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Answering your top five questions about CBD

From skincare lotions to bottled water, cannabis companies are rolling out a growing array of consumer products infused with a chemical found in marijuana called cannabidiol, or CBD.Richard Vogel/Associated Press/File/Associated Press

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CBD is trendy. You may hear it will help with myriad ailments. Athletes and celebrities are endorsing it. But what is it?

As CBD continues to make appearances in storefronts, fitness catalogs, and casual conversations, here are answers to some basic questions about the substance.

What is CBD, and where does it come from?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in both marijuana and hemp, plants that are part of the cannabis genus.

Marijuana has substantial amounts of both CBD and THC, the latter of which gets you high.


But hemp is grown to have no more than 0.3 percent THC, so the compounds extracted from it will not make you high, whether you put them in food, lotion, oil, or anything else.

Does it get me high?

Again, no. CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound of the cannabis plant.

Some CBD products will have minimal amounts of THC because the hemp plant itself contains some THC.

But if the product is being sold by a company that’s not a pot shop, it must have under 0.3 percent THC, which would not make you high.

If you want to take CBD and you’re also interested in getting high, you can find CBD-THC hybrid products at some recreational marijuana stores.

What does CBD do?

The most commonly shared anecdotes involve CBD helping patients manage pain and sleep more restfully. The Food and Drug Administration says there’s very little research to back this yet.

Some companies also claim their products can help treat arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders, or diabetes.

The FDA says these claims are unproven.

“Misleading and false claims associated with CBD products may lead consumers to put off getting important medical care, such as proper diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care. For that reason, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the best way to treat diseases or conditions with existing, approved treatment options,” the FDA wrote on its website.


Sort of.

Plainly speaking, hemp was legalized federally as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, so any compounds that come from hemp — CBD included — are legal.

But hold on. Many CBD products currently on the market are not legal to sell under federal guidelines.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved CBD as a drug ingredient in one medication, Epidiolex, which is used for certain seizure disorders. The agency says that before any other company can sell CBD in a dietary supplement or medication, the FDA has to approve it, and it will need to learn more about the substance before it’s ready to take that step.

The FDA has told companies they cannot sell food products containing CBD, or CBD products that make unfounded medical claims.

In recent months, Wakefield-based Curaleaf became the latest in a string of companies to change its marketing tactics around CBD after the FDA requested they do so.

State agencies in Massachusetts have upheld the FDA’s guidance, warning hemp growers and CBD retailers that they should not sell any products that are not FDA-compliant. But enforcement will be up to the local boards of health, and in most places, stores have been able to continue selling edible CBD or products that make unfounded claims.

CBD consumers in Massachusetts are unlikely to be arrested for using the products, state authorities have said.

Where can I find it?

Almost anywhere. If you’re just looking to try it — and you’re not worried about the quality — you can find CBD in almost any gas station store. Some stores will just have a few packets of gummies near the cash register; others will have more complete displays with gummies, tinctures, CBD vape cartridges, and more.


If you want to be sure your product comes from a trusted company, your best bet is to head to a smoke shop or a vape store. The employees there will know more about particular CBD companies and products, and you’re more likely to have a wide selection.

Some large retailers have started to carry CBD product lines, including Bed, Bath & Beyond and Sephora. There are also countless online retailers, some of which grow their hemp overseas.

Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.