Joy Smith opened Joy Organics in downtown Fort Collins this year. She sells CBD, which is often used as a treatment for pain. Courtesy Joy Organics

CBD oil gains recognition, popularity

Dr. Charles Weng had been in private practice as an internal medicine physician for almost two decades when he started researching cannabidiol, or CBD, as a treatment for pain. Weng’s mother was suffering from chronic pain from multiple sclerosis but was unable to take traditional pain medications, such as steroids or opioids, because the side effects were too severe.

Weng, whose practice, Baltimore Progressive Compassionate Care, is based in Baltimore, MD, started researching CBD products and talking to both doctors on the west coast who were already practicing cannabis-based medicine and to cannabis industry representatives in Colorado, including those at Functional Remedies in Boulder.

“What I quickly came to learn is how effective CBD is in so many different scenarios, but I was particularly intrigued because I could give it to elderly patients without fear of some of the unwanted side effects that you see with other medications,” said Weng.

Weng found that not only did CBD help reduce pain, but that it also helped alleviate other issues that often arise as the result of chronic pain.

“I began seeing how CBD … had a lot of great anti-inflammatory benefits and that it can help with a lot of things that are associated with pain, such as anxiety and insomnia and depression, all of these symptoms that often go along with a patient who is dealing with pain on a consistent and regular basis.”

Weng has seen consistent positive results in patients who are treated with CBD and other cannabis-based treatments, but these products are not reimbursable by Medicare or Medicaid, which, he said, can make them difficult to afford for some of his patients, many of whom are older adults.

“It’s not covered through any insurance, which is a problem,” said Weng. “What makes it expensive is it’s ongoing; you’ve got to keep taking it. You can do something for a month or two, but if you’ve got to keep doing it every single month, and that’s part of your budget now, then you’ve got to prepare for it. … It’s out-of-pocket and it’s a whole new bill.”

Hannah Smith, director of communications for Joy Organics, a Fort Collins company that produces THC-free CBD products, said that, like Weng’s patients, her customers have experienced similar relief from symptoms — the family-owned-and-operated business was born out of Smith’s mother’s search for a natural solution to her own chronic pain and insomnia — and Smith said she has heard from customers who are using CBD as an alternative to opioids.

“We’ve had people who have had to take opioids consistently because of accidents or because of other things that cause severe and chronic pain,” said Smith. “And, so, not only does it address the pain, but it can also address certain addictive behaviors as well.”

While there is a growing body of personal anecdotes and testimonials about CBD as a treatment for pain, there’s still a lot of research to be done in the field, said Dr. Ken Keidan, chief medical officer at Boulder Community Health.

“To my knowledge, there’s not significant research on CBD specifically, however there has been research on certain marijuana derivatives, including pharmacologic, medical marijuana, etcetera,” said Keidan. “The literature is in evolution and, so, there’s some evidence that it may improve chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain. And there’s other evidence showing reduced spasticity and seizures, so those are probably the most commonly used medical ideologies for treatment.”

While consumers have access to CBD and other medical marijuana products through businesses like Joy Organics, practices or clinics like Weng’s and medical marijuana dispensaries, it’s still unlikely to be prescribed by a physician in a hospital, said Keidan.

“Currently, because of the federal legislation with marijuana being illegal, and then the DEA classification of marijuana is still in flux … most hospitals, including Boulder Community Health, do not allow the use of medical marijuana or CBD oil in the hospital,” said Keidan. “That being said, in the clinics, where we have employed physicians, medical marijuana can be used as long as it meets the state’s requirements.”

Dr. Charles Weng had been in private practice as an internal medicine physician for almost two decades when he started researching cannabidiol, or CBD, as a treatment for pain. Weng’s mother was suffering from chronic pain from multiple sclerosis but was unable to take traditional pain medications, such as steroids or opioids, because the side effects were too severe.

Weng, whose practice, Baltimore Progressive Compassionate Care, is based in Baltimore, MD, started researching CBD products and talking to both doctors on the west coast who were already practicing cannabis-based medicine and to cannabis industry representatives in Colorado, including those at Functional Remedies in Boulder.

“What I quickly came to learn is how effective CBD is in so many different scenarios, but I was particularly intrigued because I could give it to elderly patients without fear of some of the unwanted side effects that you see with other medications,” said Weng.

Weng found that not only did CBD help reduce pain, but that it also helped alleviate other issues that often arise as the result of chronic pain.

“I began seeing how CBD … had a lot of great anti-inflammatory benefits and that it can help with a lot of things that are associated with pain, such as anxiety and insomnia and depression, all of these symptoms that often go along with a patient who is dealing with pain on a consistent and regular basis.”

Weng has seen consistent positive results in…