End Prohibition for the Whole-Plant Cannabis, Not Only CBD

The following article first appeared on TheLeafonline.com

A tidal wave of medical cannabis legalization has swept the nation recently; fourteen states this year alone. Unfortunately, only three of these states legalized whole-plant cannabis.  The other eleven passed some version of a cannabidiol-only legalization bill, most called “Charlotte’s Web” laws. If you include these CBD-only states, for the first time, a solid majority of US states (34/50) have legalized some form of medical cannabis.

This finally reflects recent polls which show nearly 90% support for legalization nationally. The New York Times, not one to be left out, has decided that now is the time to jump on the legalization bandwagon and has called for the federal government to “repeal prohibition, again.” This public statement by the New York Times editorial board is a major step forward in the medical cannabis movement gaining political legitimacy, like the recent support from Dr. Gupta and CNN.

The New York Times editorial staff isn’t the only group calling for an end to prohibition. A bipartisan group of House Representatives just introduced the Charlotte’s Web Hemp Act of 2014, a federal version of the statewide CBD-only bills we’ve seen across the country.

Unfortunately, every state that legalizes a CBD-only bill is another state demonizing THC-rich cannabis. This is problematic because THC has numerous medicinal benefits, including anti-cancer properties. While CBD is a major medicinal component of cannabis, it is not the only one. It is foolhardy to ignore the therapeutic potential of THC and the power of the entourage effect. These CBD-only bills are half-measures, a step in the right direction at best and blatant misdirection at worst, they also codify discrimination against THC-rich medicine, and those who use it, into law. We should strive to be a nation of science, and the science supports a whole-plant legalization that allows patients to use whatever component of the cannabis plant they see fit.

Presently, we are seeing well-intentioned but often misinformed politicians being duped by the likes of Stanley Brothers, Kannaway and others who represent ‘corporate cannabis.’ These profiteers have a vested marketing interest in convincing the public that CBD is all they need and that CBD comes from hemp, not cannabis. By doing this, their products seem less threatening to new users since they don’t get you ‘high’ but still possesses medicinal properties. As opposed to THC which, for many people who don’t know the facts, only gets you ‘high’ and has no medicinal value.

What these people fail to realize is the medicine that doctors prescribe often gets you extremely high, such asDesoxynCocaine, and OxyContin. This strategy of demonizing THC while talking up Charlotte’s Web like it’s somemagic bullet, is a way to corner the market on CBD-rich cannabis, and the Charlotte’s Web Act is the perfect tool to accomplish that goal.

The Stanley’s were flanking politicians during the announcement, and the Realm of Caring website had this to say about it: “The bill proposes to exclude industrial hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) from the definition of marijuana.” This is fascinating because the law itself doesn’t contain the words industrial hemp anywhere. Instead it talks about something called “therapeutic hemp” which seems to be the label the Stanley brothers lobbied for so Charlotte’s Web can be called hemp.

The Realm of Caring press release contains an interesting fact that seems to run contrary to other information on their website regarding the genetics on Charlotte’s Web. According to their website Charlotte’s Web is hemp, it seems their logic for this rests on the legal distinction that cannabis plants with under 0.3% THC are technically considered hemp. Yet in the press release they admit that Charlotte’s Web was the product of “cross breeding hemp varieties and landrace strains of cannabis, [and this] new strain of hemp … is marketed under the Charlotte’s Web™ brand.” This is the first open admission I have read anywhere that the strain is in fact cannabis. When I recently asked the Realm of Caring’s California representative the same question, what are the genetics, he was unable or unwilling to answer. It is nice that the Stanley’s have came forward to publicly clarify that it is a cannabis strain as well as hemp. Despite this fact, they focus only on the hemp side of the parentage, presumably for marketing purposes.

Public view should shift to view it all as one plant again, the cannabis plant, with hemp, marijuana and cannabis all being different names for it. The separation of hemp from cannabis/marijuana is one made of convenience without any solid basis in science. Put another way: hemp is in the eye of the beholder. There are only three species of plant,cannabis sativacannabis indica and cannabis ruderalis, but it is bred for different purposes. Increasingly we are seeing hybrids of traditionally hemp strains with cannabis strains to create new varieties such as Charlotte’s Web, ACDC and numerous others. This makes the newly created legal class of ‘therapeutic hemp’ all the more pointless, since the outmoded separation between hemp and cannabis is melting away into homogeneity due to cross-breeding.

If there is to be any re-evaluating the views on hemp it should be to view all cannabis as one plant rather than creating waste-basket terms like therapeutic hemp which obfuscate the public while charlatan’s profit off the confusion they sowed. The worry about the Charlotte’s Web Act of 2014 is that there is only so much political will for legalization at the federal level. We don’t want Congress to pass a CBD-only bill, clap each other on the back, and pretend their work is done. CBD is only a small part of cannabis, which has over 80 cannabinoids and hundreds of active chemicals at play, all of which matter for its therapeutic potential.

Until we have whole-plant legalization at the federal level, we do not have legalization.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.