Know What You’re Getting: CBD, THC or Medical Marijuana


By Rita Robinson, Special to the Independent

Dr. Gregory Smith, former director of pain management at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and assistant clinical professor at UCLA, spoke about cannabinoid medicine at the Inside Edge Foundation for Education last week in Newport Beach. Photo courtesy of Gregory Smith.

Even though selling marijuana and CBD is now legal statewide, buying any of these cannabis products at a dispensary or retail outlet can be a shot in the dark, says a medical doctor who specializes in cannabinoid medicine.

“With a dispensary or store, you don’t really know what you’re getting because there’s no medical assistance on how to take it,” said Gregory Smith, M.D., former director of pain management at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and assistant clinical professor at UCLA. Smith spoke at the Inside Edge Foundation for Education last week in Newport Beach.

At a dispensary, anyone can buy a psychoactive product with high amounts of THC, Smith explained in a later interview. THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychotropic molecule in marijuana and, when heated, becomes acidic and intoxicating. In large, consistent doses, it can become psychologically addictive and damage brain cells, he said.

Conversely, CBD is a nonintoxicating, nonaddictive cannabinoid found in marijuana and hemp now being recognized for its ability to improve and optimize health.

The difference is marijuana plants contain high amounts of THC oil and low amounts of CBD oil, while hemp plants contain high amounts of CBD and low amounts of THC.

“In a dispensary, you can get a one-to-one product where it’s 50 percent THC and 50 percent CBD and that can be dangerous, especially if the person has never taken it before,” said Smith, who also specializes in addiction treatment.

CBD, however, is essentially safe, he said, especially when compared to pharmaceuticals.

In Laguna Beach, two retail outlets selling CBD products are proceeding through the city’s approval process, already OK’d by the Planning Commission. Descriptions for both establishments say there will be no products containing THC above the federal limit of 0.3 percent.

“We’re not a dispensary,” said Charles Hohman, business partner with sister Farrah Gainey in their store, Natural Living, proposed for 574 S. Coast Highway. “We’re a health and wellness store selling essential oils, cosmetics and CBD products.” Hohman confirmed there will be no products containing THC in his store.

“People taking THC in high doses are taking it for recreational purposes and, in that situation, you’re dealing with a set of people who are more likely to become addicted,” said Smith, who also produced and co-wrote the films “American Addict” and “The Big Lie.” “CBD is 100 percent not a gateway drug. The research is overwhelming that not only is it not a gateway drug, it can help prevent addiction.”

Going even further, Smith asserts that CBD is good for “literally every illness there is.”

“I know that’s a big statement, but it’s not because CBD is a panacea,” he said. “It’s because it makes your body correct itself in so many ways, whether it’s hormonal deficiencies, whether you’re talking about someone who has cancer or anything else.”

Without claiming it’s a cure, Smith said CBD kills all cancer cells with no detrimental effects to normal cells.

So why aren’t people flocking to buy it? Because pharmaceuticals are big business, he said, especially if you stay sick and don’t die.

Bill Rawls, M.D., a Lyme-disease specialist based in North Carolina, also attests to the overarching benefits of CBD, assisting everything from overcoming illness to reversing signs of aging. As to its downside, “I can’t find a whole lot,” he said.

The reason is that every body houses an endocannabinoid system, which only recently was seriously studied and which, as it turns out, serves a big purpose, to keep all our other systems running at optimum performance.

The benefits are vast because CBD contains the primary endocannabinoid called anandamide, explained Rawls, which comes from the Sanskrit word meaning spirited, to exhibit a natural high.

“If you have normal levels of anandamide, you feel good,” he said. “Everything in your body is balanced. You’ve got good homeostasis.”

As the years progress, endocannabinoidsbecome depleted.

“In my opinion, and this is not everyone’s opinion, but my opinion is that, historically, most people are endocannabinoid-deficient,” Smith said. “Stress, unhealthy lifestyles, poor nutrition and environmental toxins reduce and negatively affect our endocannabinoid tone. That’s why I am of the school of thought that taking one basic CBD capsule every day is healthy because it keeps your body in balance.” Removing what Smith calls the unhealthy “offending agents” and enjoying a vibrant, balanced lifestyle increases the effectiveness of CBD, he said.

Smith doesn’t dis all dispensaries. “There are some people who run responsible dispensaries with people who are educated and are helping people. The problem is they don’t have doctors or nurses onsite who can help you.”

Out of frustration, Smith created his own line of CBD products called Red Pill Medical. He’s been treating his son with CBD for different health reasons since he was eight years old. “It’s very safe for children because we’re not dealing with a high THC product like you can get at a dispensary,” he said.

Although not a child, Patrick Freeman, a long-time Laguna Beach resident and medical insurance agent, recently tried CBD for a malaise of aches and pains acquired over 77 years, including an artificial knee, broken wrist and chronic sleeplessness.

“It works,” he said. “I haven’t had any pain and I’m sleeping like a baby.” Freeman said he’s cut way back on Ambien, a sleep narcotic, and will skip taking it tonight.

Rawls also offers an exclusive line of online CBD products as well as other herbs. “We’re extremely particular about the processing of our products from agriculture to bottling,” he said. Soon, everyone will have a CBD product in their homes, Rawls predicts.

“If you have real medical problems, you need to get real medical attention,” Smith cautions. He doesn’t advise buying off the internet without medical assistance. “They stop their medications and die because they don’t know how to take it,” he warns.


  1. Great info on CBD. But, citing one doctors opinion on the ‘Reefer Madness’ dangers of THC doesn’t seem to be fair and balanced journalism. And, no mention that in the entire world history of medicinal and spiritual use of cannabis – not one reported death. Is there even one chemical based prescription drug that can claim that? Time to stop the outdated and ill informed smear campaign against cannabis.

  2. Hello this is Patrick Murphy the founder of Lagona Apothecary.

    I am no doctor only a person who has benefited from CBD for arthritis.

    My products are tested by the Cultivators manufacturers and compounders of the ointments lotions bath bombs and soaps.

    I bet Whole Foods is not vegtables, meat or dairy is tracked seed to harvest?

    Do they test or when someone gets ill?

    My products will also go to an independent lab to verify quality.

    I ask you to ponder this we have funded as a nation this research.

    We have also sent people to jail for doing the same thing.


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