SUN PRAIRIE — Until recently, Jacob Coates was a project manager performing IT rollouts for national clients likeSprint, Kohls, Target and other large corporations.
That is, until the 2008 Sauk Prairie High School graduate came across a cannabidiol shop while in North Carolina. That happenstance visit changed Coates’s life.
“I was intrigued, but I was also a skeptic,” Coates said. “I had heard CBD oil helps things like anxiety and depression, and at the time I was experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety.”
He left the store with a few products.
“Within 30 minutes I noticed a difference,” Coates said.
He went back the following day and bought a roll-on for back pain. Again, Coates said he noticed a difference very soon after.
“It was like a miracle,” Coates said. “And it is all natural.”
Three days later he went back to the store and announced to the owner he was going to quit his job. He wanted to sell CBD based products as well.
“I knew right then what I wanted to do,” Coates said.
However, he had to wait. He’d moved back to Wisconsin, settling in Sun Prairie. He watched carefully as state lawmakers dabbled with laws around industrial hemp and its inert derivatives, such as CBD oils, which until recently were deemed illegal by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Cannabidiol contains no ingredients known to cause psycho-activity and will not give someone a high.
In April 2014, Wisconsin Act 267 was enacted. The legislation legalized the use of cannabidiol for treatment of seizure disorders. Act 267 was passed by the Assembly and Senate. It was renamed “Lydia’s Law” by an act a month later in honor of a child who suffered from a rare form of epilepsy. The act’s sponsors added a clause that CBD oil must have FDA approval to be prescribed. Because widespread CBD use does not yet have FDA approval, Wisconsin doctors are not allowed to prescribe CBD. However, in April 2018, an FDA committee recommended the first cannabis-based drug, Epidiolex, to treat rare and severe forms of epilepsy. In mid-2015, a state legislator proposed an amendment to remove penalties for possession of CBD oil, negating prescription requirements.
In February 2017, the Wisconsin Senate passed Senate Bill 10, which allows people to possess CBD oil. The bill amends Lydia’s Law, which allowed access to CBD oil under limited circumstances, and allows for possession of CBD oil if a doctor has certified the oil is being used to treat a medical condition. In addition, the bill requires Wisconsin follow suit if CBD oil is rescheduled at the federal level. Gov. Scott Walker signed state assembly bill 49 into law in March 2017.
Last year the federal Farm Bill allowed states to create a pilot research program permitting individuals to cultivate industrial hemp. In May, the justice department publicly announced medicinal oil derived from marijuana and hemp would still be considered illegal. A few days later, DOJ officials reversed their decision, saying cannabidiol produced and sold under the hemp pilot program is legal.
Within a few hours of that announcement, Coates had maxed out his credit cards buying products and setting up shop in a room in the chiropractic office of Gary Silbaugh in Sun Prairie.
Silbaugh said because CBD is a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals, he felt Coates’ new store, Herb Rx, was a good fit for the small space he’d been hoping to rent out.
“I think considering the opioid crisis; if patients can find a natural remedy for pain relief it could be a good solution,” Silbaugh said.
The World Health Organization doesn’t recommend cannabidiol for medical use; however states that initial evidence suggests it could have therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions. At its November 2017 meeting, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence concluded in its pure state, cannabidiol does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm.
In addition to relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression, CBD is also used to treat migraines, cancer patients, those with seizure disorders, inflammation and pain. It can also be used to help aging pets with arthritis.
“About 80 percent of my customers are age 50 and older,” Coates said. “These are people who have been failed by pharmaceuticals. Not everyone who uses CBD wants to go into a head shop and find the products among bongs. We are here to heal.”