4 essential readings on the uses, effects and potential of cannabis

As states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, and federal law now permits the sale of hemp-derived products, cannabis and its derivatives are receiving more attention and study. The Conversation has compiled excerpts from articles by academics who have followed recent developments in marijuana.

1. Studies can back up claims about CBD

The surge in sales of products containing CBD marijuana extract followed the legalization of CBD by Congress in 2018.

CBD sellers and users swear by its ability to relieve pain and anxiety. Although science isn’t sure about that yet, there’s reason to be encouraged, writes Hillary Marusak, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Wayne State University.

“Neuroimaging studies in humans show that CBD can reduce activity in the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex, brain regions associated with stress and anxiety,” she writes.

Read more: CBD sales are skyrocketing, but evidence is still thin that the cannabis derivative makes a difference for anxiety or pain

2. Don’t believe the hype

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug containing CBD to treat seizures from two rare forms of epilepsy. After that, health claims around CBD increased.

C. Michael White, professor of pharmacy at the University of Connecticut, begins by demystifying one of them. “There are no credible animal or human studies showing that CBD has an effect on SARS-CoV-2 or on the course of COVID-19 infection,” he writes.

Further study of marijuana extracts like CBD and delta-8 THC could determine if they relieve pain and anxiety, as claimed by users and sellers.
Casarsa Guru/E+ via Getty Images

“CBD may help with joint or skin inflammation, sleep disturbances, chronic anxiety, psychosis, and behavioral issues associated with fragile X syndrome,” White adds, noting that some of these conditions already have proven treatments, including other herbal extracts.

But while CBD “may benefit some people,” White suggests caution until scientists learn more about side effects, drug interactions and potential contamination of CBD products.

Read more: No, CBD is not a miracle molecule that can cure coronavirus, just like it won’t cure many other diseases according to its proponents

3. Marijuana + alcohol = problem

Among college students, marijuana use is catching up with alcohol, according to Texas State University psychology professor Ty Schepis. As heavy drinking falls out of favor, “marijuana use is on the rise,” Schepis writes.

“The number of young adults using both alcohol and marijuana is also increasing, raising concerns about a future increase in substance abuse problems,” he adds. “Young adults in this group also had much higher rates of other illicit drug use, such as cocaine, and prescription drug abuse involving drugs such as opioids or benzodiazepines.”

Read more: College-aged kids and teens are drinking less alcohol — marijuana is another story

4. Legal THC is not well understood

Daniel Kruger and Jessica Kruger, assistant professors at the University of Michigan and the University at Buffalo, respectively, surveyed 500 users of delta-8, a less psychoactive and technically legal type of THC.

The researchers suggest that delta-8 is ripe for further study of its possible benefits, which the survey finds come without the cognitive side effects of marijuana like paranoia and altered perception of time. “Many participants commented that they could use delta-8 THC while still being productive,” the researchers wrote.

They added that survey participants who used delta-8 for health problems said they had stopped using pharmaceutical drugs to treat certain mental and physical symptoms. “They considered delta-8 THC to be better than pharmaceutical drugs in terms of adverse side effects, addiction, withdrawal symptoms, efficacy, safety, availability, and cost.”

Read more: Can delta-8 THC provide some of the benefits of pot – with less paranoia and anxiety?

Editor’s note: This story is a summary of articles from The Conversation archives.