Scientists have been talking about CBD converting into THC since 1968, when Dr. Raphael Mechoulam detected trace amounts of the plant’s psychoactive compound (THC) after dissolving a CBD isolate in a mixture of sulfuric acid and methanol.
One of the implications of his observation was that, since the human stomach contains hydrochloric acid (which is actually more acidic than sulphuric acid), CBD may “turn into” the psychoactive THC compound after ingestion.
This was 50 years ago. Since then, it has been largely verified through a number of human studies that oral ingestion of cannabidiol (CBD) does not in fact seem to convert into any consequential measures of THC.
In spite of this fact, though, a recent 2016 report published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research aimed to bring the topic back to life by presenting new evidence showing an alarming conversion rate of the non-psychoactive compound into psychoactive THC in the stomach. The paper sent off a few alarm bells in the industry, coincidentally just as CBD was gaining huge momentum within the medical, scientific, political, and public eye.
However, the research community – as well as the cannabis community at large – was quick to point out several highly erroneous aspects of the study, which ultimately ended up being labeled as “fraud” by the non-profit organization Project CBD.
As it turns out, the study was carried out by researchers (employees) of Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, who at the time was developing a transdermal CBD patch which would have administered the cannabinoid through the skin rather than through the digestive system. In other words, it was of great interest to them to portray CBD as potentially psychoactive when ingested orally. As Project CBD puts its, “Zynerba [had] a financial interest in depicting oral CBD, which is well tolerated in clinical research, as potentially harmful.”
Naturally, the paper ignited immediate feedback from several respected researchers within the cannabis community, who published new studies just months afterwards in an effort to clear up the misinformation that the 2016 paper presented.
CBD is Known to Convert into Minute Amounts of THC, but it Has No Effect on Humans
Granted, the 2016 paper didn’t just pull their information out of thin air – like we said, CBD has been shown in other studies to convert to THC when dissolved in “gastric simulation” fluids. However, the levels of THC that are produced are virtually negligible, and are not known to have any physiological effects on humans. In fact, the trace THC that does show up after oral CBD ingestion is excreted in urine – it has no affinity for binding to CB-1 receptors in the brain, which is how THC produces its psychoactive high.
Two very recent studies have been published which verify this information. One of them, published in May 2017 and titled “A Conversion of Oral Cannabidiol to Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Seems Not to Occur in Humans,” was carried out as a direct response to the misleading 2016 paper. It’s results clearly state that “the conversion of oral CBD to THC and its metabolites has not been observed to occur in vivo [meaning within a living organism], even after high doses of oral CBD.”
Another paper published just months earlier by the same group of authors (Grotenhermen et al.) clearly showed that even after massive oral doses of CBD, humans do not experience “THC-like effects.” The clinical study administered 600 mg CBD doses to 16 male subjects, upon which THC and its active metabolites were tested for in their blood concentrations. The results, as quoted by Project CBD, state that “the resulting change in the concentration of THC metabolites was statistically meaningless.” Moreover, it was declared that “to the extent that THC is formed from orally ingested CBD, it is physiologically insignificant.”
Also, it is well worth pointing out that a 600 mg dose of CBD is highly abnormal – in fact, it’s nearly 300x a typical daily dose, which can run anywhere between 2 and 8 mg. If the levels of THC were “statistically meaningless” after such a massive dose, then they are even less significant under a normal dose.
How Could a Scientific Paper Publish Such Misleading Information?
It is possible that the initial 2016 publication wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented the work of previous scientific researchers in an effort to push the agenda of the pharmaceutical company’s new transdermal product. For example, if lawmakers and the general public were led to believe that CBD converts into psychoactive THC in the stomach, then a transdermal patch (which bypasses the digestive system and absorbs straight into the blood) would become a highly in-demand product.
In one specific example of the paper wildly misrepresenting a previous publication, it was stated that “poor motor and cognitive performance [was documented] after administration of oral CBD.” In reality, though, the referenced study stated that “alcohol and alcohol + CBD, but not CBD given singly, produce decrements of motor and cognitive responses.”
Of course, many people are questioning how such a misleading scientific research paper was able to be published, given that the whole point of peer-reviewed, scientific journals is to present factual information that readers can accept as valid. Some believe that the validity of the journal itself, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, ought to be questioned extensively, which is fair enough given that it is a relatively new publication with a questionable impact factor.
What’s clear is that verifiable scientific data on the oral consumption of CBD was skewed to present highly misleading information in regard to its conversion into THC in the stomach.
Final Thoughts on CBD Turning into THC in the Stomach
At the end of the day, this is likely just one example of many in which scientific data is produced with an agenda – not just in the cannabis industry, but in the greater medicinal community and even the general research community at large.
When taking new information into account, it is extremely important to consider multiple sources, and also to check the validity of the initial source. In this particular instance, the bottom line is that CBD is entirely safe, and it will not produce any intoxicating effects. While it has been shown under laboratory and clinical settings to convert into trace amounts of THC in humans, the levels that are produced are virtually negligible.