What we know and don’t know about CBD in St. Clair County and Michigan – Port Huron Times Herald

Signs for it can be found outside Family Video. It can be found in gas stations and local stores. Soon there will be a St. Clair location that even has it in the name. 

It’s CBD, or cannabidiol, a form of hemp oil that is derived from cannabis plants and does not have psychoactive effects, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. 

CBD is promoted as a health product to treat issues including anxiety and pain. 

“It’s the big buzz word right now,” said Mara McCalmon, who is opening Thumb Coast CBD with her husband, Kyle McCalmon, in the St. Clair plaza at 201 N. Riverside Ave. 

Kyle McCalmon said part of their model is educating their clientele and teaching them how to look at products, what CBD can do for them and teaching them what it is. 

„As we’ve learned more about this incredible plant and the business, we’ve heard more and more from friends who see the same need for this product to be more readily available. Friends with arthritis, neurological disorders and autoimmune diseases have all wanted a more affordable and transparent market for CBD products. We hope to fill that need,” the company’s Facebook page reads. 

What is the difference between marijuana and CBD?  

It’s also about teaching people what their product is not, which is marijuana, Mara McCalmon said. 

She said people keep asking when their marijuana store is going to open in the mall. They’re not the marijuana store, they’re not a dispensary and you don’t need a marijuana card, she said. 

Dave Crabill, vice president of iHemp Michigan, said that marijuana and hemp are the same plant and the only difference is the level of THC, the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. In Michigan, if it’s higher than 0.3 percent, it’s considered marijuana and illegal.

iHemp Michigan is a member-based organization representing hemp farmers, seed cultivators, processors, manufacturers and hemp businesses statewide, according to the organization’s website. 

Crabill said farmers have to have plants with the right genetics and in the right conditions so that it grows to have little THC. The more stress a plant has, the more cannabinoids it produces, including THC.

Stressors can include the weather, like a cold snap, or too much or not enough water, he said.

Kyle McCalmon said cannabigerol, or CBG, is the “mother molecule” that will split off into CBD or THC. 

There are different factors that determine which chemical compound will form, one of those being heat. 

“So in a warmer climate the CBG may turn into THC,” he said. “In a cooler climate it will turn into CBD. So optimal temperature range for CBD is between 65- and 85- degrees average through the growing season.” 

So this determines what the plant will become, and Mara McCalmon had a pretty straightforward way of determining whether it’s marijuana or hemp. 

“So it has high THC? Boom, marijuana. Low THC, high CBD? Hemp,” she said. “So it becomes two different things.”

Crabill said farmers have to take care with their crop, as according to Michigan law a crop of hemp that has too much THC and is therefore marijuana will need to be destroyed.

“You really have to be careful and frequently test plant tissue before harvest,” he said. 

What do people think of CBD in St. Clair County? 

Raelyn Galatioto, an employee at the Port Huron Family Video, said the store started selling CBD products this past August. 

The different products include oils, sprays, balms, lotions, gummies, CBD-infused water, honey sticks and chocolate. 

Galatioto said she wishes the drug stigma around CBD would go away and people would stop associating it with smoking pot, as the customers’ response right away was that the CBD the store was selling was weed.  

When the company rolled out these products, it taught the employees how to let customers know that wasn’t the case, she said. 

Galatioto said the CEO of Family Video tried CBD for his tennis elbow and really liked it and its benefits, so he wanted to have it at the stores.  

It’s nice the company actually backs it and isn’t going out on a limb for it, she said. 

Tom Schlitts, owner of Mr. T’s Corner Market, feels similarly about the Thumb Coast CBD products he carries in his store. 

He has carried a limited supply of the McCalmons’ line in Mr. T’s Corner Market for about a month now. The first reaction most people had upon seeing the products at first was shock they were selling marijuana, and Schlitts had to explain what CBD was. 

Once you tell customers what it is they understand they can’t get high from CBD, which has THC levels that are far too low for that, he said. 

Schlitts said the products have “taken on pretty good,” and he has gotten pretty good sales with them. 

“There’s a lot of interest in it,” he said. 

What he likes about it is that the products are from the McCalmons, local people who do the growing and processing in St. Clair County. 

“Their hands are on it,” he said. “In my eyes that’s a big plus.” 

Mara McCalmon said they’ve got a lot of buzz for Thumb Coast CBD and people are asking if they can start using some of the products now. 

“Right now the buzz is really positive,” she said. “I’m sure, like with anything, there’s going to be a little controversy.” 

Getting people to understand the store is not a dispensary is going to be a hurdle, but the store is part of the St. Clair Chamber of Commerce and Blue Water Chamber of Commerce. A part of being involved with these organizations is to bring people in and educate them, she said.  

“That’s where it’s all going to start with, is educating the public about a product, not necessarily our product, but a product,” she said. “That’s how people can make informed, good decisions and choices.” 

What Thumb Coast CBD will be like 

Mara and Kyle McCalmon grew about 15,000 hemp plants in St. Clair County and plan to sell only what they grow and process themselves at Thumb Coast CBD.  

The McCalmons had originally planned to open the CBD store in December, but due to a labeling mishap the store will be opening sometime in January, the couple said. 

Kyle McCalmon said it’s not the product that had a problem, but the transparency. They want people to understand exactly what they’re getting and that means the label is important.

„If we start out, come out of the gate with something that’s not excellent, then we’re not even doing what we said we would do,” Mara McCalmon said. 

Products the store will offer includes a smokable flower, CBD oil, topical cream, lip balm, gummy bears and dog treats. The store will also carry raw honey and essential oils.

Kyle McCalmon said most of the products like CBD oils were done, and they were working on perfecting the gummy bears in December. Mara McCalmon was working on the dog treat recipes and said she was making them with all organic ingredients.  

“We’re putting it together with only the best ingredients and natural things,” she said. “The same with our dog treats, our salves, our lip balms.” 

Although there is not extensive research on CBD, the McCalmons were not worried about opening a CBD store. 

“There’s no research anywhere that says that this is possibly harmful in any way, shape or form,” Kyle McCalmon said. 

Mara McCalmon said problems could come from the way people grow it, like using pesticides or not checking the plant’s soil, but they have soil testing done for their plants and product testing, so they aren’t concerned. 

The potential health impacts of CBD 

In humans, CBD shows no effects indicative of abuse or dependence potential, a 2017 World Health Organization report said, and there was no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health problems associated with the use of pure CBD. 

However, health officials are calling for more research. 

Dr. Annette Mercatante, St. Clair County Health Department medical health officer, said in an email that CBD has been promoted as the latest “miracle cure for just about everything,” but the science isn’t there to support these claims. 

“Until we know more, we cannot advise for, or against (except with some precautions), the use of this product at this time,” she said. 

Mercatante said it is not clear how much CBD to take, how often, or how long a person should use it for any particular problem, so people should be aware of their body’s response. 

“It can cause side effects: changes in alertness, gastrointestinal distress, and changes in mood…if you notice any of these discontinue or reduce the dose,” she said. 

She said to never smoke a product as it is bad for the lungs and to steer clear of any illegally sold synthetic CBD products like “spice” or “bath salts,” as these products have been known to cause psychotic reactions in some people and pose a major health risk. 

Mercatante said high doses of CBD may interact with other medications like blood thinners, antidepressants and immune suppressors and it is important to talk to your doctor about the best way to treat disease or conditions with approved treatment options. 

“Although there is some evidence that CBD does work for some conditions, it is certainly not a panacea for all things,” she said. “’Natural’ does not mean ‘safe.’ Make sure your health care provider knows what you are taking, including herbs and supplements.” 

When it comes to anecdotal evidence of CBD effects, Schlitts said his 93-year-old mom is using CBD. 

“It’s slowly helping out with her total aches and pains,” he said, and it helps her go to sleep at night. 

He said he personally uses CBD for a nerve that acts up and he’s learning just how CBD goes into the body and works to relieve some symptoms, whether it’s anxiety or aches and pains. 

The main reason his customers buy the CBD products are for aches and pains. Some come in and say they just need to sleep, “so they give it a try,” he said. 

He said some people don’t like the side effects of medical marijuana because it gives them a high whereas the CBD just deals with the health side of things. 

Mara McCalmon and Kyle McCalmon both say they use their CBD products, which help them relax and sleep.

“With our nervous system, when it’s not being regulated correctly, that’s what the  cannabinoids do,” Mara McCalmon said. “They go in and they help to regulate our nervous system.” 

What is the state of CBD in Michigan? 

The 2014 U.S. Farm Bill authorized colleges, universities and state departments of agriculture to grow, cultivate and market hemp as part of an Ag Pilot Program, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

The department implemented the state’s first Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program in April 2019. The United States Department of Agriculture released their interim regulations in October to provide guidance to state departments of agriculture for developing their state-specific hemp plans.  

Michigan will have up to one year to continue its pilot programs and update rules and regulations to be consistent with federal regulations, according to the the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

The interim final rules will be available for public comment until Dec. 30, 2019. 

A hemp grower registration is required for those who want to plant, grow or harvest live hemp plants or viable hemp seeds. A hemp processor-handler license is required for those who want to process, handle, or market industrial hemp, according to the state of Michigan website. 

What’s the future of CBD hold? 

Jennifer Holton, the state department’s communications director, said 2019 was the first year of the industrial hemp ag pilot program and the department will not have any additional information on how this season went until sometime in 2020. 

“This is new territory for all of us and exciting as we all continually learn,” Crabill said in an email. 

Crabill said Michigan grew more than 20,000 acres of industrial hemp this season and not all of the 32,600 acres identified in 990 locations around the state were planted. 

“With that Michigan grew as much industrial hemp as Colorado did last season,” he said. “We expect Michigan to be a major player in this space.” 

Brad Wurfel, a public relations representative for iHemp Michigan, said in an email the organization is seeing “tremendous energy and potential around industrial hemp in this state.” 

“Michigan has a rich history in both farming and manufacturing, and it is positioned to be a national leader in hemp growing, processing and product manufacturing,” he said. “However, 2019 was a learning year for everyone working in this new industry, and everyone learned a lot about the realistic potential and challenges of working with industrial hemp.” 

Crabill said, in the next year or two, we will probably see more research on the different chemicals involved, and Kyle McCalmon agreed. 

“The research still on CBD is in its infancy,” he said, and people will be doing research on the benefits of all the different molecules involved with it.

The research on THC has been happening for decades but only in the past 10 years has CBD really had research done on it. And not even a lot because hemp hasn’t been legal, Mara McCalmon said. 

When it comes to buying CBD products currently, Kyle McCalmon said consumers have to do their due diligence and educate themselves as much as possible on what they’re buying, because “everybody and their mother is selling CBD.” 

Some products say hemp oil plus CBD, and that means it could be just trace amounts of CBD. People use these and say they didn’t do anything for them and that’s probably because it didn’t have enough, he said. 

For CBD in St. Clair County, the McCalmons said, they are trying to be pioneers and do this business right when more much research and regulations need to be figured out.  

“We want to set that bar,” Mara McCalmon said. “Like if we’re going to have it let’s have good stuff here in our community.” 

To find out more about Thumb Coast CBD, people can go to its Facebook and Instagram.

Bryce Airgood is the business reporter for the Times Herald. Have questions or a story idea? You can contact her at (810) 989-6202 or bairgood@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @bairgood123.

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