The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml) reports that more than 14 million Americans regularly smoke marijuana, making it “the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco).”
And while some people use cannabis solely because they like its effects, NORML goes on to say that cannabis has also been used for medical purposes “for almost as long as history has been recorded.”
It only makes sense then that this substance is finally finding its way into the products that a large number of health professionals use regularly in an effort to help treat their patients. One such category of products are CBD topicals—oils, creams, and lotions which contain cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis—and they have been linked to pain relief.
CBD topicals and pain
Daniel Sparks, J.D., Director of Government Affairs with BioTrack THC says that, “CBD topicals have been used to provide anti-inflammatory relief for muscle soreness, arthritis related pain, back pain, and pain related to athletic activity.” While Sparks shares that this statement is based on anecdotal user experience and not to be considered medical advice, research back up this claim.
For instance, an article published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia explains how “Topical application of cannabinoid receptor agonists blocks nociception in inflammatory models of pain.”
In simple terms, this means that CBD acts as an analgesic, specifically in how it affects the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
As far as which CBD topicals provide the most benefit when it comes to pain, Leafly indicates that “different topicals have different benefits to offer depending on the way they are processed and the ingredients that are used.” Therefore, this top online cannabis information resource suggests trying a variety of topicals, allowing you to better select the one that provides the most positive results.
Of course, before many chiropractors are willing to use CBD topicals in the course of their business, many question their legality.
Legal considerations of CBD topicals
As a cannabis traceability and compliance specialist, Sparks has extensive knowledge in this area and says that “CBD products derived from hemp that contains less than .03% THC are frequently sold in several different U.S. states.”
However, he goes on to say that “legality of these products is unclear,” pointing out that the U.S. Farm Bill of 2014 (also known as the Agricultural Act of 2014) did at least open the door for research on hemp as long as it was being conducted by an “institution of higher education” for the purposes of research.
What makes the question of legality so difficult, according to Sparks, is that “CBD derived from hemp versus marijuana (typically marijuana is used to describe cannabis that has a concentration of THC that is higher than .03%-) varies from state to state.”
Rod Kight, a cannabis and hemp lawyer, posted a blog post on this very topic, indicating that the Farm Bill’s provisions regarding hemp research essentially legalized hemp and CBD across the nation. This is primarily due to “a quiet little passage tucked deep inside an otherwise boring funding bill.”
What Kight is referencing is section 763 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2016 which basically says that no funds can be used “to prohibit the transportation, processing, sale or use of industrial hemp that is grown or cultivated in accordance with section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, within or outside the State in which the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated.”
While the laws remain kind of vague and somewhat open to interpretation, Sparks answer regarding how to make CBD topicals part of your healthcare practice legally is that “it depends on what state you practice in and how you provide the treatment.”
Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer, many CBD topical products do not contain THC and therefore are legal in most states. Look into your specific state’s requirements before incorporating this treatment into your practice.