Introducing CBD: weed’s cooler and legal younger sister

Edition 31 January, by Phoebe Dodds

Amsterdam is infamous for its liberal attitude to marijuana, drawing bachelor parties and groups of interrailing teenagers since time immemorial. But with the gradual legalisation of medical and recreational marijuana, it’s time for the once-disreputable drug to shine. The massive rise in popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, has cemented the drug’s reband. From gyms to organic supermarkets, retailers across the Netherlands are stocking all things CBD: chocolate, drinks, and oils are just a few examples. One such retailer is STACH, a cafe-corner shop with locations all around the country, which stocks British CBD drink TRIP. For this month’s column I wanted to explore this trend and find out why CBD is resonating so well with consumers, so I spoke to Olivia Ferdi, co-founder of TRIP, to find out more.

I asked Olivia how she would describe CBD to people who don’t want to go near anything associated with drugs. “It’s actually a plan that’s been used for thousands of years in various therapies, including pain treatment,” she explains. “In fact, Queen Victoria was even said to use CBD for menstrual cramps!” So despite common misconceptions, CBD can’t actually get you high. It turns out that CBD works by regulating our body’s endocannabinoid systems, whose receptors are found throughout the human bodies. When it’s sourced and incorporated into products correctly, CBD has the potential to support people in their quest for a feeling of well-being.

Although extraction methods and regulation are being standardised, I wondered if running a CBD brand poses additional challenges due to consumer misinformation. “For all new brands, it’s important to communicate your brand values and unique value proposition to your audience,” explains Olivia. “This is usually done via digital marketing, using platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Amazon and Google. These platforms are US-owned, where CBD is currently federally not legal, and there’s a block on paid advertising, which means a key method of raising awareness is restricted.” Olivia also points out that the health and wellness benefits of CBD are subject to strict and evolving advertising guidelines, so CBD brands need to navigate the terrain carefully, and also work this into communication with customers.

So what exactly are the benefits of CBD, especially if it doesn’t get you high? “Benefits range from medical treatments and recovery, to everyday stress relief,” Olivia tells me. “TRIP was created to support in reducing anxiety in its most regular, daily form. Many generations are facing overwhelming pressures around ‘busyness’, and TRIP encourages people to reclaim a moment of their time, and take a trip to reset and relax into their best self.” While CBD was formerly limited to an expensive oil format available at health food stores, brands like TRIP who sell readily-available drinks for on-the-go are bringing the benefits to the masses.

I’m always intrigued about the longevity of trends like CBD – is it here to stay, or is it just a passing fad? Over the years, and particularly in the wellness space, we’ve seen trends like wheatgrass shots, aloe vera drinks, and teatox (tea detox) that have slowly sunk under the radar. Is CBD on the same path? Olivia doesn’t think so. I asked her what’s next for the CBD industry. “More regulation and better quality,” she says. “As more people try CBD there will become leading categories where the bioavailability of the CBD – absorption into the body – are optimised, and some more “novelty” marketing led items are out-paced. Consumers will also be looking at the strength of products, and the provenance of the CBD grown and the ingredients sourced.”

If you’re curious to try out the trend for yourself, here’s what you need to know. CBD comes in one of three major formats: ingestibles, smokables, and topicals. Ingestibles includes drinks, oils, chocolate and edibles in the form of candy, cakes or gummies. If you’d rather smoke your CBD, consider an e-cigarette. Topicals include bath bombs, creams, and oils that you apply to the body. Although there are often suggested dosings and usage guidelines, these aren’t medically tested, so you’ll need to figure out the dose that achieves your desired outcome. Start with a low dose – one or two drops of oil, or a drink with low CBD content, and build up gradually. It’s not for everyone, but you won’t know until you try. Next time you find yourself suffering from muscle cramps, anxiety or insomnia, don’t reach for the pills – try CBD instead.