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In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act made the possession of cannabis illegal, including hemp and marijuana. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act further criminalized the use and distribution of cannabis products. The U.S. has a long history with this plant, yet we’ve come a long way since 1937. In 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill which, thanks to heavy support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, allows the sale, growth, transfer and possession of hemp and hemp products.

Hemp is derived from the cannabis plant, just like that other plant product that is so popular in California and Colorado right now. The key difference, though, is the tetrahydrocannabinol level — the chemical compound in marijuana that turns someone from an upstanding citizen into a Tommy Chong-like persona. To be legally defined as hemp, the plant can’t contain more than 0.3% THC. In other words, hemp is a non-psychoactive substance.

The legalization of hemp sales is such a big deal because of the claimed health benefits. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound found in both hemp and marijuana, and is used to treat epilepsy, skin conditions, chemotherapy-related nausea and anorexia.

With the legalization of hemp, CBD products are flooding the market. Of course, that’s not always a good thing. Those claiming CBD products can cure cancer or reverse Alzheimer’s are likely little more than snake oil salesmen. In a study performed by the Mayo Clinic, out of 84 CBD products purchased off the internet, 18 products tested positive for THC. This is precisely why CBD should be carried by large, trustworthy retailers, allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate these products with relative ease.

In March, the retail chain Walgreens announced its plan to start selling products containing CBD in about 1,500 stores in Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vermont, South Carolina, Illinois and Indiana. Shortly after, CVS announced its plan to do the same. This is a great step forward in the destigmatization of CBD products, considering how only 49 years ago it was illegal to sell or even possess hemp.

Many health benefits of CBD aren’t entirely clear at this stage because much of the research has been performed on animals. Perhaps as the product becomes more widespread, then we can come to better know its benefits. But as with any medication, CBD is not devoid of unwanted side-effects. A study done to research CBD’s effects on seizures found that it sometimes caused diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue.

It’s unclear whether retailers will start carrying CBD products in Louisiana in the near future, but it most likely depends on how well these products sell in other states. Either way, we’ll be seeing a lot more of CBD’s effects on health and its medicinal uses for years to come, and overall this is a positive for the world of medicine. If we learn to look at CBD as something that could help the overall well-being of society rather than a detriment, then maybe we can make some really prolific medical advancements in the next few years.

Michael Frank is a 23-year-old political science and English senior from New Orleans, Louisiana.

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