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Dr. Ethan Russo: ‘CBD Is Amazingly Therapeutic’

Dr. Ethan Russo: «CBD is an incredibly versatile and safe drug. It’s not a miracle, but it is amazingly therapeutic for a wide variety of conditions.»

An expert in neurology and psychopharmacology who specializes in cannabinoid research, we asked Dr. Ethan Russo to answer the following questions about CBD and THC.

What are the main therapeutic effects of CBD?

CBD has somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 mechanisms of action. Fortunately, all of these seem to be beneficial. The main ones are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, anticonvulsant, antibiotic and anti-cancer.

What are the differences between CBD and THC?

In low doses, THC is analgesic, a muscle relaxant, anti-emetic, promotes sleep and is mood elevating. In high doses, it’s intoxicating and produces anxiety, rapid heart rate and even paranoia and orthostatic hypotension. On the other hand, in low-to-moderate doses, CBD is stimulating and anti-inflammatory and reduces anxiety and psychotic symptoms. It lacks THC’s side effects. CBD is an incredibly versatile and safe drug. It’s not a miracle, but it is amazingly therapeutic for a wide variety of conditions.

Is THC bad and CBD good, as some would have us believe?

Hardly. THC is a unique therapeutic agent that does not deserve the hysterical response that it evokes in politicians.

What are the differences between hemp-derived CBD and cannabis-derived CBD?

Hemp and cannabis are the same species. I believe that CBD extractions should derive from flowers of plants bred for CBD content, not from hemp refuse.

The World Health Organization is performing a critical review of CBD. Do you think WHO will recommend descheduling in its final report?

They should. CBD is nonintoxicating, produces no reinforcement, no craving and no withdrawal. In no manner does it qualify as a scheduled drug. It’s merely a case of guilt by association.

Do you expect the DEA to change CBD scheduling like it did recently with the FDA-approved Epidiolex?

I predict that CBD will remain in Schedule I as a forbidden substance unless Congress acts. The DEA may clamp down on unapproved sources of CBD unless public opinion sways Congress to intervene.

Some advocates want to see cannabis removed entirely from the schedule of controlled substances and treated more like willow bark and other herbs with traditional healing properties. Do you think that’s a pipe dream or a reasonable goal?

My opinion is that the government will do what it wants irrespective of what science says.

Where do you think cannabis medicine—CBD as well as non-CBD—will be in another 10 years?

That totally depends on whether rational policies allow proper development of cannabis-based medicines.

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This article appears in Issue 34. Subscribe to the magazine here.