Smoking CBD Flowers in the UK
CBD is made from hemp. Hemp belongs to the cannabis family but has been selectively grown to contain very little—if any—THC. All CBD products legally sold in the UK must be produced from industrial hemp and contain less than 0.2% THC.
However, while CBD oil is legal, the Home Office has a strangely hostile approach to hemp flowers. Specifically, the Home Office doesn’t allow British hemp growers to use hemp flowers from their crop. They may use the stalks and fibres but not the flowers, which they must discard after harvest. Since flowers contain the majority of CBD, producing CBD oil is prohibitively expensive as a result. Instead, CBD manufacturers are forced to throw away perfectly good hemp flowers and import their CBD oil from Europe, the United States, and Canada and then process it to produce their CBD products.
Following this peculiar approach, vaping CBD oil is perfectly legal in the UK—but smoking CBD flowers is not. This is in stark contrast to most other countries, where the sale and consumption of CBD flowers is legal. People there can choose to smoke or vape them, taking in the benefits of CBD through their lungs.
Industrial hemp and cannabis
CBD is made from industrial hemp. Historically, hemp has been used to produce fibres, textiles, sails, and ropes thanks to its long and sturdy stalks. George Washington used to grow industrial hemp on his Mount Vernon estate to make sails, textiles, materials, and fish nets.
Flowers and leaves gave CBD and other cannabinoids, which were often used for medicinal purposes, especially before other options became widely available.
In the early 20th century, politicians bundled together cannabis and industrial hemp and prohibited the consumption of any cannabis product, no matter its origin. It has only been in the past 10 to 15 years that countries have recognized the different effect of cannabis and hemp and have legalized CBD consumption thanks to its non-intoxicating and non-addictive properties.
There are many ways to consume CBD. You will find plenty of CBD products in the market, from oils, tinctures, and edibles to topicals, bath bombs, and even CBD-infused mattresses.
The main ways to take in CBD are ingesting it, inhaling it, or absorbing it through the skin. CBD edibles and oils are digested through the stomach first, then reach the bloodstream.
CBD smoking and vaping deliver the CBD directly to the lungs, bypassing the stomach and reaching the bloodstream through the lung capillaries.
As for CBD topicals, they are applied on the skin where the benefits of the topical slowly seep in through the skin.
With so many ways to consume CBD already available, why would some people prefer smoking flowers?
What are the advantages of smoking CBD flowers?
Smoking CBD flowers can be a particularly potent means of delivery because of increased bioavailability.
Bioavailability is the amount of a substance that ultimately reaches the bloodstream upon consumption. All medicines have been calculated with bioavailability in mind. When you take a pill, the manufacturer has calculated how much of the active ingredients will reach your bloodstream and take effect.
When you ingest something, it must go through the stomach and then be metabolized by the liver before it enters the bloodstream. A large proportion of that compound gets lost during all these movements. Sometimes, as little as 10% of the initial compound ends up in the bloodstream.
When you smoke or inhale CBD, however, you bypass the digestive system. The lungs have lung capillaries that absorb substances and then deliver them directly to the bloodstream. The effect is far faster and more potent, as less of the initial compound is lost before entering the bloodstream.
CBD flowers are unprocessed
One extra advantage of CBD flowers is how little processing takes place before you can consume them. If you like unprocessed products, CBD flowers are probably more suitable for you.
Hemp flowers are harvested at their full bloom and then dried. That’s the full amount of processing that these flowers undergo. Dried CBD flowers contain no additives or solvents, which is a quality that people quite often appreciate.
The effects of smoking CBD flowers
The effect of smoking or vaping CBD flowers is similar to taking CBD orally or sublingually, with the extra advantage of the CBD bypassing the digestive tract. CBD is non-intoxicating and non-addictive and the effect kicks in within 15 minutes and lasts for 60 to 90 minutes.
CBD flowers work the same way as other CBD products. They may help promote relaxation and peace of mind and help with pain and inflammation.
People who smoke CBD flowers do so to regain their mental focus, help their body be more active, and achieve a calmer and more motivated demeanour.
Research suggests that CBD may be helpful with inflammation and chronic pain. It may also support mental health and fend off depression and anxiety. CBD flowers deliver the same potentially beneficial effects as oils, tinctures, and edibles.
CBD flowers: a whole terpenoid profile
We are used to hearing about weed coming in various strains. Industrial hemp, however, also comes in different strains. What makes strains different is their cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles.
Industrial hemp contains much more than CBD. It contains more than 100 cannabinoids as well as terpenes, flavonoids, minerals, and vitamins.
CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid—you can find strains with more than 15% CBD—but there are plenty of other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, CBC, and CBDA. Each strain has a different balance of these cannabinoids.
Likewise, industrial hemp contains terpenes. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that give the natural world all the aromas we smell. Lemons give us their characteristic aroma because of the limonene terpene. Forests smell of pine trees because of the pinene terpene. Lavender smells the way it does because of the linalool terpene. All aromatic herbs, bushes, trees, vegetables, and fruit owe their aromas to terpenes.
All industrial hemp strains have diverse terpenoid profiles. There will be different levels of each terpene. With more than 40 terpenes already found in hemp, it’s no wonder there are so many strains with so many distinctive aromas.
Terpenes carry their own potential benefits. They may possess anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-anxiety properties that enhance the overall effects of a CBD product. Depending on which terpene is predominant, the CBD flowers may have a more enhanced effect on a particular area.
That’s why industrial hemp comes in various strains and may have a different health impact on people. Industrial hemp growers across Europe, the United States, and Canada are constantly creating hybrid hemp strains with unique terpenoid profiles.
The hemp farming industry is following the cannabis one. Just like there are more than 700 cannabis strains, there are more and more hemp strains. Some are high in CBD while others contain a more blended mix of cannabinoid compounds.
Smoking or vaping CBD flowers
If you want to smoke CBD, you need to get dried hemp flowers, shatter them, roll them, and light them up. The fire burns the CBD flowers and you inhale this CBD-laden smoke through your lungs.
Alternatively, you can vape CBD flowers by using a dried flowers vaporizer. In this case, the dried CBD flowers are placed in the vaporizer and steamed. Instead of inhaling the smoke, you will be inhaling the vapor produced from heating the flowers.
Some consumers prefer vaping to smoking because they find it gentler on their lungs. There is still ongoing debate as to the danger of smoking CBD compared to vaping. Research, for example, suggests that smoking CBD could be a helpful tool to fight nicotine addiction with fewer side effects. But we still need to know more about the effects of smoked CBD on the lungs.
The UK CBD market
CBD flowers are not legal in the UK. Indeed, hemp flowers qualify as a class B drug.
The law equates industrial hemp with cannabis when it comes to CBD flowers, without making the distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana. While CBD products made from industrial hemp and with a maximum content of 0.2% THC are legal, CBD flowers are not.
The law keeps evolving and it is assumed that at some point lawmakers will accept that CBD flowers can be consumed safely. From a legal point of view, there needs to be a clear distinction between weed and CBD flowers. While cannabis and marijuana contain THC and can be intoxicating, CBD flowers are not.
It is hoped that the law will soon change and support hemp growers by letting them use their hemp flowers instead of disposing of them. If that were to happen, it is highly probable that CBD flowers would become legal in the UK.