If you cast your mind back to December 2018 (which seems like at least a decade ago), you’ll realize that it’s now been two years since the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill (which formally legalized CBD in the US).
In that time, the industry has exploded – but the FDA has yet to provide a set of regulations within which the industry can operate. Their reason for the delay? A lack of scientific information about the long-term safety of CBD.
Not surprisingly, the CBD industry has been waiting on tenterhooks for the rules that could determine what they’re allowed to sell – but the agency insists that it needs to see more research about the substance before publishing rules.
Not content to wait on the sidelines, Canopy Growth (the Canadian company behind Martha Stewart’s new line of CBD products and Snoop Dogg’s marijuana line) has been investing heavily in research that could make the FDA’s job easier.
As a cannabis and cannabinoid-based consumer product company, Canopy Growth will be greatly affected by the FDA’s regulations whenever they are finalized. And while a study on worms may not seem like a big deal, the new study is an important step towards proving CBD’s safety profile.
CBD is already a multi-billion-dollar global industry, but according to Hunter Land, Senior Director of Translational and Discovery Science at Canopy Growth, no research has yet shown its effects over the lifespan:
“Despite widespread use of CBD, no life-long toxicity studies had been conducted to date to determine the impact – or potential impact – of long-term exposure to CBD.”
The FDA says it needs to see more research on the safety of CBD before it can publish a regulatory framework for the substance. This worm study is the first of its kind to show lifelong exposure data.
Canopy Growth’s study is one step towards correcting that deficit, and it could be an important stepping stone to further research on the long term effects of the substance. The researchers collected a wide range of data, but the focus of the study was CBD toxicity and the overall effects over a lifespan.But why worms? The choice is not as random as it seems.
Scientists often use this particular type of worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, for preclinical lifelong toxicity studies, since (incredibly) between 60–80% of their genes have a human ortholog. (Orthologs are genes in different species that evolved from a common ancestral gene.)
Not only do we share genetic information with these creatures, but their short lifespan of around two to three weeks is actually of huge benefit to researchers working within time constraints.
The outcomes of the study were decisively positive as to CBD’s long term effects, showing an extended mean lifespan and no signs of toxicity. According to the researchers:
“CBD did not demonstrate any degree of acute or lifelong toxicity or related liabilities at physiologically relevant concentrations. Indeed, CBD extended mean lifespan up to 18.3% and increased late-stage life activity by up to 206.4% compared to controls.”
This is all good news, for what it’s worth. But the researchers were clear that much more research is necessary to understand how CBD works and whether these positive effects will translate to humans and other mammals:
“Because this study was the first to examine the effects of lifelong exposure to CBD, many unanswered questions remain. First, although CBD extended lifespan and increased measures of healthspan in this C. elegans model, future research is needed to determine potential mechanisms for these findings.”
In a sense, the study highlights just how far science has still to go to understand CBD’s overall effects. But it will hopefully provide the impetus for further research on the safety of CBD. According to Land:
“These results serve as the only CBD life-long exposure data in an in vivo model to date, and the absence of long-term toxicity gives us the evidence we need as an industry to continue researching the potential health benefits for the broader application of CBD.