The use of medical marijuana and CBD products like hemp cigarettes and CBD oils has grown tremendously in recent years as their legalization spreads across the United States. While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp products containing less than 0.3% of THC, almost all of these products have yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration — which begs the question, are they safe?
What exactly is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two cannabinoids (naturally forming compounds) found in the cannabis plant. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets you high, which is why legal hemp must contain an insignificant concentration of it. On the other hand, CBD is nonpsychoactive and has several medicinal benefits — such as helping to alleviate discomfort and occasional anxiousness. Even so, only one CBD product is currently approved by the FDA — a prescription medication named Epidiolex used to treat severe forms of epilepsy.
Epidiolex may even be covered by insurance companies, including Medicaid and Medicare. If you’re wondering, “Does Medicare cover CBD oil too?” unfortunately, the answer is not yet. Since the marijuana plant is still technically illegal on a federal level, and CBD oils haven’t been approved by the FDA, medical marijuana and medicinal CBD aren’t covered by federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid. However, approved drugs like Epidiolex give us hope that medical marijuana and CBD may be covered in the future.
What are CBD cigarettes?
Hemp cigarettes, or CBD cigarettes, are much different from traditional tobacco cigarettes. They’re made with hemp flower (also called CBD flower) instead of tobacco, and they contain absolutely zero nicotine. CBD cigarettes can be purchased pre-rolled, or you can roll them yourself with your favorite strain of CBD flower and hemp papers. Some of the pre-rolled CBD cigarettes are even processed to remove the “hemp smell” so you can smoke them discreetly as you would a normal tobacco cigarette. If you’re struggling with addiction to tobacco products, switching to hemp cigarettes could be a great alternative to help you quit — but the research is still out on that one.
Is smoking hemp flower safe?
This is where it gets tricky. Smoking CBD hemp cigarettes can have some of the same risks as traditional cigarettes — especially if you’re a heavy smoker. Any smoke, including hemp smoke, can cause irritation and inflammation to your airway and lungs. Heavy smoking of any kind may even lead to health conditions like heart and lung disease.
However, studies have found that, unlike smoking cigarettes, moderate cannabis consumption doesn’t adversely affect lung function. In fact, it may even improve it! Of course, that’s if you smoke just one joint or bowl per day. Heavy cannabis smokers can still end up doing damage to their lungs. There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done, but there will always be some risks associated with smoking anything. The good news is that CBD isn’t addictive like nicotine is, so you won’t develop a chemical addiction to hemp cigarettes.
What about vaping?
Vaping is another grey area for smoking products on the market today because they haven’t been around long enough to do extensive studies on their long-term effects. This is concerning because of the popularity of vape products among young people, especially teenagers. E-cigarettes may be a good alternative to regular cigarettes, but they aren’t completely safe, either. Unfortunately, cases of lung injury and disease caused by e-cigarette products are on the rise.
Vaping illness symptoms could include shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and a dry cough. Severe cases could even lead to seizures, strokes, or other serious health conditions. Get your doctor’s advice if you think you’re experiencing minor symptoms from e-cigarette use, and seek medical treatment right away if you have more severe symptoms. The CDC and FDA are currently investigating cases of vaping illness to uncover its cause, which they believe could be some form of contamination rather than an infection.
Like medical marijuana and CBD cigarettes, we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to researching electronic cigarettes. Until we know more, state health departments and public health officials certainly wouldn’t say that smoking is good for you. The occasional CBD cigarette could be safe enough to deliver the benefits of CBD without adversely affecting your lungs — but ultimately, that’s up to you and your doctor to decide.