CBD is everywhere — and Michigan is no exception. Inside the industry’s statewide boom
By Susan Peck
Debilitating back pain wakes Nadine Lucia from her sleep in the middle of the night, and makes common tasks like walking, at times, unbearable.
“I’ve had constant back pain for two years that keeps me from functioning,” says Lucia, a 57-year-old Birmingham resident and real estate broker. “I’ve tried prescription pain medication, oral steroids, physical therapy and traction with no real benefits. My next option was surgery.”
But when a colleague told her about the CBD she was using for chronic pain from chemotherapy, Lucia decided it was worth a try. Every day, she places a few drops of CBD oil under her tongue, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. “It’s the first thing that’s made any real improvement for my back pain,” she says. And it wasn’t just her back pain that improved. “I’ve been less anxious and have been sleeping better.”
CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of the compounds found in marijuana and hemp. Part of the cannabis family, it’s thought to work as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, but because it’s low in THC (the psychoactive component in marijuana), it doesn’t produce high-inducing effects. And Lucia is far from the only person to embrace it: According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 14 percent of U.S. adults use CBD products for everything from pain and anxiety to insomnia and digestive issues, and that number is expected to grow.
In 2018, the federal Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD oil that contains below 0.3 percent THC. Now, chains like Walgreens, Whole Foods and Sephora are scheduled to sell the products — which include oils, drops or tinctures, lotions and edibles — in some locations this year, and brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Anheuser-Busch are developing CBD products. According to a recent industry report, the worldwide CBD market is poised to hit $1.25 billion by 2024.
In Michigan, CBD was legalized last year under House Bill 6331, which states that individuals don’t need a medical-marijuana card to buy hemp-derived CBD products. Since then, the industry has exploded statewide, with CBD products being sold everywhere from grocery stores and gas stations to health-food shops and yoga studios. “The Metro Detroit area is one of the fastest growing markets in Michigan when it comes to cannabis products of all kinds, including CBD,” says Mort Meisner, the president of GROW Cannabis Marketing, based in Royal Oak. (Retail sales of recreational marijuana began here last month.)
Despite its popularity, the risks and regulations of CBD are still a bit hazy. The Food and Drug Administration is taking slow steps to sanction it for therapeutic health benefits. “In the United States, the CBD drug Epidiolex is the only one approved by the FDA for treatment of two epilepsy disorders,” says attorney Barton Morris, founder of the Cannabis Legal Group in Royal Oak. Other CBD products are currently treated like dietary supplements and not under the FDA’s jurisdiction.
In November, the FDA went so far as to issue a warning about CBD, saying the limited data it has seen about the drug’s safety points to “real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason.”
One reason for the FDA’s caution is the lack of regulation of CBD products, says Dr. Karl Edelmann of Over the Moon Medical Certification Clinic in Walled Lake (the practice helps patients obtain medical marijuana cards). “I’ve seen great results from patients using CBD, but not all CBD products are created equally,” he says. “It’s buyer beware when it comes to finding a safe and effective product to use.”
So if CBD is unregulated, how do you know what you’re getting? Short answer: You don’t, but you can take steps to minimize unwanted effects. Buying from an established dispensary is the first line of defense. Businesses like the REEF in Detroit, one of Michigan’s largest licensed provisioning centers, only accept products from licensed manufacturers and distributors who cultivate in accordance with Michigan law. “Our products must meet all standards for adult use, including the new labeling standards that provide maximum dosage for daily use,” says operations director Rush Hasan.
Brandon Koz, owner of Monroe-based Urban Roots Hemp Company, which manufactures and sells CBD products including ice cream and pet supplements, agrees. “Find a product that has third-party lab testing results that ensure purity and potency,” he says.
In any case, CBD can have side effects like sleepiness, nausea and mood changes, so if you’re a beginner, “start low and go slow,” says Edelmann. Begin with 15 to 25 mg of CBD and add more as needed, he advises, and be aware of the product’s concentration as well as your body weight. “Take it with a meal that includes some fat to promote and maximize absorption,” he says, adding that it’s best to discuss CBD use with your doctor.
But Lucia, who’s been using CBD for more than a month, remains “cautiously optimistic” about its curative effects, she says. “The CBD is relieving my pain when the other harsher prescription drugs didn’t,” she says. “I’m feeling more like my old self again.”