The Wild New World of CBD Is Here

For the past several years, the wellness world has been in a tizzy. The culprit? A non-psychoactive cannabis plant compound known simply as CBD, seemingly appearing in every corner store overnight. The only thing more astounding than the volume of CBD products out there today is the range of items available. It feels like there’s a CBD-infused version of just about everything. 

Featuring items both logical and laughable, the array of CBD products you can now find on shelves runs the gamut from topicals and sweets to vape pens and candles. With the product crush officially on, having a firm understanding of exactly what CBD is can be the difference between finding reliable, quality products and spending a fortune on modern-day snake oil.  

In many ways, the main issue with CBD boils down to a lack of regulation. While Governor Newsom recently signed several laws aimed at providing more oversight of CBD products, the fact of the matter is that there are really two versions of CBD products: the kind you’ll find at a licensed dispensary or delivery service and the type you can grab in the impulse aisle at most grocery stores.

Sure, it’s not impossible that the CBD products made available outside of dispensaries are valid and worthwhile. Nonetheless, it’s frightening to realize that there are actually very few standards in place with regard to what it takes to slap the letters “CBD” on a package and legally turn a profit. By contrast, the CBD products you’ll find at a dispensary are thoroughly tested, and, of course, they are also subject to the same high tax rates as other cannabis products. This price difference can turn customers off from going for the dispensary-sold stuff.

As the founder and CEO of the San Rafael–based cannabis edibles brand OARA, Charlotte Troy believes her industry missed the boat by allowing CBD to hit the market without first making sure people understood the difference in quality.

“We really screwed up by not educating consumers properly,” Troy says. “Most consumers have no idea that there’s a difference between the CBD that they’re buying at a gas station or CVS and the CBD that they’re getting from a licensed cannabis dispensary.” Beyond testing to ensure no harmful substances are detected, the benefit of buying regulated CBD comes from knowing precisely how much of the compound you’ll actually be consuming. 

Though it’s true that CBD itself does not provide users with the psychoactive properties we commonly associate with the experience of being “high” — that’s an honor reserved exclusively for another mainstay cannabinoid, THC — it is recognized as a valuable calming agent, among other benefits. But what we’re starting to learn is that CBD may only be able to reach its true potential when it’s allowed to work in tandem with THC. 

For some, the idea of ingesting even one iota of THC is frightening, thus the appeal of CBD as a “trip-free” alternative. In isolation, however, CBD is limited in what it can achieve. When consumed as part of what’s known as a