From gummies to fine chocolates, several Upstate stores are now selling food products made with hemp-based CBD oil, a natural substance that has been said to improve sleep and reduce seizures, headaches, nausea and anxiety.
Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid made from the plant hemp, which is a form of cannabis. Marijuana is also a derivative of cannabis and contains CBD, but also contains high quantities of THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid that causes mental impairment. To be legal in South Carolina, hemp-based CBD oil must have less than 0.3 percent of THC, which is what causes mental impairment.
Asheville anesthesiologist Dr. James Taylor of Integrated Pain Solutions has been recommending it to his patients for over a year to treat everything from anxiety to chronic back pain. “It was really the opioid crisis that kind of pushed us down this path to look at CBD,” Dr. Taylor says. “Initially all patients come back and tell us they sleep so much better.”
He explains that CBD is one of many cannabinoids found in cannabis that have health benefits by stimulating the body’s endocannabinoid system. “It’s your internal doctor that keeps you in balance. That’s why it positively affects so many types of medical problems, because if your blood pressure is too high, by stimulating your endocannabinoid system, your body now works to lower your blood pressure.”
He says he believes CBD oil should be taken like a natural supplement, even by healthy people, and has no known potential for over-dosing.
In September, master chocolatier Vincent Caradonna started making fine chocolates, butters, sugars and caramels with CBD oil at his downtown Greenville shop, Le Petit Croissant. Not long after, Greenville restaurant Farm Fresh Fast also began making and selling donuts and other dishes with CBD oil.
“Our goal is to be the most progressive restaurant in Greenville,” Farm Fresh Fast owner Jonathan Willis says. “There’s always some sort of risk, some sort of shock value.”
Health store Pure on Main has also been selling the product in the form of gummies, vape products, salves, and dog treats for over two years. “It flies off the shelves,” owner Betsy Exton says. “Not only that, the testimonials I get every single day…it’s just incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
It’s a substance that parent Cathy Stevens’ daughter Halle Ching has been using under the direction of her daughter’s doctor for over five years.
“Halle is currently the only person in the world with her gene change who is known.” Stevens says. “She’s not able to walk or talk, and she does have a lot of seizure activity.”
After juggling dozens of prescriptions, one of which could potentially permanently damage peripheral vision, Stevens says her daughter began using hemp-based CBD oil and her seizures went from 5-7 a month to 2-3.
Just last year, twenty farmers in the state were approved to grow hemp through the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s hemp pilot program, as a result of the 2014 Farm Bill. It was created to see if the state can generate revenue from hemp production.
One of those farmers is Danny Ford, who went from coaching champion Clemson football players to coaching plants.
“In football, I could tell everybody what to do. These plants didn’t care what I told them to do or not,” Ford laughed.
This is his first time attempting to grow hemp to be turned into CBD oil, and researchers are monitoring his success to project how much money is in the hemp business. Currently, Ford is waiting for CBD oil to be extracted from his first crop of hemp before he’s able to make a profit.
Meanwhile, many doctors say dosing CBD is tricky and worry it can dangerously interact with medication or cause drowsiness.
It’s also not FDA approved or regulated, and even though CBD oil legally can only have a trace of THC, Dr. Taylor admits it could still cause users to fail a drug test. Without the FDA stamp of approval, many Upstate nurses and doctors are skeptical.
Bon Secours St. Francis Health System Nurse Practitioner Taylor McKeowen says if it negatively interacted with other medications, the results could be toxic, and says the lack of FDA regulation poses a risk, citing a study that showed 70% of CBD oils in shops nationwide were not correctly labeled. “There’s still a chance of you not officially knowing what is in that product considering its not federally regulated,” he says.
Still, parents like Cathy Stevens say after doing their own research and carefully selecting their sources of CBD oil, they are comfortable with the risk.
“I’m glad we’re going to be able to buy it from local farmers and actually talk to them about what we need. Halle’s disability is such that I need to be able to give her consistent medication from day to day so that I’m not just going to buy cannabis on the street corner, but that I know exactly what is in each dose I give her,” she says. “It’s great to have that locally.”
Congress is expected to vote on the 2018 farm bill as soon as December 10, which will determine if hemp and CBD will be considered federally legal.
If it passes, there will no longer be a limit on how many farmers can grow hemp.