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Be wary of CBD quality, source, THC levels


By Alene Keenan

Most people have heard about CBD by now, but it is surrounded by controversy. Much of the confusion is due to the fact that people are still learning there’s a difference between marijuana and CBD.

For decades, hemp has been lumped together with psychoactive marijuana in federal regulations because of confusing language in the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. However, the 2018 Farm Bill has clearly established that hemp is not a drug and it is legal on the federal level. 

Hemp and marijuana are two separate varieties of the plant species  Cannabis Sativa. Hemp has been bred to have very low levels (.3% or less) of THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana that results in a “high.” Marijuana has been bred to have higher levels of THC. 

CBD is short for cannabidiol. According to Wikipedia, “CBD is a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940. It is one of 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants and accounts for up to 40% of the plant’s extract. In 2018, clinical research on CBD included preliminary studies of anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain.”

Cannabidiol is a close cousin to marijuana, but without the psychoactive component of THC. CBD is not medical marijuana, and products with .3% THC or less do not cause any form of intoxication. In states where medical marijuana is legal, CBD products containing higher levels of THC are available with a prescription, but CBD with less than .3 % THC requires no prescription and is legal at the federal level. Also, CBD isolate can be produced that contains zero THC. 

The human body has several vital systems, including respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and so on. The endocannabinoid system, a natural part of the body that helps to regulate homeostasis, was only recently discovered. It relies on endocannabinoid neurotransmitters to maintain biological harmony in response to changes in the environment. 

Endocannabinoids are natural,  cannabis-like molecules produced by the human body, hence the term endocannabinoid, meaning “in the body.” On LabRoots, a science news website, Melissa Moore writes: “The brain’s opiate receptor was discovered in 1973, but it was not until 1988 that it was determined that the mammalian brain has receptor sites that respond to compounds found in cannabis. These receptors, named cannabinoid receptors, turned out to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor in the brain.”

CBD can produce feelings of relaxation and promote sound sleep, but it is not psychoactive. Clinical trials have proven it is a safe, nonaddictive substance with a range of health benefits. It is emerging as a popular way to manage pressure and stress, and provide solutions for well-being. The method for using CBD and the amount varies from person to person.

Unfortunately, production of CBD tinctures, oils, creams and edibles is not well regulated. Very few companies have standards in place that guarantee safety and efficacy. A Certificate of Analysis should give information about pesticides, heavy metals and mold contaminants, as well as cannabinoid content. Look for the highest quality raw materials and extraction methods, from domestic hemp farms with high agricultural standards, and a company that can back up its products. 

Even though the sale and use of any product containing CBD is now legal for civilians under federal law, it is still in a legal gray zone. CBD has not been tested by the FDA and quality varies widely.

The cultural shift toward greater acceptance of cannabis products does not negate the fact that U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Transportation chemical testing still outlaws significant amounts of THC in drug testing. Although CBD itself will not cause a positive DOT test, certain CBD products may contain enough THC to cause a positive drug test. Once THC is in the system, it may remain detectable for weeks or months.

How this affects captains and crew is also a gray area, but it is unlikely that any captain will be willing to take the risk of legal repercussions.

Anyone wishing to use CBD products should ensure their product contains less than .3% THC and use it in the proper dosage. As with many other aspects of maritime regulation, the matter is open to interpretation from state to state and port to port. 

Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale and has more than 20 years of experience as a stew. She writes The Triton‘s Stew Cues column. Comment at

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