CBD products are still technically illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, but hops might be the loophole the market needs.
A worker steps on hops during harvesting on August 31, 2015 in Rocov, near Zatec, Czech Republic. Czech Republic is one of the world’s largest hops producers, with 4600 hectares of land used for farming the plant. (Photo by Matej Divizna via Getty Images)
Before diving into how hops fit into the equation of legalization, it’s important to know where cannabidiol (CBD) stands first.
As mainstream as CBD seems to be, considering it’s in everything from lattes to bath products, and even porn, it is still technically a Schedule I drug. Hemp products with less than 0.3 percent THC are provisionally legal thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, but that is in no way an ironclad legalization of hemp-derived CBD.
The woman facing five years in prison in Wyoming for a 1 oz bottle of CBD oil can surely attest to that.
And that’s where hops come in.
Dr. Bomi Joseph, who runs the Peak Health Foundation in San Francisco, recently discovered a strain of hop plant in India that produces CBD. His discovery, and subsequent cross-breeding of the hop to create a chemovar that clocks in at about 18 percent CBD, was recently profiled in Westword. Hops are not included in the Controlled Substances Act, meaning Joseph’s discovery could provide a completely legal source of the sought-after substance.
This hop plant is not the kind you brew beer with, but rather an obscure species native to southern parts of China, bordering India. Its taxonomical name is Humulus yunnanensis, as it’s typical to the Yunnan province. Joseph first discovered it, in fact, because he heard rumors of it being grown elsewhere, at British colonial governor John Sullivan’s Stone House estate in Ooty.
“That got my attention,” he told Westword, “because normally when people talk about yunnanensis, they talk about China, the Yunnan province. So the fact that in the southern part of India, where my family is historically from, you find this Humulus yunnanensis, I was like, ‘How the hell did it get there?'”
Determined to learn more about hops, he and a colleague from Peak Health set about researching it. They eventually discovered trace amounts of cannabinoids in the plant, likely from naturally occurring cross-breeding with wild cannabis plants. Hops and cannabis are from the same family of flowering plants, cannabaceae. With this promising lead, Johnson set off to India in search of more samples. He spent weeks trying to get the native people of the region to show him the hops plants he was after, without much luck.
Eventually, his breakthrough arrived.
“Once they found some, and we found some, then we started getting samples. But we looked at thousands of samples before we found one or two that had CBD in it,” he said. Once they found that sample, it was off to the races. Or the plod, rather, as Joseph had to cross-breed the plants until they consistently expressed the recessive CBD-generating trait.
Eventually, he developed a variety of hops from which he extracts that sweet, legal CBD oil. The oil is all the sweeter because it is technically a whole-plant extract, meaning it contains all the original terpenes thought to affect and augment the cannabis experience. Full-plant extracts are sought after by medical cannabis users.
Unsurprisingly, then, he recently announced a partnership with Medical Marijuana Inc., the United States’ first publicly traded cannabis company, and already a significant force in legal CBD products. They are now marketing his products as RSHO-K—with the RSHO standing for Real Scientific Humulus Oil instead of Real Scientific Hemp Oil.
Dr. Stuart Titus, Medical Marijuana Inc.’s CEO, told Westword the drug would have global ramifications for the CBD market.
“This is certainly going to help change the dialogue for not only many parents whose children have epilepsy, but various other world markets which still, of course, consider cannabis part of the United Nations single convention treaty on narcotics.”
As for hops? Until the world wises up on cannabis, at least of the hemp variety, it could be the next big thing in CBD.