© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Global focus on… cannabis oil

22 February 2019

As miracle treatment tales abound, demand for CBD oil – and medical cannabis, its less legal relative – is growing. Governments and manufacturers are braced for impact.

What is it?
Cannabis oil is a combination of cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical extracted from the cannabis plant, and a carrier oil, usually hemp or coconut. Unlike marijuana, CBD oil does not contain the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Medical uses
The oil is renowned for reducing pain and has been used to treat a range of conditions from epilepsy to Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Actor Michael J Fox reportedly uses CBD oil to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Its effectiveness is explained by its ability to reduce inflammation and interact with neurotransmitters in the brain. 

Red carpet feet treat
One place you may have seen cannabis oil in action, and not realised it, is on the red carpet. Celebrities including Katy Perry and Michelle Williams are reputed to rub it on their feet to relieve the pain of their vertiginous high heels.

Legal matters
Most cannabinoid substances are controlled. However, CBD oil is legal for certain medical and health uses in EU countries, parts of the US and countries in Asia, as long as the product adheres to rules limiting THC. 

In 2016 the UK was the world’s largest government-licensed producer and exporter of cannabis products for medical use, according to the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board. Most of the UK’s products were shipped to the US.

Low cost
CBD-product manufacturers in the US recently received a boost when the 2018 Farm Bill became law. It means hemp, which offers a lower cost source of CBD than cannabis plants, is now regarded as a legal crop.

Major market
Cannabis industry analysts at the Brightfield Group predict the US CBD market could be worth more than $20bn by 2022. The substance is added to products such as body lotions, vaping liquids and bath bombs.

Dog dosing
With human use on the up, it was only a matter of time before pets got in on it. Owners report tumours that “fell off” when the oil was applied, while vets are using it to treat travel anxiety, pain and seizures. 

What They Say

“CBD… has all the benefits of marijuana without the high.”

Jennifer Aniston, actress, as told to US Weekly


“It is scandalous and untenable for the UK government to maintain that cannabis has no medical uses, at the same time as licensing the world’s biggest government-approved medical cannabis production and export market” 

Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at drug regulation advocates Transform


“What we started tracking was an explosion [in CBD oil] – face mask, bug bites, skin care, topicals. It’s being used for everything you can think of… People want to buy it for their grandma, for arthritis. Women get it for PMS and endometriosis.”

Bethany Gomez, director of research for the Brightfield Group, as told to Rolling Stone


In 2018 the cannabis market, the parent industry for CBD oil, grew considerably, aided by the legalisation of its use in Canada. Countries are taking note and exploring innovative uses in beauty and medicine. CBD oils in particular are being touted as a panacea for ills from cancer pain to epilepsy. Rapid growth is being fuelled by consumers buying it on the internet, as well as legislative changes and celebrity endorsements. Expectations that cannabis will be made legal in more countries is likely to boost the CBD market further. The move by the US government to identify hemp as a legal crop, under the 2018 Farm Bill, is forecast to make the production of this derivative oil cheaper, prompting nutritional supplement manufacturer NutraPak USA to double its production. 

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