CBD and Its Impact on the Evolving Global Regulatory Framework

While the advantageous properties of cannabidiol, known popularly as CBD, have come to light fairly recently, the product itself has been in existence for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest known use of CBD oil is documented to be its usage by Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung, circa 2737 BC. The emperor used the product to prepare a cannabis-infused tea, which he used to treat a variety of ailments ranging from gout to malaria, to rheumatism to memory enhancement.

Saloni Walimbe, Global Market Insights

Cannabidiol or CBD is one of the 100 chemical compounds found in the marijuana or cannabis plant. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant and is responsible for the ‘high’ sensation often associated with marijuana, CBD is not psychoactive, which means it has no mind-altering effects on the body. It also possesses strong analgesic and antibiotic characteristics as well as therapeutic properties that can ease the symptoms of nausea, anxiety, chronic pain, neurological maladies, seizures and many other ailments, which is why the product is touted as a beneficial medical aid.

Despite its merits however, the compound does face a fair share of social stigma, mainly due to its association with marijuana plant, which is often regarded as a gateway drug.

Efforts to distinguish the effects of this compound were undertaken in earnest in the 1940s by an Illinois University team who were able to isolate CBD for the first time. This experiment revealed that the CBD compounds, although extracted from the cannabis plant, did not possess the psychoactive qualities that are commonly linked to the plant.

These efforts were unfortunately thwarted during President Ronald Reagan’s tenure, through his ‘War on Drugs’ campaign, which impacted the development of the cannabidiol (CBD) industry considerably. Although various studies, including a 1980s experiment by Dr. Mechoulam and a team of international researchers, were able to establish the application and efficacy of CBD as a specific treatment for patients of epilepsy, the strong public aversion to cannabis at the time resulted in inadequate media coverage of the achievement, which put efforts to develop CBD as an epilepsy treatment on the back burner.

In subsequent years, however, many instances came to light, of epilepsy patients benefiting from the use of CBD, the most notable being the story of Charlotte Figi, a young girl born with Dravet Syndrome, a chronic form of epilepsy which caused her to suffer nearly 300 attacks per week. Figi was administered a specially prepared cannabidiol oil, known as Charlotte’s Web, as a last resort by her parents. This attempt proved successful, with the CBD oil helping to drastically reduce the frequency of Charlotte’s episodes to just 2 to 3 times a month.

The story of Charlotte Figi, as well as reports from other patients fueled a renewed interest in the benefits of CBD products and led to enhanced levels of awareness and support even from factions of the public who were previously wary of this cannabis-based compound.

Several prolific advancements are being observed in the cannabidiol (CBD) market in the present scenario, with its therapeutic qualities facilitating heightened interest in the product from the medical domain.

CBD and its application potential in antiseizure medication to ease epilepsy symptoms

Cannabidiol and medical cannabis have several interesting aspects, the most prominent being their widespread potential in medical applications. These applications may be segmented broadly into three spheres – complex motor disorder treatment, pain management and mental healthcare.

CBD is touted as an ideal treatment solution for a variety of ailments, however, scientific evidence suggests that its strongest potential lies in the management of some of the most severe epilepsy syndromes in children, such as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) and Dravet Syndrome. These conditions are typically resistant to antiseizure medications. Many studies have tested cannabidiol for epilepsy, with results showing a significant reduction in the frequency of seizures, in some cases even stopping the episodes altogether.

In fact, in June 2018, the US FDA granted approval for prescription usage of a cannabidiol for epilepsy treatment, dubbed Epidiolex. This medication is a purified form of CBD oil and has proved efficient in treating two forms of epilepsy.

Cannabidiol is also a common medication to treat anxiety as well as for patients who suffer from insomnia. Studies suggest that CBD could help patients relax better and enhance their sleeping patterns.

CBD is also considered a suitable option for management of various types of chronic pain. A European Journal of Pain study involving an animal model, revealed that CBD, when applied on the skin, could lead to a significant reduction in inflammation and lower pain stemming from arthritis. Another report also studied the mechanism which allows CBD to inhibit neuropathic and inflammatory pain, which are considered to be two of the most challenging types of chronic pain to treat.

Changing regulatory framework worldwide and the subsequent impact on cannabidiol acceptability

While the legislative landscape regarding cannabidiol regulation has been murky for a while, in recent years there has been a considerable shift at the highest levels, which is likely to facilitate easier access to CBD in the years ahead. In fact, in 2018, the WHO’s ECDD (Expert Committee on Drug Dependence), made a recommendation for cannabis to be shifted from Schedule IV to Schedule I, which will permit its use as for medical applications under less severe protocols.

Cannabidiol regulations are witnessing a change on a global scale, with many nations acknowledging and accepting the benefits offered by the product. For instance, Slovakia has recently eased its regulations on the use of CBD, with the government deleting it from its list of psychotropic ingredients, which essentially classes cannabidiol as a non-regulated substance in the region.

Likewise, Australia has also observed a change in legislation in 2017, following which the classification of cannabidiol was changed from a Schedule 9 drug to a Schedule 4 drug, making the product legally available in the nation.

The history of cannabidiol through human history has been long and illustrious, from medicinal to industrial applications, to its prohibition and social eschewal, to its journey back to public awareness and acceptance. The recent years are touted to have been an exciting time for the cannabidiol (CBD) market.

CBD is also a field of immense interest to many researchers, retailers and medical professionals, as the pursuit for holistic treatments derived from natural ingredients and its commercialization becomes more and more prominent. The future prospects of CBD are bright, with prominent brand retailers such as Boots and Holland & Barrett expressing an interest in stocking a more vast range of CBD products on their shelves.

Global Market Insights Inc. has a market report dedicated to global cannabidiol (CBD), available at: https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/cannabidiol-cbd-market

Saloni Walimbe is Research Content Developer at Global Market Insights