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By Jennifer Chan.

Think you’re safe?  You go see a client at their home for a massage.  They hand you a bottle of oil and tell you it’s their own cannabis-infused oil they have made and ask you to massage them with it.  Do you?  Currently in the state of WA, recreational/medicinal cannabis is legal.  So, do you? If you do, you have just created not only a licensing violation, but also a criminal violation for administering a schedule 1 drug.  Pro or against the cannabis plant, the “green rush” is here to stay.  Right now there are 30 states with medicinal cannabis markets and 8 states (DC too) with legal cannabis. This year, we may have our 9th state (VT) legalize cannabis.

The state of WA is the birthplace is CHABA (Cannabis Health & Beauty Aids). I was proudly the first CHABA massage therapist out of the green closet and helped promote the law before it was signed by the Governor.  After several requests to the WA Department of Health, along with requests sent by the chief orchestrator and co-author of the CHABA law, 15 months after the CHABA law took effect, we got the subject of CHABA and cannabis topicals on the WA Department of Health Licensed Massage Practitioners FAQ list of questions. As of July 1st 2015, when the CHABA law went into effect, I’ve been slowly, but surely educating my fellow LMPs.  I taught the 1st ever CE’s in WA ETHICS: CHABA & CANNABIS 101 FOR WA LMPs because I found there was a BIG need for the education seeing wrong information being passed on social media forums.  At the same time, we are starting to see the “green rush” in retail fashion. Topicals with CBD in them are appearing faster than I can blink.  

I want to make sure I help my fellow WA LMP stay safe, remain within scope avoiding licensing and criminal violations, and be able to answer the many questions one may be hearing on their table these past several years.  With all that said…


  1. Cannabis Sativa L is an annual herbaceous plant in the Cannabis genus. It is a member of a small, but diverse family of flowering plants of the Cannabaceae family. There is industrial hemp and there is marijuana.  The industrial hemp side of the cannabis plant has low resin and is where we get our hemp seeds, hemp seed oil (hemp protein), hemp fuel, hemp building materials (plastics, insulation, paint etc), and hemp fibers. For thousands of years, 90% of all ships’ sails and rope were made from hemp. The marijuana side of the cannabis plant has high resin flowering buds and that’s where we get our variety of strains of marijuana flower.

  2. CHABA stands for Cannabis Health and Beauty Aids. These type of topicals can range from oils to creams to salves and have no more than 0.3% THC, and were removed off the WA Controlled Substance Act (WA CSA).  As of July 2015, these topicals are not considered a drug and the only type of topical with marijuana in it OKAY for WA LMP’s to massage with. Using any other marijuana infused topicals (i.e. topicals with MORE THAN 0.3% THC) would be administering a schedule 1 drug, and considered a licensing violation for practicing out of scope, on top of a criminal violation. The CHABA Law is RCW 69.50.575.  CHABA are becoming extremely popular as they don’t have enough THC for any euphoric effects, but enough to get the benefits from them.

  3. We have an endocannabinoids system (ECS) within our body.  Its main purpose is to maintain homeostasis on a cellular level. There are 2 types of receptors (CB1 receptors & CB2 receptors) that bind to cannabinoids once consumed. CB1 receptors can be found in the central nervous system, the brain, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs.   Most importantly to LMPs, they modulate and moderate the perception of pain. CB1 is Keyed to THC. CB2 receptors can be found in the immune system and its associated structures, with the highest concentration located in the spleen. Most importantly to LMPs CB2 receptors can be found all over the skin. It is keyed to CBD. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action.

  4. There are 3 types of topicals.  I’d pay close attention to labels on the product in question.
    1. Hemp Body Care Products –
      1. Hempseed oil products – They have been around for decades and utilize the best that hempseed oil has to offer. Hempseed oil is rich in omega 6 and 3, amino acids, and multiple vitamins. Hempseed oil promotes collagen production and elasticity in the skin. Hempseed oil also has a low-level anti inflammatory property, but is not to be confused with hemp-derived CBD
      2. “CBD Only” products- products with CBD, which is solely derived from industrial hemp. These are not derived from the hempseed (itself), but from the resin concentrate of the rest of the plant.  All products in this category should contain no THC.
    2. CHABA – infused with marijuana, with a finished level of NO MORE THAN 0.3% THC, are non-intoxicating.
    3. Recreational/ Medical Marijuana topicals- All cannabis topicals with more than 0.3% THC in their finished content

  5. CHABA can be found not only in the WA 502 recreational cannabis retail stores, but also in your neighborhood health store (as its not considered a drug). Review your labels to see the % of THC to ensure it’s a CHABA and not a recreational/ medical marijuana topical. The main difference between purchasing CHABA in the 502 recreational market versus normal health/beauty stores is the taxes.  Topicals purchased in the 502 system are subject to a 37% tax, versus WA state sales tax of up to 10.1%.

  6. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) are usually the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis strains that the general public hears every day.  The “acid” form is before it gets decarboxylates (heated up).  There are over 100 phyto-cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.  The therapeutic properties of these and other cannabinoids have been proven. There are analgesics properties, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-spasmodic properties, anti-microbial, and cell regenerative to name a few.

  7. CBD by itself is okay, especially in states where the access to the marijuana plant is limited. It’s the marriage of all the different cannabinoids, better known as the entourage effect, that people get the most benefits from whole plant therapeutics, not isolated cannabinoids. This is why CHABA is far superior than CBD only topicals.  

  8. BEWARE of the CBD fad. What’s considered a good versus bad product? Usually products that are CBD only derive their CBD from industrial hemp.  Many farms are not regulated. The ground the plant grows in can be highly contaminated with heavy metals and toxins the hemp soaks up. Unlike Canada’s highly regulated and organic industrial hemp farms, the US is just starting to get on board again with industrial hemp.  Bottom line, KNOW YOUR SOURCE!

  9. Not all CHABA are created equally. In regard to shopping for all natural products, it is recommended to stay away from manmade fragrances and chemical preservatives as these are both counterproductive to any therapeutic effect.  They all share 1 common ingredient: the marijuana plant. Other than that, each CHABA producer’s recipe is different.

  10. Counterindicators. Currently CHABA products are not required to put one of those “call poison control in case of ingestion” labels. It is safe for everyone of all ages to use.  Just like any other product beware of other ingredients in the topical (i.e. no nut based oils for those with nut allergies). Please beware of terpenes.  Some people are more sensitive (or allergic) to certain terpenes. Lastly, if it’s a cannabis-infused topical with over 0.3% THC, there is a possibility of euphoria for both client and practitioner.

Two last points I want to make.  Topical delivery method is the lowest risk method of receiving benefits of the cannabis plant. If you don’t like it, it can be washed off immediately!  Lastly, if you are in another state other than WA, I suggest checking in with your state’s current cannabis laws on top of checking with the rules and regulations of those who regulate your licensing, if that be the department of health, or board of nursing etc.  

I very much appreciate all of the support I’ve received from the co-authors of the CHABA law, from other CHABA producers, and from the cannabis industry here in WA.  I especially want to thank the WSMTA for being open about his “hush hush” topic and allowing me to write this article.  Again, I am not here to influence your opinion on the subject of cannabis.  I’m here to let my fellow LMPs be aware of and understand this topic. I hope that armed with this knowledge, fellow LMPs may avoid any licensing or criminal violations and feel more confident when speaking to their clients about this subject.

Please check out my 4 hr continuing education class, ETHICS: CHABA & Cannabis 101 for WA LMPs, for more detailed 411 and to get a better understanding on the topic.  Feel free to check here for class description and sign up for classes.

Jennifer Chan, CMT/LMP, BCTMB
Board Certified Massage Therapist
703-623-1794 / 206-305-5204


WSMTA - CHABA Brochure November 2018.pdf

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