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IN DEPTH: CBD oil trend sweeps through southern Wisconsin

IN DEPTH: CBD oil trend sweeps through southern Wisconsin


If you’re on the lookout for anxiety, stress or pain relief in Sauk, Columbia or Juneau counties, the growing abundance of CBD oil might be just the thing to soothe what ails you.

CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, a by-product of hemp, is quickly blossoming into a popular additive across the country, included in everything from drinks to lotions. Its rapid rise to popularity has led to a wide swathe of claims from less-than-credible sources across the internet, which tend to inflate what benefits cannabidiol can have for the human body.

These benefits, while not yet subject to much in the way of rigorous scientific testing, do have a significant amount of anecdotal evidence behind them. The International Oncology Network’s Sarah Brooks said in an article for the network’s website that many cancer patients look to CBD to help alleviate side effects from both the disease and cancer treatments.

“Chemotherapy patients have also turned to cannabis oil for alleviating their post-chemo side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, inflammation, neuropathic pain, immune suppression, and loss of appetite,” Brooks said.

However, the Food and Drug Administration urges caution in these matters. According to Edmud Elder, an FDA regulations expert from the University of Wisconsin, the FDA recently issued several warning letters to companies for making spurious claims about CBD.

As it stands right now, whatever effects CBD has are not tested or approved by the FDA. So much like vitamins or dietary supplements, companies are permitted to say what they please with little legal recourse.

That may change in the near future. According to Elder, the FDA is looking to categorize CBD as an over-the-counter medication, which would bring it under their jurisdiction. The process has not yet been formalized, but Elder sees it as the most likely path for the FDA to take.

“They recently issued some warning letters to companies about the use of CBD in over-the-counter products,” Elder said. “There’s a prescription drug out there already, and that basically makes CBD a drug that’s regulated by them. So they’re looking at enforcing that provision.”

As it stands, CBD is sold in various forms across the country, albeit often with a disclaimer posted that their claims are not sanctioned by the FDA and have not undergone the necessary rigorous testing.

That doesn’t stop entrepreneurs from pouncing across the developing market. In the Wisconsin Dells area alone, there are three different independent CBD businesses, with Wisconsin Cannabis opening two locations. Their second, directly off I-90 in Lake Delton, recently opened in the hopes of attracting more business in the off-season.

According to store employee Lucas Johnson, the constant flow of tourists in and out of this section of the Dells keeps him and his coworkers busy on weekends, even as the weather cools off. He’s hoping a new location will help disseminate CBD to new customers.

“With the strip being a little less prominent during the off-season, this was a good location to keep our product out there,” Johnson said.

One of the main reasons Johnson wanted to work for Wisconsin Cannabis was to de-stigmatize the hemp plant in the eyes of the typical consumer. He has work to do still; cannabis has been a fiercely targeted product in the United States for decades, with everything from films like “Reefer Madness” in the 1930s to Reagan’s war on drugs.

And Wisconsin Cannabis doesn’t exactly lean away from the more illicit side of the plant. According to Johnson, regulations on selling glass in Columbia County mean that the store’s original location is not allowed to sell products like pipes or bongs at their Broadway store. Sauk County does not have such regulations, so paraphernalia for CBD’s high-inducing sister chemical, THC, abound in the second location.

“I think it’s good to get the stigma away from regular cannabis, at least seeing the plant itself,” Johnson said. “A lot of people have prior prejudice… opinions are already made before they take the medicinal side of the plant. A lot of people view it as a drug, something that’s recreational instead of something that can be beneficial.”

With recreational marijuana still illegal in Wisconsin, the store does not promote that side to customers. Johnson talks heavily about the many different forms CBD comes in for consumption and how it benefits him. He takes it personally for anxiety and stress relief, and said taking it through a vape pen is the most efficient way to feel the effects.

Users should not expect to feel a high from taking CBD. It is non-psychoactive, so if you do not feel high after eating a CBD gummy, that is normal. And for Peggy Albert, owner of Lorranie’s Hallmark and Peggy’s Boutique in Reedsburg, that is one of the main concerns.

Albert began selling CBD products in January 2018, after seeing positive results when taking it for inflammation in her knees. And Albert, a longtime business owner, took on adding the new product with rigor. She sources her product from farms in Kentucky, but never shares the names of her vendors.

Part of her caution is out of her own business interest; she’d rather people buy the CBD products from her store. However, she also warns people against buying CBD online without doing their research.

“They need to come in my store and see what I carry, otherwise everyone just buys it on the internet,” Albert said. “You have to be very careful what you buy on the internet, a lot of it’s made in China. You don’t know what other properties are put into that bottle. To me, having somebody locally that you know and trust try it means a lot to me.”

Albert settled on her vendors after visiting a market in Atlanta, and asking around to find the best of the best. She said that she didn’t settle on any given vendor until she’d talked extensively with them and tested out their products for herself to make sure they met the standards of quality she sets for what’s sold in her store.

“It’s all grown in Kentucky, which is the number one grower resource for CBD oil,” Albert said.

Unlike her counterparts at Wisconsin Cannabis, Albert does not lean into THC at her store. She doesn’t even sell CBD in vape or gummy form; she sticks to oil, topicals and pills. Albert said that she doesn’t believe in smoking CBD as she prefers to stick to the purely medicinal aspect of CBD.

Darius Clements of Baraboo’s CBD Kings has a similar story. He opened his store in October 2018 after seeing good results from taking CBD for his lower back pain, and thought it was a good time to jump into the market.

“My pain was nothing crazy, it was just from an old snowboarding accident,” Clements said. “But it was helping. I had the money and the finances to just jump in with both feet.”

Clements chooses not to promote any of the potential beneficial effects of CBD, since he’s worried about potential ramifications of promoting claims that may not come to fruition for all users of the chemical.

He noted no two people metabolize CBD the same way, and as such not everybody will feel the same effects.

“You really can’t make claims like that right now,” Clements said. “I always just say it helps, it may help with this, it may help with that, it all just depends. Everybody’s body metabolizes it differently.”

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