CBD was a last resort for the family of ten-year-old Sophie*. CBD is well known now, but back in the day, CBD was an undesirable chemical for growers because it mitigates the high caused by THC. Then in 2006, Paige Figi gave CBD oil to her daughter Charlotte to help manage the pain caused by her seizures. To the surprise of everyone involved, CBD put Charlotte’s seizures into remission, and the little girl’s daily functioning improved significantly.
Charlotte’s case was not a fluke or a placebo effect, so it was worth a shot. Sophie’s parents ordered CBD oil online and gave it to her. Sophie’s seizures immediately stopped but did have strange side effects. Her eyes were very red, and she was loopy and forgetful. In hindsight, these side effects are clear signs that Sophie was high, but it didn’t occur to her parents right away because they had ordered products labelled as containing no THC. When Sophie’s parents brought her CBD oil to a lab, it was confirmed to have THC in it. She switched to true, pure CBD, her seizures stayed in remission, and all her “weird” side effects went away. So, what was going on?
In the United States, it’s unlikely to get a cannabis product that is correctly labelled. One study found that over half of CBD products were, either way, more or way less concentrated than advertised. One in five products contained THC even though it’s not listed on the label. So, buyer beware!
Canadians may be breathing a sigh of relief, and rightly so. Legalized weed is regulated weed. The cannabis industry has been careful to comply with the regulations of the Cannabis Act since the act came into being in 2018. Canadian consumers have protections. License holders are obligated to investigate complaints. Health Canada has recalled 15 cannabis products that contained higher levels of THC than the package indicated. Canadians can approach cannabis with the same amount of caution with which they do romaine lettuce.
However, the Canadian cannabis market has had growing pains. The reality is that producing edible cannabis products with a consistent amount of cannabinoids in them is difficult; It requires experience, technique, and expensive specialized equipment if the producer wants to test concentration in-house. Anyone buying edibles should expect some variability in the amount of THC or CBD in their goodies.
Does CBD contain THC?
No. True CBD does not contain THC. Still, nobody should buy CBD chocolate and be caught off guard by a sneaky dose of THC, but at the end of the day, the risks of a mislabeled edible are low for adults. Cannabis is relatively safe, especially when compared with alcohol. However, marketing for CBD is increasingly targetting parents with children struggling with ADHD, anxiety, ASD, even car-sickness. Without blowing things out of proportion, Reefer Madness-style, it seems fair to say that developing brains are more vulnerable than adult brains. Something true of alcohol, and e.coli, and true of cannabis. There’s a reason why people are more comfortable with kids trying a sip of wine versus a shot of tequila – the dose matters!
*This is not her real name. Patients in the original study were anonymous.