How are CBD products worth buying

Intoxicatingly intoxicating: the hype about CBD products

"Right now, CBD is the chemical equivalent of Bitcoin in 2016," Jason DeLand, a New York advertising executive and board member of Dosist, a cannabis company, told theNew York Times. "It's hot everywhere and yet almost nobody understands it."

That was in 2018 - when hemp was in biscuits, dog treats and gummy bears, in creams and tinctures, in beverages. As I said: everywhere.

Cannabis mania: flown high, fallen low

The trigger for the hype was the legalization of cannabis in Canada and some US states in 2018. Companies such as Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis and Tilray were the shooting stars in the equity sky. The soaring continued in early 2019. Hemp became hip, CBD was also hyped and many entrepreneurs saw their chance.

There was a gold digger mood.

The cannabis market in the US was predicted to have a $ 23 billion business by 2025, and consumer sales of cannabidiol, or CBD for short, should also go through the roof - still (see graphic).

Anyone who had invested around 1000 Canadian dollars in the then relatively unknown penny stock of the hemp producer Canopy Growth in 2013 would have been 2.2 million dollars richer in 2019. The titles grew 290,000 percent at the top.

But the crash followed at the end of 2019: the market lost almost $ 35 billion in value. The shares of the Canadian producer Aurora Cannabis plummeted 60 percent. Not much is reminiscent of the previous years' price gains, when some stocks rose 400 percent in just a month.

The mood was subdued, to say the least.

The euphoria of cannabis fans was and is mainly overshadowed by licensing violations and ambiguities between states and countries. Most cannabis is still traded as an illegal drug - also because of the horrendous taxes. Many states add up to 45 percent to legal sales. So it's no wonder that the plant's potential remains limited.

COVID-19: Another damper or new opportunity?

But then the surprise: The corona crisis seemed to bring the cannabis industry back to new sales heights. In some US states, for example, cannabis shops were allowed to remain open despite the lockdown - as were supermarkets and bakeries.

"That shows how firmly cannabis is anchored in the middle of society," says industry analyst Stephen Murphy, interpreting the decision of some US states in an earlier DW interview to consider cannabis as a so-calledessential good - thus a necessary good - to be classified.

On some days in March, almost twice as much marijuana was sold in the United States than in previous months. More cannabis was also bought in Canada.

Hemp-ization: Even gummy bears are or were not safe from the CBD hype

Nevertheless, the corona crisis made investors much more cautious in every respect, and the cannabis industry was not spared. "The industry is still new, it needs a lot of money: for lobbying, machines, technology and personnel. We can see that it has become much more difficult for some companies to get money."

No smoking subculture

Arek Losiewicz also talks about uncertainties, contradictions and a dirty image. He is one of the three founders of The herbalist, a shop for hemp products and especially CBD products in Cologne. The shop has existed since 2018 and now has three branches in Cologne and Krefeld.

Arek Losiewicz is one of the founders of "The Herbalist"

"We recognized the potential in other European countries and didn't hesitate for long," says Losiewicz. "Even if we were aware of the risk that it was with The herbalistmaybe just a brief pleasure. "

He is alluding to these opaque or even unclear laws and guidelines, which can change constantly. Then there is the cliché of the smoking subculture.

"But so far we've been rewarded," said Losiewicz. The store is doing well.

There would still be a lot of uncertainty about cannabis and CBD, which would also be fueled by the media. But as the topic is becoming more present, new customers would also come to the store to find out more - a good opportunity to provide information.

From medical cannabis and intoxicating CBD

For example that there is The herbalist there are no intoxicants. Even medical cannabis is only sold to patients in Germany through pharmacies. The doctor has previously drawn up a prescription and uses the prescription to precisely determine the dosage and use.

"Many customers are skeptical at first because the 'bad' hemp is here," says Losiewicz. "But if you tell them that it has nothing to do with intoxication, they give it a try."

Even if the legal situation in Germany is a bit complicated: Cannabidiol is currently not subject to the Narcotics Act (BtMG) as a pure substance. But it gets a bit more spongy when it comes to the flowers.

The BtMG stipulates that cannabis as a plant and all of its components are prohibited. Excepted are certified industrial hemp varieties of the EU or cannabis, which contains a THC content of less than 0.2% "and the traffic with them serves exclusively commercial or scientific purposes, which exclude abuse for intoxication purposes".

"This 'and / or' is the crisp case," says Losiewicz. This is currently a matter of interpretation because both authorities and shop operators are not sure how this law should be interpreted and many are campaigning for a uniform regulation.

"But I am firmly convinced that we do not sell drugs," explains Losiewicz. Nonetheless, end customers should also keep themselves informed about the gray areas in order to prevent legal missteps. For example, CBD oil is currently viewed by the authorities as a "novel food" and is still being checked for safety.

I also want quality and transparency The herbalist to ensure. It says on the website: "Our company is located in Germany, our goods are shipped here. Our production facilities [sic] are located in Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Spain, where our hemp is grown according to German guidelines. [. ..] All available goods in our online shop have been independently tested in the laboratories by our manufacturers for the best possible quality. "

THC is not an option in Arek Losiewicz's shop. CBD is the new wonder drug that the founders have specialized in in the form of CBD oils, hemp flowers, creams and ointments. In contrast to THC, this does not have a psychoactive effect, but it is said to have some other effects.

Excursus: cannabis chemistry

To date, 113 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being two of them. The two cannabinoids could be cousins ​​in terms of their chemical structure, the molecules differ minimally.

Nonetheless, this makes a big difference in effectiveness: THC is psychoactive and intoxicating. For many users, this is precisely why they consume THC. Even if the possession, sale, acquisition and cultivation is illegal in many places.

THC makes you high, CBD doesn't

When you consume THC you get a feeling of euphoria and happiness, which is due to the blockage of the messenger substance GABA.

THC has also been shown to be effective in treating various diseases, which is why medical cannabis is often approved. These include neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Tourette's syndrome.

But what should not be forgotten: the side effects! Smoking weed can cause changes in blood pressure and heartbeat, dryness of the mouth and throat, dizziness, reddening of the conjunctiva, euphoria, anxiety, cravings, and fatigue.

And regular THC consumption can be addictive and impair cognitive abilities in the long term.

Calming, not intoxicating

CBD, on the other hand, in no way leads to intoxication, does not make you high or addictive. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies CBD as safe in a review.

CBD products are said to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and calming effects - some of which have been confirmed in animal experiments. Research into the effects of cannabidiol on humans is still in its infancy.

"The area of ​​application is huge," says Arek Losiewicz, "but we are not allowed to make any healing promises."

He could only refer to testimonials from customers, but there are plenty of them.

CBD would therefore be used particularly frequently against pain and cramps, against menstrual cramps or with sleep problems. However, there are also patients with osteoarthritis or arthritis for whom the drops "help well against the symptoms". And he would have received good feedback from customers with nervous diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's or epilepsy.

"But CBD can also have very different effects," explains Losiewicz. "While some people are hypersensitive and react to the smallest amounts, there are people who have a very high level of resistance, who need far larger doses, or for whom CBD may not help at all."

Protest for legal cannabis use: a young man smokes an oversized joint for medical reasons

Cannabis lucky bag

When asked what happens next, Losiewicz doesn't know the answer either. "That depends a lot on the progress of regulation and legalization," he thinks. Then the industry would have a lot of potential.

That applies to Germany as well as Europe or the USA. Right now, cannabis regulations around the world are like a patchwork quilt.

In Germany, for example, cannabis has been allowed to be used for medical purposes since 2017, in the Netherlands cannabis - which may surprise some - is not legal, but is tolerated, in Poland consumption is allowed, but possession is not, in Italy it is Growing at home for personal use has been allowed since December, in France it is better not to get caught, as smoking a joint can be punished with the maximum legal sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine.

CBD massage: the industry is creative

When DeLand told the NYT, "but almost no one understands it [CBD]," this statement is likely to still apply today - and apply equally to the entire cannabis industry.

After the boom in 2018, between regulatory and legalization chaos, and the subsequent crash, the prices of cannabis companies have recently climbed up again. There have been some mergers and deals in the industry. And the company Sweet earth has shaken up the market with new CBD products: with hand disinfectants and gel for muscle regeneration. There was also a new study that raises hope: Researchers are investigating whether cannabis or CBD can protect against COVID-19.

So there could be a comeback. CBD is still hip.