CBD: An Outlaw’s Tale

Haukur Örn Hauksson
7 min readJan 7, 2020
Photo by Daniil Vnoutchkov on Unsplash

Chapter 1: The Fastest Gun in the West

Let’s get something out of the way first. My father has epilepsy, and when a friend suggested he try CBD, dad immediately rejected it. “I don’t want to get high,” my dad said, shaking his head mournfully. He doesn’t even drink alcohol, let alone do the marijuana, the dope. “It’s not for me.”

Spoiler alert: My dad was wrong. Turns out he fell victim to a wide-spread and prevalent misconception. The misconception is this: That all CBD is derived from marijuana, A.K.A. cannabis, weed, the ganja, the chronic.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it’s an open and shut case. He hangs at noon. One of CBD’s known aliases is cannabidiol. Cannabidiol, cannabis, they even sound the same. Therefore, we do declare CBD is dubious, and users might contract the dreaded reefer madness.

The fact is an overwhelming majority of the CBD sold commercially in America is derived from hemp. Boring, non-psychoactive hemp. You can smoke or ingest a wheelbarrow of it and still operate a vehicle or do a crossword puzzle. Hemp is also used to make rope, and clothes, and paper, and biofuel. Cannabis is kind of like that shady plant cousin hemp used to hang out with way back in high school. And the bad rep stuck.

Nobody derives CBD from cannabis plants, because it’s considerably more practical to use hemp, especially given the current disjointed legal landscape. And even if you were to get your hands on some cannabis-derived CBD, this whole discussion is a moot point: All properly processed CBD is inherently non-psychoactive. It does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.

CBD does not get you high. That’s chemistry. That’s a scientific fact.

Nevertheless, CBD has not been recognized, or declared safe by the FDA. Federal U.S law still prohibits CBD from being sold as a food, dietary supplement, or drink.

CBD derived from cannabis is technically a Schedule 1 drug in America right now, along with heroin, cannabis, LSD, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (also known as ecstasy,) Methaqualone, and Peyote.

CBD may be armed, and extremely dangerous.

Chapter 2: A Fistful of Dollars

Ol’ cannabidiol’s outlaw status is particularly interesting given the giant wave of CBD washing over America at the moment. Cowboy boots, slow steps coming closer, spurs clinking, there’s a new sheriff in town. Coast to coast, everyone is taking CBD, everyone is talking about it. You can buy it online and have it delivered to your door. Marketing and media presents this mysterious, miraculous substance to us in varying extremes. The Holy Grail, a placebo. The cure for cancer, a gold rush. Please consult your doctor before taking CBD, but also, you can get it in gummies now, or a smoothie. 1.8 billion dollars projected in sales nationwide by 2022.

CBD is a product. And it’s a profitable industry.

That’s the thing about double-edged swords. The meteoric rise of CBD seems impossible without the snowballing legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, which again was jumpstarted by the initial 700 million-dollar profit the state of Colorado made in their first year of a legal cannabis market back in 2014.

Those pies are large, and everyone wants their piece.

CBD piggybacking cannabis into stardom like that, an unfortunate brand association was formed. Money moves faster than cultural shifts. Cannabis has been illegal in America for a long time. People are still getting arrested for possession. There are men and women currently serving time for having a joint in their pocket. There are men and women in congress who believe the ganja will make you lazy, or crazy, or both. That it’s a gateway drug.

This negative association between CBD and cannabis is based on ignorance, and it’s a problem. If cannabis is a bottle of vodka, CBD is non-alcoholic beer. This is not about getting high. It isn’t even about the money either. This is about medicine.

Chapter 3: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

CBD may not get you intoxicated, but it does interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system in some very interesting ways. In the simplest of terms, the human body (and animal as well), has a series of receptors in strategic locations. When the right cannabinoid comes along, such as CBD, those receptors become activated. It’s like that game toddlers play, fitting shapes in the right hole.

Another way of looking at it is that your body comes with a built-in, very complicated and intricate system devoted solely to processing cannabinoids. The hardware is already there. Plug and play. Like a person standing at the door with their arms out, waiting for that pizza delivery.

Studies have indicated CBD can help with anxiety, depression, inflammation, insomnia, seizures, and, remarkably, even cancer.

It’s important to note no one is preaching to you from a soapbox here. Maybe most of those claims are a load of BS. And until more scientific studies get funded and people get invested in the data, it’s difficult to attain any conclusive results. No doctor ever suggested my dad should try CBD. It was a word of mouth thing. A leap of faith.

Keep this in mind the next time a doctor says she can’t recommend you take CBD because of a “Lack of medical facts.”

It’s hard to properly research things that are not legal.

I do know this: My dad has tried a number of epilepsy medications through the years. Nothing comes close to working as well as CBD. From multiple seizures in a day, to zero. It changed his life. A drop of oil under the tongue every morning, vastly outperforming large doses of traditional anti-seizure drugs. It’s kind of ridiculous.

A friend’s mother-in-law uses it for her arthritis, a veteran uses it for PTSD. My wife’s quality of sleep improved with CBD, my dog’s anxiety lessened considerably (he’s a rescue, he’s seen some sh*t).

This is all very unscientific, and a very small sample size, but the results match the information available online, from multiple reputable sources. “We need more research,” Harvard Medical School says, “but CBD may prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.”

The following is the FDA’s official take, from the FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD): “FDA recognizes the potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds may offer and acknowledges the significant interest in these possibilities. However, FDA is aware that some companies are marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and that may put the health and safety of consumers at risk.”

Yes, that’s the FDA, lumping CBD in there with cannabis, like they’re both wearing eyeliner, smoking cigarettes and sniffing glue behind the toolshed.

Even the FDA “Recognizes potential opportunities” though. It should, since it approved a cannabis-derived CBD drug called Epidiolex in June 2018. Epidiolex is approved to treat Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome, two very rare forms of epilepsy found in young children. Coming in at a rather sizeable $32,500 a year, Epidiolex happens to treat the two forms of epilepsy that other available anti-seizure medication do not work against.

Sometimes there’s a hole in the market.

The official FDA announcement regarding Epidiolex highlights that “CBD is a chemical component of the cannabis sativa plant, more commonly known as marijuana. However, CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).””

The fact that the FDA put the word high in quotation marks in the excerpt above really sums up the problem here.

As does the fact that Epidiolex, which is 98% CBD, is a schedule 5 drug, meaning there’s a low percentage of abuse, and it is approved for medical use. Medical insurance will cover most of those 32,500 dollars.

As you may recall, CBD remains a schedule 1 substance, along with heroin. Health insurance does not cover CBD.

Chapter 4: High Noon

If the opioid crisis taught us anything, it is that it’s vital to explore and regulate the relationship between politics, money, and medicine/drugs. This starts with education. Spreading information. We live in a market-driven society, for better or worse, and we like to sell other people things. But that doesn’t mean your doctor should make recommendations based on bonuses from pharmaceutical companies. It doesn’t mean medicine has to be synthesized in a factory and put in a plastic container. Real medicine doesn’t have to come in a little white pill.

At the very least, we should be devoting resources to investigate those remarkable reports about zero seizures and shrinking tumors. That’s just good business.

Chapter 5: Blazing Saddles

Considering all this, it seems curious that things are far shorter along over in Europe. Probably because they haven’t had their cannabis legalization revolution yet. No piggybacking. CBD is downright illegal in Slovakia. Countries like Spain and Germany have only recently altered their laws to make hemp derived CBD legal, and infrastructure and education are limited. Scandinavian utopias like Sweden and Denmark require a prescription from a doctor to access a product you can buy at the gas station in the U.S.

We want to sell people alcohol and cigarettes and synthetic painkillers but not an organic oil derived from hemp. This is like instructing law enforcement officers to halt the spread of turmeric. And banning turmeric would be pretty dumb, wouldn’t it?

I personally know of cases in Scandinavia where bottles of CBD were confiscated in the mail. People returning to Europe from the States with a stash of hemp oil in their suitcase reduced to drug mule-ing for their loved ones. My mother, for example. An outlaw by default.

As terribly corny as it sounds, we should all come together on this and speak up. We’re wasting time. Because a large number of people all over the world might feel considerably better if CBD was incorporated into their health regimen. My dad does. But then again, a doctor should have recommended CBD to him years ago.

Ignorance is not bliss. It’s 2020, and we should be giving people the best medicine they can possibly get.

And then we can all tip our hats. The horses neigh. Dramatic music, vivid colors as we ride into the sunset.



Haukur Örn Hauksson

Writer/basketball lover/semi-professional dog sitter. Born on a savage, volcanic island in the North, currently residing in the Big Apple.