Because I was curious and because I could, I bought some cannabis the other day.
Me and everybody else in Minnesota, it seems.
While the politicians in St. Paul debate whether and when to legalize recreational marijuana, the rest of the state is getting into the cannabis business in a big, big way.
CBD, a cannabis extract that won’t get you high, is everywhere, ever since Congress legalized hemp late last year. Congress didn’t say anything about hemp extracts and marijuana extracts like CBD, but before anyone could object, retailers had slipped through the loophole and set up shop in a legal gray area.
You can buy CBD in grocery stores and pet stores and online and in mom-and-pop shops all over the state. Customers come looking for something to ease their aches and pains, anxieties and illnesses, and they leave with CBD oils, ointments and edibles. There’s talk of a CBD coffee shop in Dinkytown.
“The proverbial genie’s out of the bottle, and it would be very hard to put it back in at this point,” said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, who watched the hempsplosion from the sidelines.
The Minnesota Department of Health oversees medical marijuana and the Agriculture Department monitors hemp farming, but CBD doesn’t fall on anyone’s desk, and the tiny Board of Pharmacy couldn’t crack down, even if it wanted to.
“There are probably hundreds of retail establishments in Minnesota selling the product,” Wiberg said, “including the Fresh Thyme grocery store that’s half a block from the Board [of Pharmacy] offices. … My veterinarian was selling something called Pet Paws that was CBD for dogs.”
Before the Nothing But Hemp shop opened its doors at the corner of Lyndale and Lake in Minneapolis, CEO Steven Brown went looking for proper paperwork and red tape.
“We went to the city [of Minneapolis] and we were literally trying to give them money to get a tobacco dealer’s license,” since the shop sells vape pens for CBD oil, Brown said. “We talked to a supervisor and they said, ‘Well, you’re not tobacco, you’re hemp, so there’s really nothing you have to worry about.’ ”
The shelves at Nothing But Hemp are lined with CBD tinctures, CBD-infused coffee beans, CBD gummies, CBD bath bombs, CBD for dogs. Brown targets his businesses to customers aged 45 and older, which makes a cutting-edge cannabis purchase feel less than edgy, honestly.
“People will come in and spend more money on their pets than they will themselves,” said Brown’s business partner, Giovan Jenkins, who is leaving his job as dean of students at a Minneapolis high school to go into the hemp business full-time.
Business is brisk. There are four Nothing But Hemp retail locations in and around Minnesota and Brown has plans for more. They buy their merchandise from states where cannabis is regulated and from suppliers they trust to lab-test their products.
“The goal,” Brown said, “is to be the largest, most respected CBD brand in the country.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has approved only one CBD product to date — an anti-seizure drug called Epidiolex. So retailers can’t legally tell you what their product is good for. They can tell you their customers come seeking relief from pain, anxiety, seizures, PTSD, ADHD, migraines, psoriasis or just hoping for a good night’s sleep.
Nothing But Hemp and the Board of Pharmacy offer customers the same advice. Take a few common-sense precautions. If you’re on other medication, talk with your doctor to make sure it won’t interact with the CBD. Research retailers and their suppliers to make sure they’re reputable. Last November, Virginia Commonwealth University tested CBD products and found some of them tainted with additives ranging from cough syrup to synthetic cannabis.
“We’re not trying to prevent the sale of the product,” Wiberg said. “We do think that if it’s going to be sold, there needs to be some sort of regulation in place so the public aren’t victims of unscrupulous people [or] people who just don’t know what they’re doing.”
Armed with this knowledge, I made my purchase — 500 milligrams of CBD oil infused with mint.
It tasted musty and minty and cost me 49 bucks that my boss isn’t likely to reimburse. Squeezing a few drops of the stuff under my tongue gave me the same warm, self-satisfied glow I experience every few weeks when I remember to take a multivitamin.
I repeated the dose every day for the next five days and by the end of the week, I had completed this column.
If you want to check out Nothing But Hemp, the address is 617 W. Lake St., Minneapolis. If you would like to read the Board of Pharmacy’s CBD advisory, it’s online at mn.gov/boards/pharmacy/public.