Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil

Is it a supplement? Is it a drug? Is it healthy for pilots?

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*Opinion-only/Not medical or legal advice, check with local laws regarding legality.*
*Aero Crew News, LLC does not endorse or promote the use of these products.*

The other day I walked into my natural-foods-type grocery store, and no kidding, somebody walked up to the juice bar and ordered a smoothie with CBD oil in it. This immediately caught my attention. Is it legal to sell CBD oil in grocery store? And if so, is it real CBD oil or just a novelty gimmick? I live in California and I realize this is a state that is on the leading edge of the marijuana movement, but I didn’t think you could just sell cannabis products right in a grocery store! 

That experience got me thinking. If someone, say a pilot, weren’t really educated on cannabis products but was just trying to be ‘healthy,’ then they too, might ask to have CBD oil added to their smoothie, just as they would any other dietary supplement. That made me question that even though I had consumed hemp seeds for years, which are very healthy for you, I had no idea if I could safely or legally try hemp CBD oil.

Why would a publication for pilots be concerned with CBD oil, otherwise known as cannabidiol oil? We all know pilots do not use FAA-unapproved or FDA-controlled drugs, such as marijuana or cannabis. The FDA makes discretionary allowances to dietary supplements, (which are entirely unregulated) so perhaps CBD oil is simply the latest supplement panacea fueled by anecdotal hype. Can we now buy CBD oil at our local vitamin store? Or wait, is that only in certain states? And, is there any real science to support the claims made by those who herald its value? This is how I used to feel about CBD until it showed up for sale right in my grocery store, basically parked on the shelf between vitamin C and the Omega-3 EFAs. 

As your pilot-fitness advocate, I knew it was time I finally became educated on CBD and hemp products. The FAA is way behind on CBD and hemp, as is the DEA and FDA. Read on and have no fear because I am about to sort this out for you – hemp vs. marijuana and CBD products.

At this point, we all have more questions than answers about CBD oil and all its panacea claims. But, you are probably certain that it is illegal for pilots to consume and that it will cause you to test positive on a drug test. I am certainly not here to advocate that you consume CBD (cannabidiol) in any of its forms – oils, lotions, capsules, sprays, tinctures, etc. I am here to raise awareness now that it is becoming readily available and popular in mainstream health culture. Many beneficial health claims have been made about CBD, and I’m not here to support those claims either. You must do your own research. But, let me help answer some common questions about hemp-sourced CBD, which is both non-toxic and non-psychoactive.

Hemp is a different plant than marijuana. Both hemp and marijuana are in the Cannabis-Sativa plant family. However, marijuana contains much higher levels of the psychoactive, intoxicating cannabinoid THC, (tetrahydrocannabinol) than hemp. In fact, hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana contains between 10-30%, depending on the variety. Hemp is a crop used commercially outside the U.S. that contains beneficial cannabidiol in its stalks and seeds making it a better source of CBD oil than marijuana, though marijuana also contains cannabidiol. Ironically, it is illegal to farm or grow hemp crops in the United States, though you cannot become intoxicated from it. It is not classified as a drug and it is very sustainable and has diverse commercial uses. Marijuana however, is now legal to grow in many states, including California and Colorado and has almost no commercial use other than medicinal, and is a controlled Schedule 1 drug by the DEA.

          1. Hemp CBD oil is legal for sale in all states while marijuana CBD oil is not. This is the main takeaway from this article. Remember this one thing: Hemp-sourced CBD oil contains only trace/negligible amounts of THC, (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) is non-toxic and is legally sold uncontrolled, while marijuana-sourced CBD oil does contain THC and can only be sold like a Schedule 1 drug or is in an FDA ‘New Unapproved Drug’ status. Ironically, Hemp-sourced CBD oil has to be imported into the United States since it is not permissible to grow hemp domestically. Companies can import hemp and extract the oil here.

     2. The FAA currently does not even address hemp or hemp products. Hemp, as a plant or a whole-food, is not considered a drug, however it is a controlled-substance once it enters the U.S. The FDA currently considers hemp seeds a food and seems to be presently looking the other way when it comes to hemp CBD oil. The FDA has sent out official warning letters to a few companies selling CBD oil, but they were all selling marijuana-sourced CBD oil, not hemp-sourced. Whether or not you choose to consume or use hemp products, the FAA currently has no policy on the topic. However, as is the case with any supplement, medicine or even food, common sense applies toward consuming it before flying.

Cannabis oil being droped into a bottle.

     3. The FAA tests for THC not cannabidiol. While there are trace amounts of THC in some hemp products, the amount is less than 0.3% and is considered negligible. However, the chance that hemp-sourced CBD oil may cause a positive THC result on a drug test, while very remote, is considered possible.

     4. It’s the Wild West out there. The riskiest part for any consumer is that CBD products are mostly unregulated, so there are many companies jumping into this new market, without the knowledge or means to make a quality product. Some CBD oil products may have very little cannabidiol in them, while others may have higher than expected THC. The curiosity about CBD is on the rise, because marijuana is becoming legal in some states, and also because CBD oil seems to have suddenly become the buzz as the latest elixir for inflammation, pain, mood, and even for seizure and migraine prevention. As a consumer, you may want to wait until it is sold in a reputable store rather than trying to shop via the internet. There is much to be learned about CBD. Even the FDA is either looking the other way from companies who are selling hemp-sourced CBD oil, or in some cases, they are calling it a ‘new unapproved drug.’ This confusion is kind of silly when you realize that for decades, whole-food type markets have been selling hemp seeds as a natural food item, and they also contain some CBD.

     5. Cannabidiol is a cannabis-plant cannabinoid – it is not THC. I just want to close by clearing that up (laugh-out-loud)! CBD used to be discarded as useless or ignored by marijuana and hemp consumers alike. CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive. We all have natural cannabinoid-receptors in our brains and bodies. Recently, CBD has gained mainstream and popular culture attention for helping with pain-management, inflammation, mood improvement, and seizure and migraine prevention. However, to date, there are no clinical studies and little traditional science to support these anecdotal claims. 

In conclusion, it is my opinion that, for now, you should forgo adding the CBD oil elixir to your post-workout smoothie. Though the novelty might be appealing and there is nothing to prohibit you from trying it, the potential for an impact to your profession does exist, however remote, because quality control of the products is minimal or non-existent. ACN

SOURCEAero Crew News, June 2018
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Max Wettstein
Max Wettstein is an Airbus 320 Captain at JetBlue Airways based in Long Beach, CA and has been a pilot for JetBlue for 14 years. Prior to JetBlue, Max was a pilot in the US Navy, for 10 years, flying E-2C Hawkeyes and King Airs. Max is also a fitness professional, appearing on the cover of Men’s Health and other fitness magazines over 20 times, is a published fitness author, consultant and Personal Trainer. Max currently runs a holistic health & travel fitness blog. Max was the initial fitness & health contributor for the pilot cadre at JetBlue for 5 years before corporate took over. As a longtime advocate of holistic health and longevity, Max has made a commitment to researching every occupational health hazards we pilots and aircrew face while flying the line, from long term sitting to jet lag, to radiation exposure. Max also specializes in designing quick, high-value, body weight-only workouts, that can be performed anywhere while on the road, even in your hotel room or the hotel stairwell. Max has the unique background of both airline travel life along with cutting edge fitness, and has learned how to make both work as synergistic careers and as his lifestyle. In his free time when Max isn’t flying the Airbus or on set of a fitness infomercial, Max is usually surfing with his family, skateboarding, or playing beach volleyball in Encinitas, CA.

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