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Pure oil, tincture, paste, tea, electronic cigarette, capsules and tablets, jelly candies, an ingredient in cosmetics – the world market, and for a long time now the Bulgarian market, know all possible varieties of CBD (cannabidiol). Its use is completely legal, including in Bulgaria, and in recent years it has become more and more widespread. What is behind the abbreviation CBD, how is it extracted, is it useful or rather harmful, can it be dangerous and for what and how can it be used – “Dnevnik” sought the answers to all these questions and talked to lawyers, lawyers, doctors and consumers about the benefits and potential risks of use.
What is CBD and does it have anything to do with THC?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, a natural compound found in the hemp plant. Hemp contains many compounds called cannabinoids, and cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of them. The most popular cannabinoid is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is contained and known mostly from hemp for smoking – it is prohibited by Bulgarian legislation in a concentration above 0.2% because it is psychotropic.
According to various studies, reports and the medical literature THC can produce a variety of psychotropic and somatic effects – mild euphoria, relaxation, laziness, increased sense of humor, increased sense of self-perception, creative and philosophical thinking, increased libido, paranoia and sense of fear. The effects of THC on bodily functions are initially associated with an increased heart rate, subsequent indicators of its intake are reddening of the eyes, suppression of salivation and stimulation of the feeling of hunger. For some people, all these effects can be problematic when driving, for example, and this is one of the reasons why they end up on the list of prohibited and narcotic substances and precursors that are prosecuted by law.
CBD products contain ingredients, extracted from the same plant – hemp, most often from medical cannabis or from industrial hemp. Products containing CBD oils are not criminalized in Bulgaria and are freely sold on the market as a food supplement. They are not medicines and are not medicinal products. They can be found in different forms – in medical and drugstore cosmetics, tablets and capsules, electronic cigarettes for smoking, teas and many others.
Various studies and data show that no side effects are observed, including the absence of psychotropic or somatic effects, and the benefits of using CBD products, according to the manufacturers and also according to some doctors, are many – they have a positive effect on the condition of the skin, the digestive system , the nervous and immune system and the general well-being of the body. Cannabidiol directly affects the endocannabinoid system in the human body.
CBD oil is recommended for people with a variety of health problems and is used worldwide to maintain emotional balance and support normal healthy sleep cycles. According to various studies, which began as early as the 1960s in Great Britain and the United States, the oil helps with severe arthritis pain, general ailments and headaches, muscle tension, PMS, supports heart health and diabetes prevention, problems such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis and other skin irritations.
Some studies show that it has a positive effect in the fight against stress, anxiety and depression. It is used to suppress nausea and severe pain in cancer patients, and drugs containing CBD are used to treat certain types of childhood epilepsy.
According to a 2018 study of over 2,400 people published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, nearly 62% of CBD users reported using the cannabinoid to treat a specific medical condition. The top three most common medical conditions treated with CBD are related to pain, anxiety and depression.
Also available on the Bulgarian market CBD drops for dogs and cats. The oil can also be used for other pets in need of more special care or for pain relief. It is most often recommended for dogs and cats who are oncologically ill or suffer from arthritis and joint pain. Consultation with a veterinarian beforehand is mandatorydue to the need to establish the exact needs of the animal and the appropriate dose for it.
One of the latest studies in the USA shows that the American market consumes CBD in the most diverse forms, the most popular being capsules, oil, tinctures, gums, serums and vape (electronic cigarette). The latest Forbes Health 2023 survey of 2,000 US adults conducted by OnePoll found that 60% of those surveyed have tried a CBD product and believe it offers some medical benefits.
- Nearly 65 percent of U.S. adults surveyed believe CBD is safer to consume than alcohol, but only 44 percent believe CBD should be legal, according to Forbes Health data.
- As of 2023, CBD consumption in the US is either partially legal or fully legal in all 50 states. In Bulgaria, the use of CBD is not criminalized.
- Almost 60% of those surveyed believe it is safe to consume CBD.
- 45% of respondents said it is socially acceptable to consume CBD.
- 44% of US respondents think CBD should be legal, 21% think CBD should be considered illegal, and 19% have no opinion on the matter.
- THC further complicates matters, as 45% of respondents believe it is socially acceptable to consume CBD, but not acceptable to consume THC.
- Drug testing is one of the concerns shared by respondents. 46% believe that CBD will result in a positive result after a drug test.
“Diary” experiment with CBD: (Almost) negative drug test result
Driving after the use of narcotic substances is a crime, and it is for this reason that “Dnevnik” checked whether it is possible for a CBD product to give a positive test for drug use.
Although CBD products on the Bulgarian market are completely legal and sold freely, some of them can give a positive drug test, an experiment by “Dnevnik” showed, in which two volunteers used different types of CBD products – an electronic cigarette for smoking and raw hemp oil drops with 15% CBD.
In the leaflet of both products, a content of less than 0.2% THC is explicitly noted (above this rate it is prohibited by law). The tests used are similar to those for pregnancy and have two strips – control and test. For the test to be completely negative, both bands must be colored red. A test in which only the control strip is red and the other is not colored is considered positive.
A few hours after using the two products, two different drug tests, freely sold at each pharmacy, showed different results. When using CBD for smoking, more than 8 hours before the test, the reported result is positive. When using CBD oil drops, the urine test for THC is (almost) negative when tested after more than 12 hours. The marker for the presence of a drug in the urine is paler, which, according to the leaflet and instructions for interpreting the results, means that some presence of the drug is detected, but below the norm.
For the tests, it is important to note that it was conducted experimentally and is not a valid proof of the presence or absence of THC in all products on the market, marketed as containing CBD. Each one of them would have to be laboratory certified and pass a series of tests in a controlled environment.
The peculiarities of the tests themselves, which report a certain concentration range of different types of narcotic substances in the urine, must also be taken into account. The tests that the Ministry of Internal Affairs uses to identify drivers who have used drugs work on a different principle – they are oral.
It is also important to note that the tests sold in pharmacies probably not intended to “distinguish” between different types of cannabinoids. This can be done after examination in a licensed laboratory and with a blood test.
It is important to have guarantees that CBD products do not contain THC
“More and more evidence is accumulating for the therapeutic benefit of the use of CBD. That is why I believe that products containing CBD should be available to people,” psychiatrist Dr. Vladimir Sotirov commented to “Dnevnik”.
According to him, accessibility implies that these products are sold as OTC-products (prescribed without a prescription) in pharmacies and drugstores.
“It is important to ensure content control so that people who use them are well informed and it is guaranteed that these products do not contain THC in concentrations above the permissible and which pose a health risk to certain groups of patients “, emphasized Sotirov.
“Cannabis extracts, which contain higher concentrations of THC, should only be prescribed by a doctor and sold in pharmacies as drugs approved by the Medicines Executive Agency,” the psychiatrist also commented to “Dnevnik”.
Lawyer Silvia Petkova: Read the leaflet and buy the products with an invoice
Lawyer Silvia Petkova emphasized to “Dnevnik” that users of such products should read the leaflet very carefully and pay attention to the THC content.
“CBD products that are sold on the territory of Bulgaria should not contain THC. Otherwise, this would mean that narcotic substances are being sold on the market, which is a crime – drug distribution, which is punishable by 2 to 8 years in prison “, lawyer Silvia Petkova explained to “Dnevnik”.
However, according to her, it is possible that unscrupulous traders deliberately understate the THC content in leaflets in order to be able to sell their products on the one hand, and on the other – not to be sanctioned by the law. There is no way for the user to be completely sure of the exact content of the product he has chosen, as there is no way to verify in practice whether it contains THC and what the amount is.
When buying CBD products, be sure to read the leaflet and check for THC content. When paying, always ask for an invoice with your name and date so you can prove when, where and what you bought. If you use CBD products and the police pull you over and give you a positive drug test, be sure to ask for a blood sample.
Lawyer Petkova told about a case in which an English citizen who uses CBD products is currently being prosecuted for driving after using drugs in Bulgaria. In the specific case, the product was not bought on the Bulgarian market, and the leaflet correctly stated a THC content above the allowable norm in Bulgaria, but the user did not read the description carefully. Because of the language barrier, he was not understood by the police and did not give a blood sample, explained Petkova. According to her, a blood sample can show the exact content of the substances used.
If it comes to a case, the experts will be able to check how long before the inspection the substance was taken. Therefore, she advises also asking for a registered invoice so that it can be presented to the experts and to the court together with the CBD product, its packaging, the leaflet and the receipt.
“Once it is proven that this is the substance used, the experts can be asked if this product can give a positive test for narcotic substances and it will be seen what the exact content of the product is,” explained the lawyer.