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Germplasm for the improvement of hemp is vital for the future of the industry in North America. However, there are no publicly available germplasm banks housing C. sativa in North America. The hundreds of seed collections acquired for Small’s studies (reviewed in Small 1979) were destroyed in 1980 because Canadian government policy at that time envisioned no possibility that hemp would ever be developed as a legitimate crop. An inquiry regarding the 56 United States Department of Agriculture hemp germplasm collections supplied to and grown by Small and Beckstead (1973) resulted in the reply that there are no remaining hemp collections in USDA germplasm holdings, and indeed that were such to be found they would have to be destroyed. While hemp has been and still is cultivated in Asia and South America, it is basically in Europe that germplasm banks have made efforts to preserve hemp seeds. The Vavilov Institute of Plant Research in St. Petersburg, Russia has by far the largest germplasm collection of hemp of any public gene bank, with about 500 collections. Detailed information on the majority of hemp accessions of the Vavilov Institute can be found in Anon. (1975). Budgetary problems in Russia have endangered the survival of this invaluable collection, and every effort needs to be made to find new funding to preserve it. Maintenance and seed generation issues for the Vavilov hemp germplasm collection are discussed in a number of articles in the Journal of the International Hemp Association (Clarke 1998b; Lemeshev et al. 1993, 1994). The Gatersleben gene bank of Germany, the 2nd largest public gene bank in Europe, has a much smaller Cannabis collection, with less than 40 accessions (detailed information on the hemp accessions of the Gatersleben gene bank are available at fox-serv.ipk-gatersleben.de/). Because hemp is regaining its ancient status as an important crop, a number of private germplasm collections have been assembled for the breeding of cultivars as commercial ventures (de Meijer and van Soest 1992; de Meijer 1998), and of course these are available only on a restricted basis, if at all.

The scientific debate regarding taxonomy has had little effect on the terminology in widespread use among cultivators and users of drug-type Cannabis. Cannabis aficionados recognize three distinct types based on such factors as morphology, native range, aroma, and subjective psychoactive characteristics. Sativa is the most widespread variety, which is usually tall, laxly branched, and found in warm lowland regions. Indica designates shorter, bushier plants adapted to cooler climates and highland environments. Ruderalis is the informal name for the short plants that grow wild in Europe and Central Asia.

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