I. The short answer is, no, it doesn’t

Pure CBD does not have any psychoactive properties. Therefore, it does not impact cognitive brain function, or produce the euphoric feelings associated with being high that its chemical cousin, THC, does. The THC in marijuana is what makes users feel high. The higher the percentage of THC, the more potent the strain is.

II. Why not?

As long as CBD oil is produced from hemp, which by law must contain less than 0.3 percent THC, it should not produce any intoxicating effects. It should be noted, however, that CBD products made from marijuana are also available. These may contain enough THC to produce a high, although there is evidence that when taken together, CBD can inhibit the effects of THC on receptors in the brain, creating a counterbalancing effect.

Just because pure CBD won’t make you high doesn’t mean it has no effects at all. CBD has drawn more attention in recent years for its many purported benefits, without the intoxicating side effects.

CBD, which is available in many forms including oils, tinctures, edibles, vape juices, and topical ointments, has long been used as a treatment for pain, insomnia, and anxiety. More recently, evidence has emerged that CBD may be effective as a treatment for neurological disorders like epilepsy; drug abuse; acne, and side effects of chemotherapy such as pain and nausea.

CBD’s reputation as a natural wonder-drug is enhanced by the fact that many users do describe mood-altering effects similar to those of THC, but without the mental impairment of being high. Individuals who use CBD describe feelings of “relief and balance,” and having “a comforting, warm sense of calm” wash over them.

III. Why do people think CBD makes you high?

Misconceptions about what CBD does or doesn’t do are rooted in a lack of understanding of the nuances of cannabis, which in itself is a result of a decades-long smear campaign against the plant.

Hemp, one of the Cannabis sativa species that is high in CBD, is one of civilization’s oldest cultivated crops. For centuries, it was commonly used for its durable fibers for cloth, thread, and paper; as a food source, and for medicinal purposes. It was an important cash crop in the U.S. from the early days of the thirteen colonies, into the 20th century.

At that point, hemp’s cousin, marijuana, with its psychoactive THC, began gaining exposure in the U.S., as Mexicans immigrating in the wake of the Mexican Revolution brought with them the custom of using cannabis, or “marijuana” for its relaxing and medicinal benefits. A combination of public health concerns and racism prompted efforts to criminalize all cannabis, including hemp.

Despite the fact that many U.S. farmers continued to cultivate hemp, and were even encouraged to do so as part of the war effort during World War II, the plant was consistently lumped in with marijuana in legislation aimed at curbing the production, sale, and use of the drug. Legislators classifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” did not distinguish between hemp, with its noted benefits and lack of psychoactive ingredients, and marijuana.

The blanket criminalization and lack of distinction created confusion and a misconception among many people that hemp and marijuana plants are the same thing, and that consuming any byproduct of these plants leads to intoxication. It also limited the amount of research that could be done on the potential positive and negative effects of CBD.

A 2018 bill once again made hemp legal at the national level, although there are still some states in which it is illegal. Since this legalization, the CBD industry has exploded, with supporters enthusiastically touting its benefits, researchers launching studies to confirm or disprove its effectiveness, and companies selling hundreds of different CBD-related products.

IV. Does CBD have any side effects?

While CBD may not get you high, and most of its effects are positive, there is evidence that some people experience negative side effects of CBD. These side effects can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in mood
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

CBD may also react with some medications, although research into why and how is still limited. If you are considering using CBD in addition to prescription medications, it is important to talk to your doctor first about potentially harmful interactions.

There is also a chance — albeit a very small one — that using CBD could trigger a positive result on a drug test.

V. How do I use CBD safely?

Even though it is extremely unlikely that using CBD will get you high, there are a few steps to take to ensure that you are using the supplement as safely as possible.

  • Only purchase CBD derived from hemp plants:If you live in a state where both hemp and marijuana are legal, it is likely that you can purchase CBD oil made from either plant. CBD oil made from marijuana plants will contain THC, and possibly enough to get you high. On the other hand, CBD oil made from hemp cannot legally contain more than 0.3 percent THC, which is generally not enough to be intoxicating. To avoid getting high off of CBD, always be sure to purchase a product made from hemp.
  • Only buy from reputable companies: Because there is currently little oversight of the CBD industry, it is up to companies to be responsible and honest about their products. Before buying CBD products, do some homework about the brand’s history, reviews, and processes. Look for brands that have their products independently tested by a third-party lab, and make the results of those tests available to consumers. This is a sign that a company is upfront and honest about the quality of their products.
  • Know what type of CBD oil you are purchasing: There are three varieties of CBD oil — full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate. Full-spectrum CBD oil will contain trace amounts of THC, although it should not be enough to get you high. If you want to be absolutely sure, broad spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate go through extra steps in processing to ensure that all THC is removed from the final product.

VI. Additional Resources