IS CBD SNAKE OIL? A conversation with industry expert Kate Phillips [part 1]

    by John Reid / May 9, 2019

    At a recent screening of Weed The People, my Relief Scout co-founder, Kara Potter, and I met Kate Phillips. During the Q&A portion following the film, Kate asked a rather thought-provoking question that piqued our interest. Kate investigated the competitive nature of business hindering progress of scientific advancement and consumer education of cannabis. She asked, “This should be about the benefit of the plant and patient, right?"

    With decades of prohibition and stigma to overcome, Kate makes a fair case. Kara and I took a moment to nod in agreement with the question that would surely resonate with any student of hemp activist Jack Herer’s movement to legalize cannabis. What’s going on is bigger than business.  After the film, we caught up with Kate and that lead to a further conversation about cannabis and its benefits, to which we’d like to share in this two-part series. 

    Kate Phillips is the Medical Cannabis Patient Expert Educator for Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN). Additionally, she is the Founder of Silk, a Cannabis Consulting Agency that specializes in Cannabis Education, Executive Training, Management Consulting, & Strategic Planning. Through her experiences working with fast paced start-ups, high compliance environments, and poorly informed cannabis industry staff and patients, Kate has developed a unique perspective and skill set that she brings to cannabis industry consulting. She bases her philosophy of Elevated Education on working to create accessible, research based educational materials about cannabis for both companies and patients. As Silk’s Founder and Owner, Kate personally develops innovative educational marketing materials, educational programs for staff training, and curated patient experiences to help differentiate brands in this emerging market.

    Research and Cannabis Subject Matter Experts: The good, the bad, and the ugly

    The cannabis industry and much of the hemp sector, is still largely unregulated.  From the big picture today, the scientific world seems to be playing catch up to claims being made by business. Kate articulates the big idea, “Patients and customers should be getting accurate advice, no matter what. That means self-proclaimed CBD oil experts should make their data available for the benefit of everyone to validate vast claims science hypothesis have yet to verify in trials.”

    “Patients and customers should be getting accurate advice, no matter what. That means self-proclaimed CBD oil experts should make their data available for the benefit of everyone to validate vast claims..."

    Research in the US has largely been put on hold since the 1970s, and the negative stigma associated with cannabis has existed for some time. Today, the US looks at research happening in Israel, Canada, Spain, and even Panama to shed light on the potential of the hemp plant. Kate adds, “What we have to do is play detective about the source and understand what verifiable specifics you can glean from studies. Being mindful of the details because information can be presented in a lot of ways and not every study takes a sophisticated approach to gathering and interpreting data.”

    While it seems that everyone who can write a blog touts themselves as a subject matter expert in cannabis. “It’s powerful when people can translate scientific research in an easy to understand way, but we still have to think for ourselves,” Kate says. “For example, there are certain ailments that have more benefit when CBD is combined with THC. Instead we are seeing two factions forming where you are on the CBD or THC side. You have to think for yourself and rely on research, not a slanted opinion.”

    I couldn’t agree with Kate more about taking an unbiased approach. Since Relief Scout is focused on hemp-based CBD with little to no THC, it would be very easy to fall into the trap where Relief Scout could suggest CBD in a biased fashion. There are numerous benefits to full-spectrum hemp CBD, include the lack of intoxication effects many patients prefer for anxiety and inflammation. However, there are times we recommend patients seek a dispensary for marijuana if they happen to be lucky enough to live in a state where THC is legal - particularly when nausea is symptomatic.

    Developing data informed education

    Once you have reliable scientific resources, such as PubMed, Google Scholar, NORML,, or Realm of Care you need to play detective. Kate says, “Look at that report and see what specifics you can find. PubMed is really good at this, they map out exactly what was gleaned from each study and the methodology used to uncover their results. Realize that information can be presented in a lot of ways, but it’s important you understand why you are taking CBD and be clear on what CBD is and is not proven to do. At the end of the day real science and data are proven to be the most trustworthy source you have.”

    Research limitations

    CBD, largely from incentivized marketers are creating unrealistic expectations about CBD. Kate adds, “There are people trying to cash in by making outrageous claims. At the end of the day, CBD and THC is still a band-aid solution. Our chemistry responds well to hemp in the endocannabinoid system because we produce these chemicals naturally. For the most part, when hemp is out of our system, so are the benefits. So, your symptoms will come back, it’s not a miracle drug that some claim it to be.” As a therapeutic, taking CBD will help but it doesn’t mix with everyone’s internal chemistry. This is where the science is playing catch up, we all have slightly different reactions to cannabis. One might suggest you should enter with reasonable expectations about what CBD can and can’t do.

    CBD may not be for you

    Kate provides a refreshing reminder that CBD is not for everyone. Often, a negative experience with cannabis will lead to future avoidance. Kate, realizing the myriad of personal benefits, bravely stuck with CBD. She tells, “I guess you can’t separate the patient from the person. My nursing background plays a role in my willingness to experiment. Large dosages of CBD exacerbate my symptoms of Lyme disease. I found lower dosages of CBD and THC mix well for me but that’s not for everyone.” One might say hemp does take some patient patience? We digress…

    In part 2 we’ll share how to set the right expectations with CBD, how to approach CBD for the first time, CBD dosing, and filtering out misinformation about CBD.

    Want to learn more about Kate? Check out

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    John Reid

    John Reid

    John has over 13 years of experience in finance and consulting. John has joined the industry-wide mission to educate and introduce people to the value of this often misunderstood component of the hemp plant. When not working with the Relief Scout vendors, you can find John and his wife enjoying the great outdoors and surfing in San Francisco. And if you ever want to talk music, John is all ears.


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