In Maplewood Mall, holiday shoppers pick up CBD tinctures from an organic hemp farm at the Nothing But Hemp kiosk. Festive gift sets with CBD-infused body lotions, shampoos and soaps are available a few miles away at Minnesota Hempdropz. Spot Spa in Minneapolis has CBD oil massages on its list of services and tries to keep pricey gourmet gumdrops from “aspirational” CBD purveyor Lord Jones on its shelves. The problem? They continually sell out.
CBD (a cannabis compound called cannabidiol) is fast on its way to becoming a sought-after holiday gift — and a $22 billion industry, according to market research company Brightfield Group.
As the wider movement to legalize cannabis continues to gain traction, Inc.com recently ranked CBD as one of the eight best industries for starting a new business in 2019. Even Coca-Cola has admitted it’s interested, saying it is “closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world.”
Proponents say that CBD doesn’t get users high, but can provide relief from anxiety, joint pain, menstrual cramps or migraines. There’s also some evidence that it can be effectively used to treat serious illnesses, including severe forms of epilepsy.
Much of the research on CBD is in its early stages, however, and there seems to be little agreement on what it can and can’t do, the correct dosage and whether cannabidiol goods are even legal to sell without a prescription in Minnesota.
In the meantime, CBD is showing up in everything from sparkling sodas and cooking oils to mascaras and bath bombs on local store shelves and readily available online.
Jeremy Current, a stay-at-home dad from New Ulm, Minn., takes 10 mg of CBD in a drop under his tongue every day.
“It’s part of my morning routine. It makes me way less irritable,” he said as he was leaving Nothing But Hemp, which has video screens declaring “60 is the new 40, and CBD is the new aspirin.”
Owner Steven Brown said sales have been brisk since the kiosk opened last month, even though he’s been unable to find a credit card processor, forcing his business to be cash-only.
Brown stocks oils and gummies from a few high-end companies, including Montel Williams’ Lenitiv line. He said he’d like to carry Minnesota-grown products, but hasn’t found any companies producing CBD goods locally. (A number of local farms have been legally harvesting hemp since 2014.)
The compound is also being used by pet owners to treat anxiety, stiff joints and other ailments in their animals.
This fall, Kate Arends, who runs the lifestyle website Wit and Delight, became worried about her English lab, Winnie. When Arends’ younger child started crawling, Winnie refused to eat and sat shaking in a corner of their St. Paul home.
Arends’ vet suggested an antidepressant. But after Arends posted her dog’s plight on Instagram, she got an overwhelming number of suggestions to use something else: CBD treats. Now, Winnie gobbles up two CBD treats a day.
“I gave her one treat, and she was just like, ‘Tail’s wagging, just was handling the chaos,’ ” said Arends. “This has helped her so much. So I’m a believer.”
Lingering legal questions
Companies making CBD products say they can sell in states where marijuana is illegal because the extracts they use come from agricultural hemp, which contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the mind-altering compound found in pot.
Cody Wiberg, executive director of Minnesota’s pharmacy board, disagrees. So does the Drug Enforcement Administration, which views CBD as a controlled substance, even as the 2019 farm bill is poised to legalize industrial hemp.
It’s also a matter of debate whether CBD (which can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana), should be considered a food or cosmetic ingredient, a dietary supplement or a drug. While many brands characterize their products as supplements, Wiberg considers the most popular CBD products on the market — like tinctures and gummies — a drug.
In an advisory posted on the pharmacy board’s website this month, Wiberg cautioned Minnesota consumers that CBD products are both illegal to sell and unregulated. Even so, the board isn’t going to prevent their sale in the state unless it discovers that someone is being harmed by them, Wiberg said.
“At this point the proverbial genie is out of the bottle,” he said, adding that “the scale of the enforcement action that we’d have to take is beyond our means.” Still, he said, “If I thought there was an immediate, clear and present danger to the public, we would do it anyway.”
He worries that some people may use CBD instead of more effective medical treatments, use the compound without talking to their doctor about potential reactions to other medications or without knowing what’s in a tincture, gum drop or lotion. (The state’s Agriculture Department has tested a sampling of products and found some that didn’t contain any CBD at all, Wiberg said.)
Around the country, coffee shops are selling CBD-infused cold brews and “anxiety-melting” lattes, but it may be a while before CBD ends up on local menus.
Minnesota restaurateur Wally Sakallah announced plans this fall for a Dinkytown CBD coffee shop to be called Cosmic Bean Dispensary. He’s currently reworking the concept after local officials advised him that it wouldn’t pass legal hurdles. The state food code doesn’t allow it because CBD isn’t FDA-approved as an additive, said Dan Huff of the Minneapolis Department of Health.
A wonder drug?
Even as officials debate the compound’s legal status, the list of CBD’s potential benefits continues to grow.
Three clinical trials found that it can help stop seizures for people with certain rare forms of epilepsy. In June, the FDA approved a CBD syrup called Epidiolex for kids as young as 2 with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
A host of other clinical trials and studies are underway that, if conclusive, could promote the cannabis compound to wonder-drug status, as a treatment for everything from acne to post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia symptoms, Parkinson’s, even cancer.
Much of the scientific research is in its early stages, but many are clearly already embracing the promise of CBD.
The Colorado-based nonprofit Realm of Caring, which was started by parents whose kids’ seizures dramatically improved after taking CBD, is working to create a research registry, partnering with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to collect information from tens of thousands of people (children and adults) who are using it as a therapy for autism, cerebral palsy and other disorders.
Co-founder Heather Jackson, whose teenage son Zaki takes CBD, says she’s glad the nonintoxicating compound that changed her family’s life is getting so much attention. But the Colorado Springs, Colo., mom doesn’t want people to dismiss it as a fad.
“It’s really popular right now,” she said. “But if you’re wondering if it’s hype or hope, it really is hope.”