You may have heard that Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine. It’s true, but not very much. According to one source, at its peak, there were only about 17 grams of cocaine in 25 million gallons of Coca-Cola syrup, about a year’s supply, which “wasn’t enough to give a fly a buzz”.

Coca-Cola was developed as an alcohol-free version of a wine-and-coca-leaf beverage, Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, and marketed as both a “temperance drink” and a patent medicine. One vintage ad touted Coca-Cola as “The Ideal Brain Tonic … Delightful Summer and Winter Beverage… Specific for HEADACHE … Relieves MENTAL & PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION.”

Now the Coca-Cola Co. is considering adding beverages that contain an ingredient from marijuana (or cannabis) to its line of products: cannabidiol, also known as CBD. The second most plentiful chemical in cannabis, CBD has no psychoactive effects (it won’t get you high) but has most of the health benefits attributed to medicinal marijuana, including:

  • Preventing the breakdown of a chemical in the brain that affects pain, mood, and mental function.
  • Reducing the psychotic symptoms associated with conditions such as schizophrenia.
  • Blocking some of the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most plentiful chemical in marijuana and the one primarily responsible for getting you high.
  • Reducing pain and anxiety.

Not you can expect to find CBD in Coca-Cola in itself. “The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is a total beverage company, offering over 500 brandsand it is contemplating a line of “functional wellness beverages” containing CBD.

Functional wellness beverages are beverages that contain ingredients to improve your health, such as added vitamins or probiotics.

Heretofore CBD has been considered a food additive, not a medicine, and technically was still as illegal as marijuana on the federal level. In June, however, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an epilepsy drug containing CBD, the first time that any drug containing any component of marijuana has received such approval.

Back in 2015, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) concluded that “CBD appears to be a safe drug with no addictive effects, and the preliminary data suggest that it may have therapeutic value for a number of medical conditions”. Last November the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) agreed, writing that “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential”.

Some research suggests that CBD works best when it contains some THC and other parts of marijuana because of something called the entourage effect. Marijuana strains have been developed with much higher CBD levels and much lower THC levels, so it is possible to have marijuana that won’t get you high but will give you the health benefits. With more than half the states now allowing at least medical marijuana, that’s good to know. It might lead to the Congress and President legalizing medical marijuana.

I don’t think Coca-Cola thinks they can market a wellness drink exclusively for consumers with epilepsy or schizophrenia, or that it would be a good idea if they did, but there are a lot of people in pain who don’t want to keep taking highly addictive opioid painkillers. If a CBD beverage can help them control the pain, it sounds like a good idea.

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