Clearing Up Cannabis Confusion

cannabis leaf on yellow background

Cannabis now is being used, under a physician’s care, to treat conditions such as chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and autoimmune diseases.

While the legalization and medical use of cannabis have seen dramatic upticks in recent years, many misconceptions remain among consumers, lawmakers and health professionals alike. Here are three common myths, followed by the facts.

Medical benefits of cannabis only recently have been discovered.

Cannabis was used in Himalayan traditions more than 5,000 years ago and in Chinese medicine as long as 10,000 years ago. Its use as medicine continued worldwide; Queen Victoria reportedly used cannabis to ease menstrual cramps. Britain’s 1894 Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report concluded that cannabis had medicinal value and was safer than alcohol. From 1850 until 1942, cannabis was described in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a medicinal drug.

The criteria to obtain a medical marijuana card are the same in all 30 states where medical marijuana is legal.


Cannabis: A medicinal herb from the Cannabis sativa L. plant, it is one of the earliest known cultivated plants and contains more than 500 different compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes (organic compounds that give plants, including cannabis, their aroma) and flavonoids.
Marijuana: Another word for cannabis, it was coined in the early 20th century to give cannabis a “foreign” mystique.
Hemp or “Industrial Hemp”: A cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC.
CBD: An abbreviation for cannabidiol, a cannabinoid with numerous purported health benefits, including relief from anxiety, pain, insomnia, seizure disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle spasms and inflammation. CBD oil may contain an isolate with just CBD or a whole plant formula with CBD plus other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids found in the cannabis plant.
THC: The compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The cannabinoid delta-9 tetrahydro-cannabinol can help stimulate appetite and may provide relief from pain, nausea, insomnia and muscle spasms.
Edible: Food that contains cannabis. It takes one to two hours for edibles to take effect and they can provide longer-lasting pain relief than other consumption methods. Edibles containing THC often cause a more intense “high” due to the conversion of THC by the liver to a more potent form.

Cannabis and its derivatives remain federally illegal due to their status as Schedule 1 Controlled Substances. Every state that has passed legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana has its own criteria. Some approve cannabis only for epilepsy, while other states include glaucoma, cachexia, severe pain, multiple sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and ALS. Some states do not allow smoking medical cannabis or may limit the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, levels due to its psychoactivity; but they may allow use of tinctures, capsules, topicals, edibles and suppositories. Anxiety and insomnia, two of the most common reasons for cannabis use, are not qualifying conditions in most states.

Hemp seed oil is the same as CBD oil.

Hemp seeds and the oil extracted from them are rich in essential fatty acids but typically do not contain a significant amount of cannabinoids (the chemical compounds found in cannabis), including cannabidiol, or CBD. Hemp seeds and hemp milk made from seeds also are not significant sources of cannabinoids. The highest concentration of cannabinoids in a hemp or cannabis plant is found in the flowers or buds. CBD oil is made by extracting oil from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the cannabis or hemp plant. If CBD oil is made from the cannabis plant (which, by definition, contains more than 0.3 percent THC) it is classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance and is illegal to possess even in a state where medical marijuana is legal without a medical marijuana card.

The demand for CBD oil has increased significantly due to its purported effectiveness in the treatment of anxiety, pain, insomnia, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and more. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, there is insufficient reliable evidence at this time to rate CBD’s effectiveness for any health conditions. It remains a challenge to complete research studies using cannabis due to its legal status. Consumers should be aware that, based on an FDA study, many so-called CBD oils sold online actually contained little to no CBD oil. The FDA does not recognize products that contain THC or CBD as dietary supplements, saying they are “authorized for investigation as a new drug.” The sale of foods containing THC or CBD across state lines also is prohibited.

Janice Newell-Bissex
Janice is a culinary nutritionist and holistic cannabis practitioner at