2017 was an exciting year for supporters of hemp.
The stigma surrounding this plant has continued to decrease as more and more people discover hemp’s almost limitless uses. While hemp isn’t completely legal in the U.S. (yet), there’s growing bipartisan support in Congress, and at every level of our government, in support of full legalization.
And since we’re big fans of CBD oil, a healing supplement made from hemp, we were thrilled that more people learned about CBD and its many benefits. Global attitudes are changing too, with some of the most influential authorities on international drug policy also changing their tune about CBD in 2017.
It’s not all good news, of course: cannabis still has some powerful enemies, but overall 2017 gave us hope for hemp. Below, we’ll look at the highs and lows of hemp over the past 365 days.
GROWING SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE SUPPORTS CBD’S BENEFITS
One of the most remarkable stories of 2017 was a study published in August by HelloMD and Brightfield Group which revealed that 42 percent of CBD users give up pharmaceutical drugs. Though it’s not a fully scientific, “double blind” style study (the 2,400 people who responded were drawn exclusively from the user base of HelloMD, a pro-cannabis website), it shows that many people are discovering that CBD helps them feel healthier.
That’s probably no surprise given the ever-growing mountain of scientific evidence supporting the use of CBD. An important study released in May by the New England Journal of Medicine gave new support to the idea that CBD can help kids with epilepsy:
The average number of seizures per month decreased from 12.4 to 5.9 in subjects receiving CBD, versus a reduction of just .8 in the control group who took the placebo. Additionally, about 43 percent of the subjects receiving CBD saw their seizures decrease by at least half. 5 percent actually became completely seizure free with CBD, compared with 0 of the controls.
Much more research into CBD oil’s benefits is needed, but over the past year we’ve looked at preliminary evidence that suggests it can help with chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, inflammation and joint pains (especially topical CBD), schizophrenia, and depression.
INTERNATIONAL AUTHORITIES RETHINK GLOBAL DRUG POLICY ON CBD
In April, the World Anti-Doping Authority ruled that athletes will be allowed to use CBD oil starting in 2018. Though they made the policy change in 2017, many sportswriters point to the choice by MMA fighter Nate Diaz to vape CBD oil after a bout in 2016 as a key influence in the change. UFC fighters will also face different rules when it comes to drug testing thanks to his act of defiance, and we expect more people — not just athletes — will be open to trying CBD as a result.
Of even greater importance for the future of international drug policy, the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, a division of the World Health Organization, reported that CBD oil is safe and should remain completely legal. The ECDD, whose recommendations help determine which substances remain legal and illegal on worldwide, went even further by suggesting CBD oil deserves further scientific research because of its incredible potential:
“There is also evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions,” noted the ECCD. … The “diverse” range of conditions for which CBD has been considered by scientists as a possible treatment is “consistent with its neuroprotective, antiepileptic, hypoxia-ischemia [controlling the flow of oxygen], anxiolytic, antipsychotic, analgesic [pain relieving], anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic and anti-tumor properties.”
Although the WHO still considers psychoactive cannabis to be a dangerous drug without medical benefits, we were pleased to see that the committee will be reevaluating other cannabinoids, and the plant as a whole next year.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STILL FIGHT AGAINST CBD
The WHO’s support for legal CBD oil puts the global community at odds with some elements in the U.S. government that continue to fight against the legalization of hemp and cannabis. In late 2016, in a move that many hemp experts consider absurd, the DEA declared that CBD oil illegal. Industry advocates insist that various Congressional bills and legal precedents make CBD legal to extract from hemp and sell, and they’re ready to go to court to keep it available if necessary.
In general, individual CBD consumers have not been affected by these legal challenges and even the DEA admits that individual CBD users should be safe from prosecution. However, there were a few unfortunate and costly crackdowns against CBD vendors.
Indiana State Excise Police seized CBD products from dozens of stores in the state over the summer. A detailed investigation by the Indianapolis Star revealed that a law meant to legalize CBD for people with epilepsy had provided police with an excuse to crack down on CBD vendors, even though the law (unlike a similar one that just went into effect in Texas) doesn’t provide patients with a clear way to legally buy CBD.
Although the Indiana Attorney General later insisted that CBD is illegal, other state officials (and their dogs) vowed to resist, with lawmakers promising to revisit the issue in an upcoming session of the Indiana General Assembly.
CANNABIS HAS INCREASING BIPARTISAN SUPPORT AMID US HEMP BOOM
More states began their own hemp programs in 2017, or expanded existing programs to great success. Vote Hemp reported that the U.S. grew 23,346 acres of hemp in 2017, a significant increase from 2016’s total of just 9,770 acres. This growth is just the beginning, with Wisconsin among the latest to jump on the hemp legalization bandwagon and states like Pennsylvania promising to significantly increase the number of acres allowed in 2018.
Hemp returned to the U.S. in a big way in 2014 after decades of prohibition, with the passage of that year’s Farm Bill, which re-legalized the growth and sales of hemp for research purposes. With hemp appearing on more and more farms of all sizes since then, this once-controversial plant has increasing support in Congress, even among some of the most conservative lawmakers. While the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, a bill to completely legalize hemp in the U.S., stalled in 2017, the fact that it had enthusiastic sponsorship by both Republicans and Democrats suggests it’s only a matter of time. John Ryan of Ananda Hemp agreed with us when we asked him about the bill in August:
“Whether this bill gets passed or not this is a growing movement, this is an unstoppable movement. We will get this stuff done whether it’s this … bill or not. This plant will be legalized.”
Attitudes are changing in individuals too. With every person who tries CBD or another hemp product, and with each state that legalizes recreational or medicinal marijuana, more people realize that what was once called a “demon weed” is actually a miraculous crop that can help humanity.
Despite some dark moments over the past year, it seems like they’re great things ahead for this plant. We hope you’ll join us in nurturing America’s love affair with hemp in 2018.
Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and a contributor for Ministry of Hemp. His writing has appeared at The Establishment, Firedoglake, MintPress News, the Texas Observer and Truthout.