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Sensi Magazine

CBD Spread Across the Great Plains

Dec 01, 2018 02:26PM ● By Leland Rucker
Cannabidiol is kicking serious ass. The New York Times ran a story in October about cannabidiol, or CBD, being all the high-end rage in the Big Apple and other large metropolitan areas. Today it’s considered a $350 million industry, with nowhere to go but up. Even Coca-Cola was briefly rumored to be showing interest in infusing CBD into its drinks. “With CBD popping up in nearly everything bath bombs, ice cream, dog treats,” the Times story opines, “it is hard to overstate the speed at which CBD has moved from the Burning Man margins to the cultural center.”

The Times doesn’t reference any city smaller than Austin, TX, but stores selling cannabidiol products are opening and operating all over the Midwest, too. In Kansas, a state that officially frowns on adult cannabis use for adults and is one of only four states left with no provision for medical marijuana, CBD stores are operating in Manhattan, Lawrence, Salina, and Wichita. I recently visited stores selling CBD products in Manhattan, population 53,000. While it’s not that big a deal in the Little Apple, which is how the Kansas Manhattan brands itself, it’s gaining traction. Anywhere I went, people were willing to talk about CBD, no matter the age or political affiliation, even if they have little grasp of what it is. More than once, I heard references to “CBDs” plural as if they were little creatures running around healing people. Cannabidiol, one of more than 100 chemical compounds found in cannabis, is still officially illegal at the federal level. The DEA, in its infinite wisdom, classified industrial hemp, which contains CBD, as a Schedule I drug, alongside marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine, with “no known medical benefit and a high potential for abuse.” (Both of those assumptions, by the way, are inherently false in regards to hemp: The government knows it has medical benefits, and hemp has zero potential for abuse
since nobody could get high from using it.)

Kansas stores were raided and others closed down or eliminated CBD products from their shelves for a couple of days while the state clarified its position. This was caused by confusion over the terminology surrounding hemp and marijuana, two different plants within the Cannabis sativa family.

Some restrictions were eased with the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, which legalized limited forms of hemp cultivation based around agricultural pilot programs and academic research. Some states, Colorado included, eased restrictions after its passage, and, in fact, our state grew more hemp last year than any other. And while some CBD shops have been raided, the federal government has made it clear it isn’t interested in arresting grandma for buying CBD tinctures or gummies to help her arthritis.

After the attorney general, Derek Schmidt, wrote an opinion that claimed any marijuana product was illegal in Kansas, some Kansas stores were raided and others closed down or eliminated CBD products from their shelves for a couple of days while the state clarified its position. This was caused by confusion over the terminology surrounding hemp and marijuana, two different plants within the Cannabis sativa family.

By definition, hemp is Cannabis sativa with no more than 0.3 percent THC. CBD doesn’t play into that definition; some strains contain no CBD at all, others have high CBD content. The cannabinoid is derived from both hemp and marijuana. In Kansas, only hemp-derived CBD is legal—but the caveat is that it must be derived from hemp that contains no THC whatsoever. CBD products in many states, including Colorado, don’t have this restriction. If you’re a believer in whole-plant healing or the entourage effect the concept that the medicinal benefits of the plant stem from all the cannabinoids working together, not isolated compounds and terpenes these products probably won’t interest you.

“Back in January, we had an issue with the attorney general, and we voluntarily shut down long enough to figure out what was going on. ... He didn’t know the law, and two days later, he changed his mind. ... He didn’t have a foot to stand on.”
—Brad Benco

“Back in January, we had an issue with the attorney general, and we voluntarily shut down long enough to figure out what was going on,” says Brad Benco, manager at the American Shaman outlet in Manhattan’s Aggieville college district (the city is home to Kansas State University). The store is just down the street from On the Wildside, a venerable head shop that sells some CBD products. “He didn’t know the law, and two days later, he changed his mind. Our attorneys told us to go ahead and open. He didn’t have a foot to stand on.”

Becky Yokiel is co-owner of Sacred Leaf, which opened a few months ago in a newer shopping center on the other end of town. She says owner Trevor Burdett, who also owns shops in Wichita and Houston and works with wholesalers around the country, closed the Kansas stores while helping instruct Schmidt and state officials on the difference between hemp and marijuana. “They’re two different plants,” she explains. “Same family, but very different.” Kansas legislators agreed, and in April changed the definition of hemp.

Given that restriction, all Kansas stores are serious about sourcing their products and educating customers about CBD, how it works, and what it can and cannot do.

“I always tell people, whether you go with our company or not, when it comes to buying CBD, make sure that you get lab results for it,” says Yokiel. “When you look at China, they use hemp in their piping, and then they’ll extract the CBD from that same hemp that they’re using in the pipes that have chemicals in them and sell it to companies in America for super cheap.”

She says that business is meeting expectations and the consumer base is growing. “I wasn’t sure how Manhattan, Kansas, would receive CBD because it’s such an agricultural community,” Yokiel admits. “But it’s been really good.”

Customers tend to come from all age groups, but the clientele skews toward people middle-aged and above. “Honestly, I would say the bulk of our clients are lower 40s and up, with the majority of that, honestly, probably being retirement age,” says Benco.

Clients are being referred to the shops from many sources, including chiropractors and massage therapists, Benco says. “I have people telling me their personal physicians are sending them in, and a handful of people are saying that their psychiatrists are sending them,” he says. “We also get some college-aged kids. Even, you know, people who say their therapist said they should check this out first. Medical people just want to have something more in their bags.”

And though they might not be as hoity-toity as the CBD-Spiked Cocktails in the latest Goop catalog, Little Apple stores have something for everybody, including oils, tinctures, salves and bath products. “We have beard oil because when guys grow beards, they tend to forget that there are under layers,” Yokiel says. “So the CBD gets to the skin and will heal any irritation there.”

She says that Burdett recently signed a contract to provide CBD for a water company down in Texas which will infuse cannabidiol into its water products, hoping to perhaps get ahead of Coca-Cola.

The real hope for the immediate future is the update to the Industrial Farming Act of 2018, currently making its way through Congress to update the last one, which expires January 1. Part of that bill, proposed by Senate Majority Leader and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a state that stands to benefit seriously from hemp production, is to allow American farmers to once again grow hemp as an agricultural product. That would allow the stores to use locally sourced hemp.

“Right now we’re just advocating for the Farm Bill to get passed, so at least our Kansas farmers could make some money off of this stuff,” says Yokiel. “And once it’s federally legal, this will all go away. We’ll get it regulated, and you’ll know what you’re getting.”