Like air, or pollution, CBD products are everywhere. From coffee to moisturiser to gummy bears, basically if you can swallow, smoke or bathe with it, chances are you can get your favourite thing with some cannabidiol (aka CBD, aka the non-psychoactive ingredient in weed) slathered onto it.
Right now, this swelling industry is so big that it’s been called The Next Gold Rush. One study has even predicted it could be worth $20 billion by 2024. And so, where there’s money, there are business conferences, which is why, last month, London hosted Europe CBD Expo, the UK’s first of its kind, with more than 80 exhibitors. Here's a bit of what it looked like:
But perhaps in order to be taken seriously, and to distance themselves from the negative image of layabout potheads and hippies, the CBD world is keen to stress that CBD has no psychoactive element and will NOT get you high. Repeat: It will NOT get you high! Instead it’s there to help with various ailments – including but not limited to, basically everything TBQH with you.
This is all well and good, but personally I refuse to take advice about a cannabis product from people who seem intent on distancing their weed product as much from weed as possible. Still, I headed down to the conference anyway, hoping that in the sea of exhibitors I would be able to find some people who actually like getting stoned and then go from there. First though: some tips.
I called up LA-based stoner and journalist Michelle Lhooq (full disclosure: she used to work for VICE in the US). She's written book Weed: Everything You Want to Know But Are Always Too Stoned to Ask, so I figured she could provide some expert instruction on what to look for. “I would start with addressing why you are taking CBD in the first place," she tells me. "What are you trying to remedy? Is it anxiety? Menstrual pain? Do you want better skin? From there, you'd figure out routes of administration – how you wanna take it basically. There are tinctures – which is CBD oil that you can take sublingually – or you can vape it, which is pretty trendy these days, just for the ease of it.”
She also tells me to look for labels that say ‘full spectrum’, which describes the extraction process. “You want CBD that has trace amounts of THC in it – CBD requires a bit of THC in order to be activated. Some people love to take a super concentrated form of just isolated CBD, and that doesn't work”. Other than that, she swears by CBD flower: “it's been cultivated to not have any THC, but it looks and tastes exactly like weed.” Yum.
Without further ado, here is a list of everything I tried in a two-hour time period before I felt weird and wanted to go home. Consider it your handy guide to which sort of products really 'work' and which are more about clever marketing.
QUALIA CBD, GUMMIES
This brand does both full spectrum (good) and CBD isolate (absolute nonsense) tinctures. More importantly, they specialise in CBD sweets, popcorn, and honey sticks. Both the sour snakes and the gummy bears were delicious.
But did it work? Each gummy has only 10mg of CBD in them so you’d have to eat a load to feel any health benefits, which will probably be cancelled out by the sugar? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. But also I don’t really care, because sweets are good.
THE HEMP PLUG (THP), TINCTURES AND BATH BOMBS
Reassuringly, the guy I spoke to at THP is both a stoner, and a surfer with back problems. He swears by CBD for inflammation of any kind, although points out that that it’s a nutraceutical, not a pharmaceutical, and so needs to be taken regularly for a couple of weeks before you feel the benefits, just as you would a supplement. They do their own white-label CBD tinctures in various concentrations for both day and night (with melatonin), depending on what you want to achieve. He was also kind enough to give me a bath bomb to use at home, which I’m excited to use to potentially drown myself in the tub with later.
But did it work? I did not drown in the bath-tub but I did sleep like a baby afterwards, so it’s a thumbs up from me.
HOLY LEAF, CBD FLOWER
The holy grail!
But did it work? Well… sadly it was not available to try or purchase at the expo because you can’t legally sell CBD flower here yet. Though it is legal to buy it, and you can purchase it via Switzerland or several of the vape shops in London if you so desire. We love arbitrary laws!
CANNIANT... LOADS OF STUFF
These guys had a CBD vending machine (???), CBD coffee pods (bad for the environment!!), and…CBD lubricant, which I will be using until I can get my hands on a competing product, which has THC in it (Foria, CBD lube OGs, if you are reading this……please……).
But did it work? Mind your business.
PRÁSINO, CBD+ SUPERFOOD
This product would be great and potentially life-changing if I ever woke up as the kind of person who bothers to look after themselves (eats breakfast). There are two ‘flavour’ options available: ‘Calm Comfort’ and ‘Alpha Sport’. We tried some of the former: they’d just added the supplement to yoghurt and berries and mixed it all up, to admittedly tasty effect. One for the health gang.
But did it work? I don’t have any scientific basis for this but I feel like this is legit? Plus the supplement had loads of other good stuff in it (chia seeds, blueberry powder, cinnamon) so I feel like it’s just generally good for you regardless.
SO, DOES ANY OF THIS WORK?
I mean, it definitely does something, because by 3PM I was feeling really spaced out and ready for a lie-down. Of course, it could be due to a placebo effect; one of the exhibitors I spoke to told me an anecdote about how CBD helped his wife with her insomnia: “It could be a placebo, but whether it’s a placebo or not, it worked. It helped her sleep.”
Realistically there’s enough research at this point to show that weed, and as a byproduct CBD, has healing properties – at least as much you'd expect for anything else plant-based and holistic, that claims health benefits. Like, for example, the fact medical marijuana has been proven to help alleviate chronic pain symptoms and offer therapeutic care. Or that there's strong scientific evidence suggesting CBD can help in treating childhood epilepsy when other anti-seizure medication doesn't work.
Please though, for the love of god don’t buy a mango-flavoured vape, because you look like a nerd and it smells gross. Grow up.