The market for CBD will overtake the market for THC, CBD enthusiasts and business people predict.
THC is, of course, the molecule in cannabis that gets you stoned. CBD, meanwhile, is a molecule from cannabis credited with treating epilepsy, anxiety and other maladies.
CBD is surging in popularity, sold in tinctures, joints and edibles. What's more, it's being added to soaps, lotions, lip balms, drinks, sunscreen — all kinds of stuff. If the trend continues, it's possible that the value of CBD-infused products could eclipse THC-containing products: what we usually think of as "cannabis."
"It's a natural solution to so many problems, without the side effects," said Maruchy Lachance, chief operations officer at Boulder Botanical & Bioscience Labs, makers of CBD products that are sold under various labels. "Everyone is reaching for this."
Lachance is one of a growing group of industry enthusiasts saying that the CBD market could get bigger than the THC market in the next five years.
The market for CBD this year is about $600 million. A blue-sky report from a pro-CBD industry group, Brightfield, predicts it will grow to be 40 times as big, a $22 billion annual industry, by 2022.
Marijuana — the stuff with the THC in it — is a giant business already, around $10 billion a year. A marijuana industry group, Arcview, predicts that by 2022 marijuana will double to become a $23 billion annual industry.
So … if both predictions are right, the two markets could be about the same size.
The CBD-lovers say CBD has a bigger upside than THC because not everybody wants to get stoned, but everybody wants to get healthy.
Ben Rippley is a CU Boulder grad who runs the company World Class Health, which specializes in CBD products that also contain CBG, another cannabinoid associated with good health. He has given out his CBD+CBG tinctures to people suffering from all kinds of problems, from Parkinson's to Bell's palsy.
"You can argue that everyone can benefit from CBD," Rippley said. "It's just such a safe way for people to get their lives back and start doing the things they love again."
Rippley points to a survey from Brightfield saying that a huge percentage of CBD users, perhaps as high as 42 percent, stop taking traditional medicines like Tylenol completely.
These enthusiasts have heard the objection that they're overselling the medicine.
"I don't want this to turn into snake oil, where everybody's running around saying, this is the cure all," Lachance said. "It kind of is, but you want to temper it."
But with CBD largely unregulated, and with no apparent downside in terms of side effects, it's hard to see how the market won't grow. Will it pass good old marijuana?
"The sky's the limit," Lachance said.