by NATHANIEL NELSON
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has become a phenomenon across the U.S. as a natural “cure-all” and as a potential alternative to more costly medications. Small studies have been conducted that point to potential benefits for depression and anxiety, and a prescription medication based on the substance has been approved to treat epilepsy, but according to frequent users, that’s only the start –– many claim that it can help remedy a variety of physical issues including muscle pain, fibromyalgia, skin problems and arthritis, and the product’s popularity has gained rapidly.
CBD is the second-most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis, or marijuana, and it is derived directly from the hemp plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD has no active psychoactive elements, so it’s impossible to get high from taking the substance –– or get addicted.
According to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential … To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
A farm bill was passed in 2018 that differentiated hemp from marijuana, allowing hemp –– a version of marijuana grown with little or no THC –– to be grown and unregulated as a controlled substance. As a result, the hemp industry began to promote CBD and CBD products started to catch on as a national phenomenon, despite the fact that it has yet to undergo federal testing.
Winona is no different.
Royal Tobacco, a smoke shop on the East side of Winona, has had CBD in stock for the last six months. Treva Ellis, a co-manager at the shop, explained that demand has been high since the moment it landed on shelves.
“A lot of it is that people are using the illegal products to get the same effects from CBD, but now they can get it without the psychoactive high behind it,” Ellis said, referring to substances like THC, pain medications and opiates.
Royal Tobacco carries numerous different items infused with CBD, including gummy candy, chocolate bars, tincture oils, vaporizer cartridges, smokeable products and even dried fruit.
“More people started asking for that option because of the pain relief and anxiety — it helps with so many things A-to-Z,” Ellis said.
CBD has taken off as a purported healthy alternative for more conventional synthetic medicine, and thousands have begun to use the product to help with a variety of problems.
However, labeling is the biggest issue facing the growing CBD industry. For example, CBD products cannot be advertised or sold as dietary supplements and, since CBD products have not been regulated or investigated by the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA), cannot be called medicine or advertised as if they are able to cure any diseases or medical problems.
The alleged healing properties are what spurred Torey and Melissa Seiler to open Midwest Healing CBD and Massage Studio in Winona in conjunction with Stephanie Zeisler, a local massage therapist.
The small building located on Fourth Street has been open for a little over three weeks, and is home to hundreds of different CBD-infused products, including everything from coffee to chapstick, as well as a massage room and relaxation room.
“Everything you can use on a day-to-day basis can be infused with CBD. It’s kind of amazing,” Melissa said.
According to Ziesler, the studio has several different kinds of oils used for massages that contain the substance, differing in scent and style, which can be chosen by people in need of relaxation, and the results speak for themselves, she explained.
“I have people come in with a nine-out-of-10 pain scale, and they come in for a CBD massage and leave with no pain,” Zeisler explained.
Cody Anderson is a local practitioner of jiu-jitsu, and in February of this year, he began ramping up his training in anticipation for an upcoming tournament.
“Instead of training three times a week, I was in there for six days a week for three hours at a time,” he explained. “You can see how grappling for that much can make you sore.”
After practice, he explained that all his muscles tensed up, making it hard to do anything or finish up any work. To help out, he decided to try a tincture oil and see if it had any effect on his muscles.
“Ten minutes after taking these droplets, the pain just melts away,” he explained. “It’s been incredible.” Anderson eventually took first place at his tournament.
Winona resident Kyle Ostrander has suffered from dehydrated eczema, which causes intense drying and cracking of the skin, for the majority of his life. Over the past decade he tried everything from over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs to various soaps and lotions, but nothing stuck.
“I’ve used everything possible for the past 11 years, and nothing helped. My knuckles were bleeding and I couldn’t even hold onto my steering wheel,” he explained.
Eventually he got to talking with Torey, who recommended he try a skin-restoring salve with CBD in it.
The results were almost immediate, Ostrander said.
“I tried it on the weekend, and by the next Monday, my knuckles had completely healed over,” he explained. “It just worked.”
He has also used other CBD products in his home for other issues, he explained. For example, his cat underwent surgery for a bladder infection and, when it returned home, it began urinating all over the house. He began giving the cat CBD-infused cat treats, and the problem immediately stopped.
“It has a healing property for anybody. It just relaxes them,” Ostrander said.
Local vape shop Vapor Vibes has also had CBD in stock since earlier this year as the first major expansion of its vaporizer-based inventory. Shift lead André Finney explained that the store was purchased by a larger chain called Alohma last year, and began by sticking closely to what the store had previously offered.
“After we took over, we used the first month to gauge what the community was interested in,” he explained, adding that once CBD was added to the store, it quickly took off. “The products have been selling really, really well.”
While Midwest Healing and Royal Tobacco have had a predominantly older crowd coming in to look for CBD, Finney explained that he has seen plenty of college students come in to try it out for themselves.
“A lot of college students have been looking at it, which is awesome,” he said. “They have a lot going on in their lives, and I’d much rather have them smoking CBD flower than weed.”
Despite the popularity of CBD and its quick proliferation across the state, there is still some stigma around the substance –– particularly on its origins.
“What comes with it is that people’s first reaction is that it comes from the hemp plant, so it has something to do with weed, which is true,” Finney said, “but the product goes through extensive testing before we ever get it.”
In Minnesota, the legal limit for THC in cannabis products is .03 percent –– anything above that would register it as a controlled substance. As a result, market-grade CBD goes through testing to determine the level of THC in the plant and make sure that it stays within that limit.
“If anything that we order is at all illegal, the company won’t even send it off,” Finney explained.
However, the actual legality of CBD is in a somewhat gray area. According to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, “Neither federal nor state law allows cannabinoids such as CBD to be extracted from hemp and then sold in products for human or animal consumption.” Part of this stems from its origins as a cannabinoid, and its derivation from the same plant as marijuana, which is a controlled substance at both the federal and state levels.
The law describes marijuana, THC, and synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule 1 controlled substances. CBD, while a derivative of the same plant, is neither THC nor a synthetic cannabinoid, but if derived from a marijuana plant, it is considered a Schedule 1 substance by law. On the other hand, if it is derived from an industrial hemp plant, CBD is “not directly” a controlled substance.
If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is –– neither the state nor the federal government has cracked down on the sale of the substance, despite its proliferation.
The confusion around the legality of CBD has resulted in industry leaders approaching the FDA for a more definitive set of rules and re-classification –– the FDA is currently considering it and held the first public hearing on the issue last month.
Despite the potential legal issues, the CBD industry is growing strong –– numerous small studies are pointing to health benefits, and by 2025, it is expected to grow into a $7-billion industry.
“I knew it was going to be a hit,” Torey said.