The Link Between CBD and Medical Cannabis

By Trevor Yahn-Grode, Data Analyst, New Frontier Data

In a surprisingly brief period of adoption, medical cannabis programs of varying degrees have been established in 48 states. Doctor-prescribed cannabis is becoming increasingly common, and at the same time, the line between medical marijuana and CBD is becoming increasingly blurred. Consumers interested in the medical benefits of cannabis without its psychoactive effects have long embraced CBD, but with increased social acceptance of cannabis, consumers are straying ever more into the high-THC realm. Among current cannabis consumers, 25% prefer products with some measure (between 2:1 and 5:1 ratios) more CBD than THC, and a small minority of them (6%) prefer much more (between 10:1 and 40:1 ratios) of CBD than THC.

One reason that consumers are demanding THC/CBD ratioed products, as opposed to isolate products of either, is the theoretical “entourage effect” mechanism. The proposition of the entourage effect is that combinations of THC and CBD together are more effective than isolates alone as the cannabinoids and terpenes present in cannabis interact cooperatively as well as with the brain’s endocannabinoid system. The entourage effect is still being investigated for its validity, but early research is promising; should the theory be proved to have merit, the implications to retailers will be significant. Demand for isolates could decline, while distillate/full-spectrum products become the industry standard. Meanwhile, as restrictions on the sale of CBD products through medical marijuana channels loosen, hemp producers will find expansive opportunities for CBD to find niches among medical patients, whether as an alternative to psychoactive cannabis or as well as a precursor to medical cannabis treatment and therapies.