Photo by Zak Neumann
The debate around marijuana can get messy, but the smoke starts to lift when you understand the science and logistics.
What’s in a plant?
Cannabis plants are chock full of chemical compounds — about 400. Sixty of these, called cannabinoids, are unique to the Cannabis genus. The most famous are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is the illegal stuff (for Iowans, anyway). It’s psychoactive — it’ll get you “high” — and it’s what The Man is looking for when you take a drug test.
CBD is legal in all 50 states, in some form, and can be found in both marijuana and hemp (non-THC, less-CBD-potent) plants. CBD will not get you high, but it’s responsible for much of the medicinal, therapeutic properties associated with weed.
Iowa legislators started regulating CBD products in 2014 with the passing of SF 2360, the Medical Cannabidiol Act; further filings passed in May 2017 allow for use of CBD to treat certain debilitating medical conditions (listed near the end of this article).
How does CBD work?
We all have an endocannabinoid system, which means our bodies are programmed for cannabis (cue a Bob Marley tune). Receptors run throughout your body, ready to bind to cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
Because this system is far-reaching, CBD works its magic from head to toe. Studies show the compound can provide “neuroprotective” qualities, including fighting Alzheimer’s, trauma, seizures and nerve inflammation. A 2015 study credited CBD with slowing the progression of certain cancers.
CBD can also be taken for pain, or, when used with opioids, help reduce the negative side effects of the highly addictive pain relievers. By itself, THC is a more effective painkiller than CBD, but Iowa law currently allows no more than 3 percent THC in any medicinal marijuana products