Chances are, by now, you have seen advertisements for CBD popping up around your neighborhood. CBD, aka cannabidiol, is more popular than ever and it’s getting mixed with everything from beauty products to cocktails.

But what exactly is CBD and should it remain legal? Or are there potential dangers we aren’t paying enough attention to.

What Is CBD? CBD vs. Hemp Oil vs. Marijuana

While researching CBD, journalists at TIME spoke with two CBD experts: Dr. Esther Blessing and Margaret Haney. Dr. Blessing is an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University and Haney is a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center. She is also director of Columbia’s Marijuana Research Laboratory.

While the majority of CBD research is still in the early stages, Blessing and Haney both recognize the potential for CBD to help treat numerous illnesses. They also hope to educate people about the differences between CBD and marijuana.

It can get a little confusing when comparing cbd to hemp oil or the two oils to marijuana. Marijuana, a drug commonly known as weed or pot, is made up of the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound found in cannabis plants that can be extracted from the plant. Hemp oil is a cold-pressed extract from hemp seeds and is similar to sunflower seed oil. Hemp oil contains no CBD or THC.

While the CDC argues that marijuana is addictive, the World Health Organization reported that CBD is not. According to several studies, it’s the THC in marijuana that causes people to experience the “high” associated with the drug, not CBD.

CBD Health Benefits

There are plenty of claims made about CBD by the companies trying to sell their CBD products. But legitimate research on the health benefits of CBD is limited, partially because of the federal restrictions on CBD research placed by the US government.

Currently, researchers are studying CBD’s ability to treat seizure symptoms, PTSD, and schizophrenia. Blessing is currently looking into whether people with PTSD and alcohol use disorder could benefit from CBD.

Blessing argues that CBD “shows a lot of promise” and pointed out that CBD was used effectively in early trials to treat psychosis, and didn’t cause many of the adverse side effects as FDA-approved antipsychotic medicines.

Haney believes that CBD has the potential to treat cognitive symptoms caused by HIV and Alzheimer’s, as well as neuropathic pain. There is also medical research that suggests CBD has the potential to help those with anxiety.

But because there is still so much to learn about CBD, including its long-term effects on the body, particularly the brain, more research is needed.

Concerns About CBD

One major concern among CBD enthusiasts is the lack of government regulation. Because there are no guidelines that must be followed, there is a higher chance that a lot of CBD being sold is mixed with other ingredients or something else entirely.

CBD oil, when made properly, should consist only of the compound cannabidiol and either hemp seed oil or coconut oil.

While pure CBD oil is safe according to current evidence, Blessing revealed that it can cause potentially dangerous side effects if taken with other medications.

The Legalization of CBD

CBD that is extracted from hemp, which contains very low levels of THC, was legalized in December 2018 with the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act or Farm Act. However, recently some cities and states have attempted to control the sale of CBD.


Because CBD has just recently piqued the interest of millions of consumers, there is still far more research to be done. Its long-term side effects are unknown but it shows great promise in regards to the treatment of several illnesses. It is reportedly non-addictive and, when made properly, is 100% natural.

Taking into account the early results of clinical trials, and the opinions of medical experts and researchers, CBD seems to be a product worth further study. It also seems, however, that because of the lack of regulation, more information needs to be shared about CBD, to ensure consumers are properly educated about CBD, its abilities, and proper use.