to numerous very bad health outcomes, including the notorious “zombie” incident in Brooklyn.
But since “synthetic marijuana” is a blanket term referring to one of any number of chemical compounds whose effects attempt to “mimic” THC, they are very hard to suss out. And also, apparently, easy to mix into “CBD” products in order to… well, produce a high? Produce negative headlines? Trick the user?
Among its products marketed to humans, which the very troubled in human consumed, Diamond CBD also sells products marketed to pets.
In a statement to the Times, Diamond CBD’s parent company, a holdings company called PotNetwork Holdings that also markets CBD products under comedic legend Tommy Chong’s brand Chong’s Choice, rejected the findings and said their own tests did not find “any unnatural or improper derivative,” and said it would test more products and issue a recall if necessary.
But the experience of the soldiers last year — who also claimed to have vaped CBD oil before turning up in emergency rooms with symptoms consistent with exposure to synthetic cannabinoids — suggests that the one man’s issue with Diamond CBD products may not be an isolated incident.
The Times’s analysis of the incident was a critique of the CBD market’s lack of regulation. This is a real thing and it is problematic. Swearing that your CBD product can work all kinds of wonders, as many CBD product marketers have done, is neither honest nor legal. But adulterating CBD oil with synthetic cannabinoids, as VCU’s Peace alleges that Diamond CBD may have done, is a huge leap beyond hucksterism and lands instead in the realm of reckless or malicious disregard.
What to do? That’s an excellent question. The speed at which CBD products’ popularity and availability have outpaced any kind of CBD knowledge and awareness — let alone product regulation, safety, and testing — has been stunning. The vape oil is out of the bottle and in your lungs and brain; what’s in it? You just can’t be certain, and until you can, there is apparently a risk of being very dangerously fooled by unscrupulous CBD companies. Will it happen to you? It could, and that’s bad enough.
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