The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially given the checkmark of approval to cannabidiol, a relaxing compound in medical marijuana, ruling it is not a dangerous drug.
The compound, also known as CBD, can be an effective treatment for cancer, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and in palliative care, with WHO now ruling it does not have any risks of addiction.
The ruling means that it should not be a scheduled drug – meaning that it is not a drug that has a high potential for abuse or is illegal to manufacture or distribute.
The WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence announced: “Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.
“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” wrote the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency that focuses on public health. Researchers spent months looking into cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that’s often used for medical purposes. It often comes in the form of oils, drops or capsules.
“Current evidence also shows that cannabidiol is not likely to be abused or create dependence as for other cannabinoids (such as Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC), for instance).”
The organization is now set to launch a more complete review in May of next year to look into cannabis and cannabis-related substances.
The legality of CBD has been a source of confusion for years. Even though it’s the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Administration emphasized in 2016 that it is still illegal and still a Schedule I substance, along with drugs like heroin and LSD. The DEA does not recognize a distinction between CBD and any other kinds of marijuana.
Even though the DEA once eased trials for CBD in late 2015, it released a statement in July saying that CBD was still very much illegal. "Because 'Charlotte's Web'/CBD oil is not an FDA-approved drug...it is a schedule I controlled substance under the [Controlled Substances Act]," the DEA said.
Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, the DEA rarely approves research on it. And even though many states have legalized it for medical and recreational use, it remains illegal on the federal level.
Proponents in the U.S. have long argued that states and researchers should at least be allowed to look into CBD's benefits and either prove or disprove them.
Even some Republicans, who are typically more hesitant about marijuana legalization, are beginning to agree. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bill to that effect. “We lack the science to support use of medical marijuana products like CBD oils, not because researchers are unwilling to do the work but because of bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation,” Hatch said.