When Joe Costello started managing Better Days Hemp CBD Shop at 2524 Yale St. four years ago, products containing CBD – which stands for cannabidiol – didn’t occupy much space in a shop that also sells cigars, glass art, pendants, hookahs and clothing.
“Now CBD products take up one-third of the store,” Costello said.
Costello said business is so good that Better Days is opening up two more stores – one in Webster on Egret Bay Blvd and one at Durham Street and 1-10. The number of CBD stores in the area has been growing, which coincides with a national trend.
A recent Inc Magazine article titled, “The Next Gold Rush Is the $22 Billion CBD Business,” cited statistics from the Hemp Business Journal that said the market for CBD was about $190 million in 2017 and will boom to $646 million by 2022.
The national Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, otherwise known as the 2018 Farm Bill, legalized the regulated production of hemp. And in June of this year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 1325, which will allow farmers in Texas to grow hemp with regulations. The Texas law also clarifies the legality of CBD products as long as they contain no more than 0.3 percent of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
A recent newsletter from Heights of Health owner Tracy Wakefield Southwick, a board certified holistic health practitioner, clarified that CBD is not marijuana.
“In fact it is an extract made from the cousin hemp plant and is not psychoactive or addictive,” Wakefield said. “CBD can legally contain up to 0.3 percent of THC … but the amount is so small that you would not feel any effect from it.”
Hemp Industry Daily reports that since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, more people are replacing CBD products with their prescription and over-the-counter drugs, citing a 2019 Consumer Reports survey of more than 4,000 CBD users. About one-fourth of those surveyed used CBD to replace over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol as well as prescription drugs, including opioids, anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids.
Those are the kind of people that Pricila Rodriguez is seeing at her newly opened Sacred Leaf Zero store located at 4721 N. Main St. Rodriguez used to manage a Katy Sacred Leaf Zero store before she opened the one on North Main. Sacred Leaf Zero is a Kansas-based company and Rodriguez said their products are derived from hemp farmed in Colorado.
She said customers who either can’t or don’t want to use opioids are seeking products to alleviate inflammatory issues and anxiety.
“They are looking for an alternative,” said Rodriguez said, who added that people also shop for their pets.
The tinctures, or oils, are the store’s best sellers, although they also sell capsules and other edibles. The products that Sacred Leaf sells have zero THC, hence their name. Rodriguez said products with and without THC are equally effective.
Another newcomer to the business is Danny Cassidy, who opened CBD American Shaman of Houston Heights in April at 1241 W. 11th St. Like Sacred Leaf Zero, American Shaman is a franchise with its own brand of products.
Cassidy said he learned about CBD when his father was having back pain.
“We researched it,” Cassidy said. “He started getting the benefit.”
Cassidy said he believes people need a small concentration of THC for medicinal benefit, although American Shaman sells products without it, too, due to the zero-tolerance policy of some employers.
He said the business has done a lot of online advertising.
“We’re getting repeat customers, too,” Cassidy said.
Medical claims, regulations
In a 2018 WebMD article entitled, “CBD Oil: All the Rage, But Is It Safe & Effective?” Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, called the CBD trade the “Wild West.”
“Joe Bob who starts up a CBD company could say whatever the hell he wants on a label and sell it to people,” Bonn-Miller said.
There is a move to tame the industry, however. Though the Farm Bill allowed the production of hemp, it also stated that the Food and Drug Administration will regulate CBD production. An April PBS story detailed how U.S. regulators are looking at ways CBD could be used legally in foods, dietary supplements and cosmetics.
There is only one case so far in which the FDA has approved a drug containing CBD. GW Pharmaceutical’s drug Epidiolex, which contains a purified form, treats seizure disorders.
Still, some anecdotal reports are encouraging. Heights resident Cheryl Hensley said she’s benefitted from several CBD products.
“I had woken from a dead sleep to excruciating tooth pain,” Hensley said. “I put (a CBD gel pen) on my tooth and its root and also on my jaw bone. I went from 125 percent pain to 20 percent in 45 minutes. I have also used a pain patch for when my lower back froze up. It helped relax my muscles and alleviate the pain. I have also used a CBD salve. Most recently I tore my calf muscle and I used it to heal the muscle tear.”
Jessi Heiner used CBD oil on her 16-year-old dachshund.
“He hurt his back a few months ago, and I wasn’t sure if he was going to recover,” Heiner said. “Rimadyl, Tramadol, and one other vet-prescribed narcotic pain medication simply weren’t working. He was in pain and cried every time we touched him. At the end of our rope after three days without sleep, we read that CBD oil had helped other dogs in similar situations, so we tried it. The first day we gave it to him was the first night we were able to rest in four days. Now we give him a few drops with each meal.”
Southwick, the Heights of Health owner, gives several guidelines to follow for those wanting to try CBD products, including using organic-only products with clear and informative labeling as well as pure ingredients with third-party testing.
“Look for an established, science-based as opposed to marketing-based company that has been around for a few years,” Southwick said.