Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent form of mental illness in the United States. Eighteen point one percent of Americans live with anxiety, and one in six college students have been treated for or diagnosed with anxiety. This means that business administration sophomore Jackie* was not alone when her anxiety hit an all time high during her freshman year at Cal Poly. The stress of new roommates and being away from home, on top of a history with anxiety, was too much and therapy was not working.
So when her mom suggested Jackie treat her anxiety with Cannabidiol (CBD), Jackie decided it was time to try something that was a little outside the box. Today, the CBD tincture that she uses has become not only her solution but an essential part of her daily routine.
“I just immediately felt a relief, which was really cool because there were other options, like to go on different meds, but I [didn’t] want to change the chemical imbalance in my brain. This was a solution that felt really natural to me and was just something that I could easily add into my life and notice a difference right away,” Jackie said.
CBD has easily become one of 2019’s biggest buzzwords. Not only is the market seeing lotions, energy drinks and pet food among the hundreds of products beginning to populate the budding market, but there are now CBD-infused coffee beans, bath bombs and more. You name the product— someone somewhere is considering how to incorporate CBD into it. According to Brightfield Group’s “Hemp-Derived CBD 2018 Market Overview & Analysis,” the CBD industry in the United States is expected to be a $22 billion market by 2020.
According to data from Google Trends, interest in the term “CBD” has increased by approximately 85 percent in the United States since January 2017, measured by a search index that shows peak interest in March of this year.
Yet, even with all this buzz, a whopping 54 percent of Americans do not actually know what CBD is. It has become too easy to get totally lost in the sea of terms. What is the difference between CBD and cannabis anyway? And what about THC? Which products get you high? The combination of a lack of education and a market saturated with terms has led to fear and misinformation. Professionals in the industry are actively pushing for informational campaigns and are using their resources to spread the word so that people can form educated opinions about CBD.
In 2018, CBD derived from hemp became federally legal with the passing of the Farm Bill. CBD was removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances, allowing farmers to legally grow industrial hemp as well as interstate commerce, but giving jurisdiction to individual states for regulation of sales and products within their state. Products will continue to be monitored by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure compliance with regulation.
Right now, CBD’s well known health benefits include relief from chronic pain, sleep issues, anxiety and depression all without dependency, side effects or withdrawals. It is quickly emerging with promise in other areas such as neuroprotection, diabetes and skin care. There are beliefs that its positive effects could also influence research and relief in the realms of cancer, PTSD, addiction, MS and more.
So who is using CBD? The simple answer is more and more people from every demographic every day are turning to CBD. While Jackie’s story may sound unique, it isn’t. CBD has become the answer for many people that have been searching for a cure for a long time.
“I had some preconceived notions,” Jackie said, “like, ‘Will I be judged for this?’ But, for the most part, once I started talking and opening up about it to people, they were all like ‘Oh I do the same’ or ‘I know someone that uses that, and it’s been really helpful for them.’”
A feminine marketplace
805 Beach Breaks is a dispensary in Grover Beach, Calif. In addition to cannabis, the storefront also carries CBD products. These products range from teas to edibles, creams to balms and everything in between. They are all packaged with labels describing their medicinal benefits, often designed for pain and anxiety relief.
Riley Travers is a budtender at the dispensary and is responsible for helping customers find the right product for their needs, whether it be CBD or cannabis. Last year, she knew she wanted to work at a storefront location and so she applied to work at the dispensary right after her 21st birthday in the fall. Travers now reflects on how this opportunity has allowed her to not only help the community, but has also been extremely rewarding personally.
“I am able to help people find the medicine they need that, in a lot of cases, can be life saving or life altering,” Travers said. “I’m not a licensed physician, but I can help change people’s lives for the better and that’s why I love this industry.”
The products populating the world of CBD have become endless, especially the ones aimed at female consumers. Companies like CBD For Life, whose rubs targeting muscle pain have been publicly supported by Whoopi Goldberg, have also started to build out beauty lines full of CBD products like shampoos, conditioners, eye serums and more. Kana Skin Care has developed CBD products to heal, hydrate and brighten skin with their lavender face masks and botanical essences. There are even products aimed to relieve women of period cramps or “menstrual and public discomfort,” like the ones made by Foria.
Jackie’s mom was already using CBD for her own chronic pain before suggesting it to her daughter. Women, driving the majority of America’s household spending, will be the ones suggesting CBD to their parents, children and spouses. Right now, research shows that the majority of CBD users leans slightly female. In fact, a study done in 2018 reports that women are 1.65 times more likely to turn to CBD for its medicinal benefits than men. So far, this is looking to be an extremely female-driven industry.
Forty percent of users are age 26-35 years old and 25 percent fall between 46-79 years old. While millenials are most often using CBD to supplement healthy lifestyle products, aid post-workout recovery and relieve anxiety and depression, the older generation is often using products in a more medicinal manner for chronic pain, neuroprotection, insomnia and more.
The issue of mislabeling
Founders of CBD companies will say that when they aren’t fighting miseducation, they’re battling the industry’s other main issue: mislabeling. This stems from vendors that are not transparent about what is in their products— labeling something as CBD when it actually contains THC or even other ingredients, or is just being sold in incorrect doses. In 2017, a study from a Penn Medicine researcher reported that almost 70 percent of CBD products sold online are mislabeled in some way. This creates a dire need for trusted vendors and safe marketplaces that consumers feel they can turn to.
Agricultural business freshman Juan Perez recognized an opportunity in this issue, which led him to found his company, Epione. Epione is an online store and database for CBD products that aims to connect consumers’ “real issues with real products.”
Epione is currently being designed as a one-stop shop meant for guiding first-time CBD users through a seamless shopping experience. The site will recommend products based on the consumer’s demographic and needs using reviews from past customers. Epione will attempt to connect consumers with products that have been enjoyed by a similar demographic (i.e. a 20 year-old girl versus a 50 year-old man). Before each product is put on sale on the Epione marketplace, it must be tested for healthy ingredients and correct dosages.
“We are seeing there is a lot of ineffectiveness and mislabeling in the CBD industry… and so that is a huge detriment for those looking for relief,” Perez said. “What we’re doing is simply getting products from other suppliers and verifying them ourselves with third-party testing. Then we are having people do personalized reviews. How did you feel using this product? Why did you use this product? How long did you feel the effects of this product? And putting [that information] all into a database so that we can make sure that every single customer [can find] the perfect product for them.”
In addition to being a community populated with CBD users and even CBD entrepreneurs, Cal Poly is now also home to Poly Hemp, a club designed to educate students about hemp and the professional industry evolving around it.
Although it might not be obvious yet, the rapidly growing CBD industry is beginning to make a large impact on this college campus and campuses around the country. The industry is a reality for this generation of college students, as we watch it begin to play out at the early stages of our careers. Chances are that CBD will play a role in almost all of our lives at some point, whether it be politically, professionally or personally, so it is time to get educated and make informed decisions.
*Due to confidentiality requested by the source, Jackie’s name is not published in this story.