Archeological evidence of cannabis being used by the human-race dates back over 10 thousand years. The hemp plant was industrialized by our ancient ancestors as a source of fiber and a robust industrial asset. Moreover, the cannabis plant's medicinal efficacies were also documented, as the plant was a common medicine before cannabis prohibition years. However, the plant's compounds had not yet been extracted or identified; so when and how was its most popular molecule, CBD (cannabidiol), discovered?
But before we go there, let's break down the details of the molecule. After all, the cannabis species produce thousands of compounds, so let's explore why CBD is so special.
What is CBD?
Throughout the cannabis plant's multiple species, you'll find thousands of unique compounds. CBD is a cannabinoid; this catalog of compounds possess over 100 additional unique molecules.
CBD is a primary cannabinoid, and its dominating presence in the cannabis plant is only rivaled by the once infamous compound, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Although technically siblings, THC and CBD have a range of differences - most notably, intoxicating effects.
You may be aware that the cannabis species has thousands of unique cultivars, but in principle, there are two prime categories: Cannabis that induces a high, and cannabis that doesn't. The latter is described as hemp - a cannabis plant that contains low traces of THC, but high volumes of CBD.
Regardless of the cannabis strain or its collection of compounds, it had its place in history.
How was CBD Discovered?
At the time of CBD's discovery, only one cannabinoid had been documented. The acclaim for the first discovered cannabinoid goes to Dr. Robert Cahn, from the United Kingdom, after he discovered CBN (cannabinol).
The discovery of CBD is ironic. As previously mentioned, cannabis has been used as a natural medicine for thousands of years. But, it wasn't until cannabis prohibition years that the science began to answer how and why.
During the 1940s, an American chemist, Dr. Roger Adams sought to identify the reasoning behind the cannabis plant's intoxicating abilities. The mentioned irony refers to the timing; cannabis had been used as medicine dating back to 8000BC, and was outlawed in 1937, under "The Marijuana Tax act". Consequently, Dr. Adams risked his career with his scientific research.
It was in Illinois, that Dr. Roger Adams made his breakthrough discovery. Aided by his colleagues, Dr. Adams, in theory, effectively failed in his mission, as he purposed to identify the undiscovered THC. But in reality, his discovery led to further revelations as his work continued, which went on to lay the foundation for much of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam's later trials. Additionally, in 1942, Dr. Adams' unique extraction method awarded him a patent.
A short while later, Dr. Adams' research intensified as he continued with his quest and successfully discovered THC - cannabis's intoxicating molecule.
What Happened After Dr. Adams' Discoveries?
The irony continues as cannabis remained illegal for the next 60 years, yet the following four decades were perhaps the most significant years in cannabis research history.
Dr.Raphael Mechoulam, AKA “The Godfather of Cannabis” began his exceptional career and picked up where Dr. Adams left off.
In 1963, Dr. Mechoulam makes the cannabis industry's biggest breakthrough to date, by identifying cannabidiol's stereo-chemistry.
Just a year later, Dr. Mechoulam turned his attention to THC, thus enabling him to confirm that the cannabinoid was responsible for cannabis's euphoric effects.
Dr. Mechoulam's Later Research, and Medical Cannabis
As cannabis research intensified, so did Dr. Mechoulam's stature in the world of cannabis. During the 1980s, medical cannabis became a reality, on a scientific scale.
His further studies had suggested that CBD may be remedial for epilepsy. After conducting a study on eight subjects and administering daily doses of CBD (300mg each), half had shown a significant decrease in the frequency and severity of their seizures, with the other half becoming seizure-free altogether.
In general, this is huge progress for the plants' stance in the war on drugs. However, due to the successful campaign to stigmatize cannabis, publications refused to release the reports.
The 1990s, When Cannabis Was Winning its First Battles in the War on Drugs
Public opinion towards cannabis reached its nadir. It's cult status continued to thrive, however, but the fact remained - cannabis was deemed a dangerous substance, and classified as a schedule-1 type drug, along with heroin. But despite that, medical cannabis research had peaked.
During the early 90s, Israel further showcased its stature within the medical cannabis industry, when at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Mechoulam, along with industry colleagues Dr. Lumir Hanus and Dr. William Devane discovered the endocannabinoid, anandamide. Thus discovering, the endocannabinoid system.
And then, in 1996, California legalized medical cannabis for a handful of conditions, most notably, THC's remedial benefits towards glaucoma.
By the turn of the Millenium, medical cannabis was legal in eight U.S states
What is the Future of CBD?
Although cannabis is putting its dark years behind it, bureaucracy still plagues the plant. By the beginning of 2020, cannabis is legal for recreational purposes in 11 U.S states, and legal for medical use in 33. But this is regarding cannabis and/or extracts without a restriction on THC levels. Whereas CBD on the other hand is legal in all 50 states and available to buy; provided that the flower or extract is THC compliant (under 0.3 percent).
Considering that cannabis and all of its extracts were globally outlawed for over 60 years, the current legislation changes suggest progress, and rightly so. However, the federal government has filled the green industry with gray areas... more so with CBD.
Excluding legal states, hemp farmers face ongoing battles with compliant THC levels. Where one part of the plant tests "hot", the rest of the plant would most likely compensate and provide the plant with a legal THC average volume (and let's not focus on the smaller issues - this alone would require a booklet).
And then there's the medical claims or food supplement status. CBD cannot be described as a food supplement, and furthermore, medical claims are a no-no. CBD retailers are forbidden from advertising any remedial benefits, despite clinical trials.
Although, the government has admitted that CBD does offer remedial benefits for the treatment of two conditions of epilepsy when Epidiolex became the first-ever FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved CBD based medicine. GW Pharmaceuticals manufacture and produce Epidiolex to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome.