Two cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, manufactured in the UK, are licensed for prescription but only for very specific uses. Sativex has been available in the UK since 2010 and uses THC and CBD to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis. And a new CBD-only drug, Epidiolex, was approved in June in the US to treat rare childhood epilepsies, with a similar decision expected imminently for Europe and the UK.
And the products on the shelf aren't all the same, Ward said. "There can be many, many different varieties, and if you're thinking about doing this for medical reasons, you want to find a trusted source and do your research," she said. "Where does that oil come from, and how confident can you be that you know the exact percentages of the different cannabinoids in the product?"
Indeed, hemp oil products have grown out of a market largely devoid of regulations or safety protocols. The state of the CBD industry harks back to the age of elixirs and potions hawked from covered wagons to the awed denizens of pioneer towns. There are no industrywide standards in place to ensure that CBD oils are consistently formulated batch-to-batch. There is no regulatory body screening products for pesticides, heavy metals, solvent residues, and other dangerous contaminants. The laboratories that companies contract to test their CBD products are themselves neither standardized nor consistently regulated. No medical research exists to recommend how much CBD a patient should take, nor is there detailed, reliable documentation of how CBD interacts with most epilepsy medications.
A wealth of marketing material, blogs and anecdotes claim that cannabis oils can cure whatever ails you, even cancer. But the limited research doesn't suggest that cannabis oil should take the place of conventional medication, except for in two very rare forms of epilepsy (and even then, it's recommended only as a last-resort treatment). And, experts caution that because cannabis oil and other cannabis-based products are not regulated or tested for safety by the government or any third-party agency, it's difficult for consumers to know exactly what they're getting.

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