At a recent afternoon at Spring restaurant, Will Kleidon, a big, affable Bay Area native with messy blond hair, passes me a bottle of "super CBD." He's the founder of hemp oil company Ojai Energetics, and we're about to dine on a “CBD Power Lunch,” featuring three courses for $35, each augmented with his company's non-psychoactive product. I had a few droppers’ full from the bottle, which sells for $75 an ounce. It's the hemp oil used in a few other restaurants around L.A., including Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre. It tasted sweet like cough syrup, with a bitter aftertaste that Kleidon said would dissipate depending on how much more cannabidiol, or CBD, my body needed. It sounded like something out of Willy Wonka, but once he mentioned it, I didn't notice the bitter taste anymore.
The power of THC to get people high has motivated marijuana's mainstreaming. But CBD, a less well-understood chemical also found in marijuana, bears much of the responsibility for the legalization movement’s success. Cannabidiol doesn’t get people high, but it has attracted attention related to a wide range of potential health benefits.
In 2015, acting DEA head Chuck Rosenberg called medical marijuana a “joke.” But he did say, “There are pieces of marijuana – extracts or constituents or component parts – that have great promise” as medicine. CBD is one of these "promising" chemicals.
Few people know exactly what CBD actually does. For decades it has been almost impossible to study marijuana in this country, but much of the medical research that does exist, often conducted abroad or on animals, has shown results.
Cannabidiol has received the most attention for reportedly improving the lives of some children with severe seizure disorders. But its partisans ascribe to it an almost endless litany of benefits, from mitigating strokes to healing scars to post-workout recovery. And it’s starting to gain traction in the broader marketplace. Cannabidiol sells for roughly three times as much per milligram as THC, even though it has no recreational use. (Ojai's 1-ounce bottle contains 250 mg of CBD.)
Though CBD companies can’t make health claims for fear of running afoul of the FDA, the menu for this power lunch promised “clinically verified benefits [including] healthy digestion, brain cell growth, healthy immune response, healthy circulation."
Kleidon and I both started with a winter vegetable soup that “supports circulation, calming, supports digestion.” Cannabidiol's effects vary, Kleidon explained, based on what other ingredients are present, the way some users think weed with an earthy aroma affects them differently froma lemony strain. Next course was a Provençal-style cod with fennel, olives and more CBD.
As we ate, Kleidon spoke rapidly. Ojai CBD is water-soluble, he said, faster-acting and more efficacious than its competitors. His patter referenced business, neuroscience, New Age dogma and at least one physiological concept not taught in American medical schools.
“Because your endocannabinoid system is adapting day to day, the ideal dosage is actually a moving target, so getting the precise dose is impossible with a regular delivery system. But because [Ojai Energetic's product] is encapsulated in microbubbles of water, it can prime the system on the spot. Because the CB2 receptors light up when it’s a perfect dose, individuals can get the exact dose they need for their body, for that day, every time.”
I asked how it was supposed to make me feel.
“Everyone’s different, but the way the endocannabinoid system works is that it is regulating homeostatic balance for your body, so whatever it deems the most important usage. Most people will notice a little more focused, more alert, more relaxed, the vision typically gets a little sharper because you’ve got the adenosine receptors in the eyes.”
I felt good, but I had felt good before lunch, too.
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As Kleidon tells it, CBD is a micronutrient, like vitamin C, which we all need but has largely disappeared from the American diet — except in hops. Kleidon says that helps explain the appeal of IPA beer.
In a concept that reminded me of the paleo diet, Kleidon believes we’re all CBD-deprived, and consequently spend less time in the productive “flow state” a healthy balance of CBD induces. Reporting on the marijuana industry, I’ve heard many versions of these claims, and the evidence remains almost entirely anecdotal.
Kleidon asked if I had any pain. My puppy had woken me up that morning with a paw to the eye and I had some lingering discomfort. Kleidon suggested the CBD would make the pain go away. It didn’t, but who knows, maybe if I hadn’t ingested so much, the discomfort would have been worse.
Kleidon seemed to have a very strong grasp of a wide-ranging body of knowledge. But for now, however, much of this information, and what Kleidon believes it means for health is unlikely to be verified, until more marijuana research is allowed by the U.S. government. Whatever one cares to believe about CBD, it probably hasn't been disproven. Sometimes hope is worth $75 an ounce.