A budding industry: CBD takes over Southwest

The hemp-based product can now be bought at local salons, co-ops and grocery stores

A jar of hemp.
A jar of hemp.

Steven Brown has dealt with many baby-boomers wandering into his LynLake store Nothing But Hemp thinking it was a place to buy pot. It might look and smell like it, but it’s not, as recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state of Minnesota. Brown’s store sells CBD products.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a compound that comes from hemp, which is a plant in the cannabis family. Another compound is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. By law, CBD contains .3% THC or less,
so users cannot get high.

Instead, CBD gives users more of a bodily feeling that some people claim can help with a variety of ailments from anxiety to migraines and other physical pain to reducing the amount of epileptic seizures.

Alex Keith, a business teacher who works part-time at Nothing But Hemp, said he uses CBD to help with shoulder pain from his playing days for the University of Minnesota football team.

“I was shocked about how much better my shoulder felt,” Keith said. “It calms everything.”

That said, most of these effects are based on anecdotal evidence. Federal and state laws prohibit retailers from touting any of hemp’s potential medical benefits, as there is very little research.

“It’s up for debate how much THC to CBD you need for actual therapeutic use,” said Ann Philbrick, an associate professor at the U of M’s College of Pharmacy. She said while CBD therapy has been shown to decrease the number of seizures, placebo effects have also done so.

“If it is something that a person chooses to use on their own, it’s a good thing to let your pharmacist or physician know that you’re using it,” Philbrick said.

Bags of smokeable berry-flavored hemp
Bags of smokeable berry-flavored hemp are for sale at Lyndale Tobacco. Photos by Christopher Shea

You can buy CBD products all over the state. In Southwest Minneapolis alone, consumers can get CBD sprays at local salons like The Chair in Lyndale, tea blends at the Wedge and Linden Hills co-ops and CBD balms and chocolate bars at Kowalski’s.

“It’s an exciting product for sure,” said Mike Oase, the chief operating officer of Kowalski’s.

The boom in Minnesota’s hemp industry came this past December after Congress passed a farm bill which saw the plant distinguished from marijuana, meaning that it was no longer an illegal substance and CBD could be extracted from it and sold.

Brown, who has worked in California’s cannabis industry, said he wants his shop Nothing But Hemp to operate more as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs, offering products like oils, lotions and other topicals. “We want people to feel better than how they’re currently feeling,” he said. Brown’s other hope is to educate consumers about the differences between hemp and marijuana.

While medical marijuana is overseen by both the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Agriculture, CBD has very little government oversight, aside from verification that it has the legal amount of THC. This lack of regulation has caused concerns over what ingredients are actually in CBD.

To combat this, Brown has his shop’s supplier in Oregon, Siskiyou Sungrown, test their hemp products through a third-party lab in Portland — not only to ensure they are under the legal THC limit, but to guarantee they don’t contain pesticides or heavy metals.

Small retailers, like Anit Bhatia at nearby Lyndale Tobacco, police themselves by making sure the products they receive actually contain hemp.

“It’s such a gray area where no one knows what to do,” Bhatia said. “We just want the [hemp] name to be out there properly.”

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