A number of local businesses are offering products containing CBD to eager customers even as state and federal lawmakers scramble to develop consistent standards for the supplement.
CBD, or cannibidiol, is a non-psychoactive component of Cannabis sativa, the hemp or marijuana plant, and is marketed in tincture form, as well as an additive to foods, salves, cosmetics, and pet treats. It commands high interest for its potential therapeutic benefits, with claims that far overreach its one approved use as an anti-seizure medication. The industry has exploded in recent years, and was accelerated further when the 2018 Farm Bill passed this past December, which legalized industrial hemp nationwide.
CBD products, however, have been available locally for years for those who knew where to look. Local retailers began selling them over the last two years. And interest has only been growing.
Luna is a 14-year-old Boston Terrier, and a regular CBD user. Her ribs are visible through the baby onesie she wears to protect a sore on her side, and she wobbles across the floor as her younger compatriot, Monkey, darts and jumps.
“[Her legs are] like spaghetti, she falls all the time,” said Bob Mouradian, Luna’s devoted owner.
He’s devastated to see his elderly dog struggle with cancer, but says he’s confident her life is more comfortable because of CBD oil. Mouradian began treating her two months ago, and immediately began to see a difference in his dog.
“Without the oil, she just stands around,” he said.
After receiving a dose, Luna plays with Monkey and walk around the house.
“When my youngest son came up to visit, he immediately saw the difference [in the dog].”
When Luna’s health began declining, Mouradian said he was frustrated by the lack of treatment options. He asked his vet about CBD oil for dogs, as Mouradian periodically uses CBD himself. His vet wouldn’t prescribe it, but also said he’d heard nothing bad about it. Mouradian initially consulted The Cheshire Horse in Keene, which has been selling CBD products for animals since early 2018. Morgan Monty, assistant manager of pet sales at the Cheshire Horse, said that staff are trained on dosage recommendations and delivery methods by representatives from each CBD company they stock. Mouradian, who lives in Peterborough, has been buying Luna’s CBD from Mickey’s Repair Service on Concord Street since Mickey Maguire, owner, began stocking it in April.
It may seem unlikely to find CBD products for sale at a mechanic’s shop. To Maguire, however, it’s a natural extension of the help he already provides to customers. “That’s my job [as a mechanic]. My father’s license plate was ‘HELPYOU’.”
Maguire said that people come into his shop every day for CBD, mostly existing garage customers. Maguire has been living with chronic Lyme disease for seven years, even surviving a heart attack caused by the disease. He started taking CBD oil a year ago in March, at the recommendation of a friend familiar with naturopathic medicine.
“It immediately started helping me with joint pain, muscle pain. This is the one thing that’s truly helped me,” Maguire said.
He stocks Sunsoil products, which are produced, from seeding to bottling, in Vermont.
Maguire plans to convert one of his garage bays to a CBD shop by the end of the summer and plans to collaborate with Joel Faucher of Livity Collective to bring in products grown by Victory Hemp of Union, Maine. Maguire and Faucher eagerly await in-state hemp growing and processing to come to New Hampshire. Faucher expressed his frustration with the state’s legislative delays as compared to other Northeastern states.
“In New Hampshire, where we’re ‘Live Free or Die’, we’re not growing hemp?’ Faucher said.
There are a number of Peterborough stores selling CBD products, including Gaia’s Blessing, which started carrying CBD products in November. Customer interest has made it hard to keep informational booklets in stock, owner Michelle Lewis said. She stocks cbdMD products, including tinctures, CBD freeze, gummies, which are popular for their convenience.
“We fly through the dog treats, and the bath bombs are amazing,” Lewis said.
Lewis and her business partner Ryan Gardnear said they will soon be stocking new transdermal patches, and said they are avoiding the glut of products they see as “novelty stuff.”
Gaia’s Blessing receives CBD customers in their twenties through to elderly. Lewis said her customers are interested in the products for their potential to treat conditions like anxiety and joint pain, but there’s plenty of interest for other applications, too. One regular customer reported using it to treat a skin condition.
Lewis and Gardnear said there’s been a positive public reaction to their CBD products. They received a lot of inquiries before they began to stock it, they said. While they were hesitant to jump into a new venture last fall, they are pleased with its popularity. Lewis said she encourages newcomers to the CBD market to shop around, as other local shops carry different brands. Her advice for interested parties: “Do your research.”
Melissa Mustapha, of Maggie’s Market in Peterborough, said the store has stocked CBD products for more than a year.
She is a trained herbalist and educates customers about the finer distinctions between cannabis products. She emphasized that Cannabis sativa has many cannibinoids: THC (psychoactive component of marijuana) and CBD get the most attention, but there are many more, some of which science knows next to nothing about – as well as the aromatic terpene chemicals that give different strains of marijuana their unique smells and tastes. Cannabis sativa can classify as industrial hemp if it only registers a negligible amount of THC. In the U.S., CBD products must contain less than .03 percent of THC, legally. The concentration of CBD in those products varies depending on strain and processing method.
A full-spectrum CBD product has a negligible amount of THC because it has everything that was present in the whole cannabis plant. Then, Mustapha said, there are CBD isolates – powders of just CBD that are added into products. Mustapha advocates for full-spectrum CBD products, and claims the less-adulterated product creates an “entourage effect” in which all the chemicals are better utilized and absorbed in the body.
Mustapha said customers are most interested in the liquid products, as research shows them to be the most effective for lasting, long term effects, and for the ease of adjusting the dosage as compared to capsules. Oil bases are typically coconut or olive oil, to blend and cut the hemp extract to a usable concentration. Maggie’s stocks the brands Charlotte’s Web, RE Botannicals, Gaia, Shi Kai and Sunsoil.
Maggie’s Market stopped stocking CBD food products in June when a state health inspector told them it was illegal. The processing and sale of CBD products for human consumption is regulated by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.
“As part of its authority under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds such as CBD. CBD is not currently an approved food additive under FDA regulations,” said Jake Leon, Director of Communications for the New Hampshire DHHS. “As the State of New Hampshire’s Food Protection program has adopted the FDA Food Code into the administrative rules that regulate food establishments in New Hampshire, CBD is not a permitted additive in the state. This guidance has also been issued to self-inspecting municipalities to follow those regulations.”
He said food service retailers DHHS inspects would face enforcement through the Food Protection program if they continue stocking food products with CBD in them after a warning, regardless of the product’s origin.
The Department of Agriculture regulates animal feed, including pet food and treats. Jennifer Gornnert, director of the Division of Regulatory Services for the N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, said that CBD is not an approved animal feed ingredient.
“There’s no data to show the safety of it for [dogs and other] species. There’s a process for a new ingredient to be approved,” she said, and that CBD is going through that process like any other ingredient would.
She acknowledges that her agency has “authority to stop processes that are defined as adulterated – which includes product with ingredients that are not approved.” This includes taking CBD feed products off the shelf, but Gornnert acknowledges that the FDA has not flagged CBD sold for animal use as a high-risk priority.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do about things being sold on the internet,” she said.
Gornnert expects industrial hemp to be legal to grow in New Hampshire by 2020. She also acknowledges that, particularly for CBD, there are many state and federal regulatory details that need time to work out.
“It’s a much harder crop to regulate than corn or tomatoes,” she said.
Gornnert said that currently, the only sure-fire way to ensure a crop is industrial hemp rather than marijuana is to lab test it for THC content. There are no universally-adopted standards for conducting this test. She said this as a major obstacle for regulating interstate sales of industrial hemp products, as every state is concurrently developing its own protocol.
Many states have already developed rules for growing hemp as per the allowances for hemp research trials in the 2014 Farm Bill. Those states only had to tweak their regulations in order to legally allow widespread industrial hemp crops under the 2018 Farm Bill. Gornnert said that New Hampshire does not have such a framework in place.
State bill HB 459 passed at the end of June, defining hemp relative to its growth and use in New Hampshire, and establishing a committee to study the federal guidelines on growing hemp. Gornnert said the study committee is slated to meet this fall. She also expects a framework of guidelines from the USDA to come out in August that will inform any upcoming state regulations.
Hemp regulation is in similar flux on the federal level. At a US Senate hearing on July 25, various agencies presented their updated status on regulating industrial hemp and its products since December.
According to Dr. Amy Abernethy of the FDA, CBD is not currently approved as a food product or supplement for human consumption. Despite myriad therapeutic claims and promising ongoing studies, Abernathy identified only one substantiated therapeutic use for CBD: it is the active ingredient in Epidiolex4, which was approved for treating two childhood seizure disorders in June 2018. This actually complicates the process of approving it as an additive or supplement: Abernathy noted that the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act “prohibits adding an active drug ingredient to foods, or marketing an active drug ingredient as a dietary supplement.”
Tracey Bowman, a certified nurse-midwife in Milford, said she is expanding her practice to include consulting and coaching about cannabis as medicine. She stresses that understanding whether CBD can help with a certain health problem is only one important thing to consider, that dosing and the quality of the product are just as important.
Bowman said that one way to ensure the quality of CBD products is to simply make them at home, from raw hemp buds. Despite the need for clearer regulations and more study, Bowman said she is excited about hemp’s potential, and referenced the speed with which SSRI drugs, like Prozac, became commonplace after their relatively recent discovery.
“I’ve been doing herbal medicine for a long time. It’s really just another herb to use,” she said.
Because of the changing and unpredictable regulatory horizon, several major credit card payment processing companies are discouraging merchants from selling CBD products, threatening to drop shops if they don’t stop selling CBD products. An area retailer, that didn’t want to be named, told the Ledger-Transcript that last fall, online and storefront CBD trade organizations began to warn of potentially being blacklisted from credit card companies for carrying CBD products. The retailer said that most payment processing companies willing to accommodate CBD sales do so at exorbitantly high rates. Specialty shops that make most of their money off CBD products may be able to accommodate the higher cost of doing business, but many stores cannot, and are hoping their CBD sales go unnoticed by their current or prospective processors.
CBD has passionate promoters and users in the Peterborough area, and more prospective users seek it out every day. Users say it is a harmless substance that can potentially make enormous improvements in some users’ quality of life.
The next handful of years will deliver much-needed information about what it can and can’t do, and how it can be used safely.
Future regulations offer the paradox of more availability and more restrictions.