Editor’s note: What’s going on with New Jersey’s push toward legal weed? No one reports marijuana news better than our Mike Davis – from spending the night at a black market marijuana pop-up to prowling the Statehouse to get the latest from politicians, Mike knows weed. For this story, food writer Sarah Griesemer looked at how CBD has made its way into the food business.
Over the past few years, signs proclaiming „We have CBD!” and „CBD sold here!” have appeared in the windows of coffee shops, cafes, convenience stores and smoke shops.
CBD is sold in smoothies and brownies, coffee and cookies — even as a standalone tincture, oil or balm you can add to anything you like — with the promise that it will calm anxiety, help you sleep and ease your aches and pains.
But what is it?
The first thing to understand about CBD is not what it is, but what it isn’t: marijuana.
Mike Majeski sells standalone CBD in the forms of oils, balms, creams and adds it to juices and smoothies at his stores, Wake Wellness and Pulp in Asbury Park, Point Pleasant Beach and Verona and soon in Long Branch and Moorestown.
He explains CBD this way: Think of cannabis, the parent plant of marijuana, as an umbrella. Two varieties — marijuana and hemp — are below.
Marijuana contains a large amount — more than 20 percent — of the intoxicating compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a cannabinoid, a naturally occurring chemical compound found inside the cannabis plant. The plant produces hundreds of different cannabinoids; another is cannabidiol, or CBD.
Hemp also contains CBD, as well as a small amount of THC – less than 0.3 percent – and is non-psychotropic, which means it does not deliver an intoxicating high to the user.
Products derived from hemp CBD are said to deliver the health benefits of marijuana without the mind-altering effects of THC. When incorporated into oils and tinctures, which are ingested by dropper under the tongue, applied topically to skin, or consumed in food drink, proponents say CBD from hemp can reduce stress and anxiety, improve immune function and sleeping problems and alleviate pain.
CBD and related products also deliver big business: Chicago-based market research company The Brightfield Group predicts that within the next few years, CBD sales in the United States will reach $22 billion.
More: NJ medical marijuana: Murphy unveils massive expansion in dispensaries
More: NJ medical marijuana: What you need to know about conditions, costs and your cannabis card
CBD is not the same as medical marijuana, which has been legal in New Jersey for nearly a decade and also requires the diagnosis of a medical condition. More than 50,000 people in the state participate in the medical marijuana program.
The use of recreational marijuana is illegal in New Jersey. In May, lawmakers decided not to legalize it, opting instead to allow citizens to decide while voting in the 2020 presidential election.
Majeski first saw the power of CBD while attending college in Vancouver, Canada. An industrial design major, he worked the business end of a friend’s medical cannabis dispensary. Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since the early 2000s.
„I watched people using THC, CBD, and they’d come back in a week and be a new person,” he said.
Majeski tried CBD himself. He said reduced his anxiety and improved his sleep.
At Wake Wellness, „we’ve had people almost start crying because it stopped their pain,” said Majeski, recalling a customer who had undergone vein-removal surgery that left him in agony. He applied CBD-infused cream to his legs and left the Asbury Park store, calling within minutes to say his pain was gone.
This spring, he expanded his business to include Pulp, a juice and smoothie bar tucked into the rear of the Asbury Park store. There, customers have the option to add CBD to their drinks ($3 for 5 milligrams, which Pulp partner Risé Kimbrough said is the recommended daily dose. Customers who purchase a 16-ounce juice or smoothie, $12/$10, receive 2.5 milligrams free of charge).
John Earp is another business owner who has seen success after adding CBD to his menu. This spring, he began offering cinnamon- and mocha-flavored CBD tinctures as coffee additives at his shop, Bubby’s Beanery in downtown Toms River.
One customer, 23-year-old Ryan Jensen of the Manahawkin section of Stafford, frequently drinks Earp’s CBD-infused coffee ($4 per 1 milliliter of CBD oil, in addition to the coffee price).
For years, Jensen lived with pain caused by Osgood-Schlatter disease, an inflammatory syndrome that can cause painful bumps in the knees.Three years ago, he began taking CBD in the form of tinctures made by a friend.
It relieved the aching in his joints, he said, which made for a better night’s sleep. It also alleviated pain he would experience after skateboarding and playing basketball.
Jensen visits the coffee shop with friend John Pawlowski of Barnegat, a former recreational marijuana user who said the drug eased his generalized anxiety at first, but with time, made it worse. CBD, he said, doesn’t have that effect.
„When I tried CBD for the first time, it gave me relief,” said Pawlowski, 23.
Bubby’s Beanery is an outlet for another CBD-infused product – cookies from Humble Gourmet Cookies of Howell.
When CBD’s popularity first began to rise years ago, owner Nic Compitello, 32, of Howell wrestled with the idea of incorporating it into his business, which was built around a family recipe for oatmeal-peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.
More: I spent a night in the NJ marijuana black market.
„I kept turning my head away,” he said, adding that he researched the compound’s medicinal benefits with nutrition shop owners before incorporating CBD from Colorado-based Nature’s Love into his cookies ($3.99 each). He began making CBD-infused cookies nearly four years ago.
„They’ve been selling like crazy,” Earp said. „It’s more than just a cookie. It has everything you want out of CBD.”
Even more benefits
Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shop has everything one would expect from a boardwalk candy shop: saltwater taffy, fudge, candy apples and cotton candy.
But next to the register, there is a case filled with bon bons in such flavors as Mango Tango, Strawberry Fields and Pineapple Express, plus dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate candy bars. The sweets are made from Belgian chocolate, sugar, coconut butter and vanilla — and CBD oil.
Daniela Barbacini, who is part of the Whalen family, which owns the Seaside Heights shop, learned about CBD at The Chocolate Expo, a yearly trade show in northern New Jersey. She tried the oil herself after the boardwalk sweet shop opened in 2017.
„I became the manager unexpectedly and had stress-induced pain and headaches,” Barbacini said. „I took a drop of oil and my pain was gone. My neck and shoulder pain – gone.”
More: After 65 years, Lucky Leo’s in Seaside turns to candy
The chocolates, which are made in house, hit the shop’s shelves last summer ($2.50 per bon bon, $5 per chocolate bar). As word began to spread, Barbacini met people who use the oils and candies to manage symptoms of endometriosis, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson’s disease and attention deficit disorder.
In December, Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shop began producing its own line of CBD oil, Paul’s Gift, which is sourced from hemp suppliers in Colorado.
„Some doctors are green-lighting it, some are not,” Barbacini said of CBD, adding that when prescription drugs are used to treat maladies, sometimes „you need more and more.”
„With CBD,” she said, „you can’t take too much.”
„It think it’s all about the way we approach and talk about CBD,” said Nic Compitello of Humble Gourmet Cookies. „If you knew this substance can help you in any way, then why not be part of that?”
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK CBD IN NJ
- Bubby’s Beanery, Toms River: CBD oil can be added to coffee; 44 Washington St.; 732-228-7333, bubbysbeanery.com.
- Caffe Anello, Fairfeld: CBD oil can be added to coffee; 11 Madison Ave., Westwood; 201-786-8137, caffeanello.com.
- Cookman Creamery, Asbury Park: Specialty ice cream flavors; 711 Cookman Ave.; 732-361-5215, cookmancreamery.com.
- General Store, Lavallette: CBD oil can be added to smoothies and juices; 3101 Route 35; 732-375-3105.
- Humble Gourmet Cookies, Howell: CBD-infused cookies. 4007 Route 9; 800-697-8456, humblecookies.com. Also available at Bubby’s Beanery in Toms River, Community Surgical Pharmacy in Toms River, Tony’s Pharmacy in Freehold Township, Saige Cafe in Jackson, Nature’s Nutrition in Brick, and Open Minded Smoke Shop in Toms River, plus several Retro Fitness locations and Club Metro USA in Freehold Township.
- Juice Girl, Stone Harbor: CBD-infused lavender lemonade; 299 97th St.; 856-316-2878, juicegirlfarmacy.com. Also a location in the SoHa Arts Building, 1001 White Horse Pike, in Haddon Township
- Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shoppe, Seaside Heights: Bon bons, chocolate bars, oils and other topical treatments. Also available at America’s Cup Coffee in Asbury Park, Bay Head Cheese Shop, Natural Foods General Store in Toms River, and Gorilla Vapes in the Bayville section of Berkeley. 217 Boardwalk; 732-250-8555, luckyleos.com/sweet-shop.
- Pulp at Wake Wellness, Asbury Park: CBD oil can be added to juices and smoothies. 521 Bangs Ave.; 732-232-5269, wakewellnessnow.com. Also at 2816 Bridge Ave. in Point Pleasant Borough and 524 Bloomfield Ave. in Verona.
- Seed to Sprout, Avon and Fair Haven: CBD oil can be added to smoothies and juices; 410 Main St., Avon, and 560A River Road, Fair Haven; 732-774-7333, seedtosproutnj.com. Seed to Sprout Bakery in Ocean Township sells CBD-infused chocolates; 1405 Wickapecko Drive; 732-361-3636.
- Zest, Fairfield: CBD oil can be added to acai bowls, smoothies, juices and coffee. 418 Fairfield Road; 973-439-9378, zesteats.com.
Sarah Griesemer joined the Press more than 15 years ago and has held a variety of positions since, but the work she does now is her favorite: food writing. Her favorite stories to write are the ones that make a difference for the Shore’s mom and pop restaurants. Find all of her food stories at app.com (better yet, subscribe!), write to her at email@example.com and follow @jersey.shore.eats.