Carolyn Leeper of the Farmacy Botanical Shop discusses her product line at an outdoor mar- ket on the South Side.
On a recent afternoon in Balcones Heights, new customers enter a CBD specialty shop with tales of nausea, headaches, back pain and a litany of other ailments they hope to treat with cannabidiol extracted from Montana and Kentucky hemp crops.
“Do you have anything that will take care of these varicose veins?” asked one new customer as she settled into a chair to rest her swollen feet and ankles. An employee tells her they can’t make any claims as to which extracts can provide which remedy.
“Well, what do you have?” she pleads.
There are now more than 50 CBD retailers in San Antonio and more opening every week as state law become a little more clearly defined. The outlets are selling more than water-soluble oils, tinctures, gummies, bath bombs, waxes, lotions and sprays — they’re selling hope.
Because there haven’t been the kind of high-dollar, time-intensive studies required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, CBD sellers can’t say their products will help with particular afflictions. They use hedges like “may” and “customers say” when talking about possible outcomes.
Conversations with several CBD users brought personal stories of taking away the pain and other symptoms of degenerative disc disease, mitigation of migraines and quieting the complaints of aching joints. Some researchers, based on studies in mice, have found some positive impact on spinal discs because of the anti-inflammatory aspect of CBD.
While the science isn’t there yet, the demands of the desperate are driving a boom in CBD and other holistic products.
CBD is often sold alongside essential oils and other natural wellness products or in vape shops, where nicotine addicts go to wean themselves from cigarettes. An exception is a shop in New Braunfels that covers both ends of the spectrum by selling CBD oils — thought by some to help with the side effects of cancer treatments — next to discount cigarettes scientifically proven to cause cancer and other diseases.
Vincent Gabriel — who, with his wife Wendy, owns CBD American Shaman in Balcones Heights — said the declassification of hemp as an illegal crop in Texas and other laws in the works have helped remove the stigma that surrounds the marijuana-related plant.
When CBD American Shaman — a franchisee of a Kansas City-based retailer and manufacturer of CBD hemp products — opened, businesses already were gearing up after Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, making hemp a viable crop with fewer legal ambiguities.
“That brought people out of the woodwork,” Gabriel said.
When it comes to the CBD business, a rising tide lifts all ships, Gabriel added. However, he points out that buyers need to look for quality suppliers.
Wendy Gabriel offered each customer walking in the door a chance to look at the lab results on any of the 120 product lines the shop carries. A thick binder shows tests for numerous impurities and even harmful bugs such as salmonella and E. coli.
The data also show what regulators are most interested in: THC levels. Hemp is not a significant source of THC, the psychoactive compound most commonly associated with marijuana. Still, the oils need to test at less than 0.3% to be legal.
Even though CBD products are generally considered safe, Vincent Gabriel advises customers to listen to their physicians: “Don’t do anything your doctor tells you not to do.”
Ben Leeper, who started the Farmacy Botanical Shop with his wife Carolyn early this year, is opening a CBD store in May across from Blossom Athletic Center after three months of selling at markets and doing local deliveries.
He knows the field will be crowded soon, but he hopes getting in fairly early will help them develop a solid client base that they can build on.
“They’re already popping up like nail salons on every corner,” Leeper said of CBD sellers.
Even so, he hopes to stand apart by introducing customers to more than just the hemp-based oils.
“CBD is a gateway to the natural wellness world,” he added.
Leeper said he’s personally replaced prescription pills with CBD for pain relief after back surgery and he’s seen his cat’s cancer symptoms dissipate with CBD oil. However, he cautions that, like many supplements and medications, results vary for different people.
“While it has helped a lot of people and there have been a lot of miraculous results, it is not a miracle drug,” Leeper said.
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