Seeking the truth about CBD
Local retailers may be all in, but there are still many questions about the safety and effectiveness of CBD.
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It’s a definite concern for Tim O’Brien, owner of The Healthy Place [formerly known as Apple Wellness], a nutrition store that has locations in Madison, Fitchburg, Sun Prairie, and Middleton.
O’Brien got into the health and nutrition business after his mother fought through cancer. After chemotherapy and radiation, much of her recovery was through natural supplements, he notes, and she managed a mom-and-pop nutrition store while he was growing up, which is what got O’Brien into the industry.
“I started working in this industry as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school and grew to be the district manager for the GNC stores in Madison, but after a corporate takeover, everyone lost their jobs,” O’Brien explains. “I knew I liked helping people and guiding them in an industry that has a lot of misinformation. That’s when my wife and I prayed about it and decided to start our own store in 2010.”
O’Brien says he was initially opposed to selling any CBD products because marijuana played a negative role in his life through his teen years. “I was very lazy, unmotivated, and all I wanted to do was smoke pot. It took some of my heroes in the nutrition space to talk me into it. While I am still not a proponent for recreational marijuana, I am all about medicinals that can help people who are suffering. Once I fully understood that CBD had all the benefits of medicinal marijuana without the high, I decided to bring it in.”
Remember those old Hair Club for Men commercials — “I’m not just the president … I’m also a client.” Well, O’Brien doesn’t just sell CBD products, he also uses them to treat some of his own ailments.
“I started taking CBD because of the dozens of benefits that it has in the body,” O’Brien notes. “I began slowly, unpacking the hundreds and even thousands of clinicals. I believe we are up to 11,000 clinical trials now on CBD and THC, so we have a nice body of science. With it being illegal in the U.S. for so long, it slowed the research here, but other places in the world, like Europe, have collected far more data. I personally noticed it ‘takes the edge off’ stress-wise throughout my day and I sleep significantly deeper at night from it.”
But while O’Brien has personally seen positive health benefits from it, he’s quick to point out that popular depictions of CBD as a miracle cure are hyperbole at best.
“While it may be good for many things, it does not always work,” explains O’Brien. “Quality matters! For many, it simply takes the edge off, which may bring their pain from a nine to a five on the pain scale. However, there’s not a day that goes by that my team does not hear up to a dozen testimonials from folks who have gotten off of prescription opiates and antidepressants [because of CBD].”
It’s as much because of the positive experiences many of his customers have had that O’Brien would love to see more regulation of CBD products from the federal government. “Everyone’s not honest out there. It’s the Wild West and folks need to be working with brands that they can trust because the FDA does not regulate the supplement industry. At this point you can literally throw whatever you want in a bottle and slap CBD on it. I would like to see some sort of verification regulation that can protect the consumer. Or at least the word getting out there that you should buy it from a reputable source.”
Much of the concern about the safety of CBD comes from products that aren’t properly labeled or aren’t produced by honest manufacturers.
According to an NBC 4 New York I-Team investigative report from February 2019, independent testing of a random sampling of commercially marketed CBD-infused products found that their potency is frequently mislabeled.
Investigators purchased CBD-infused products online and at local convenience stores and submitted the products to third-party independent testing. They reported, “Less than half the samples that were tested actually had the stated amount of THC inside the product.” Some products contained no CBD at all.
The NBC New York findings are consistent with those of prior reports, which similarly determined that many commercially available CBD-infused products are of variable potency and may contain adulterants. Also in February, a separate investigation conducted by KCTV Channel 5 (CBS) in St. Louis reported that none of the CBD-infused products they purchased over the counter at local retailers contained the amount of CBD listed on their labels.
Perhaps even scarier, CBD-infused products commercially available in retail stores and online have been found to contain heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, according to an ABC 7 I-Team investigation of third-party testing results out of Washington, D.C. Investigators reviewed results for over 240 CBD-infused products. Their analysis determined that 70 percent of the products were found to be “highly contaminated with heavy met-als like lead and arsenic, herbicides like glyphosate, and a host of other contaminants including pesticides.”
O’Brien recommends consumers make sure the CBD products they use come from companies that source from clean places, have competitive pricing, have true full-spectrum products, terpene-rich formulas, and third-party testing on every batch. “All these factors are essential in creating a ‘good’ CBD product,” notes O’Brien. “As far as safety goes, if the above is done well, CBD is very safe and similar in nutrition to flax oil — great for the human body and every system.”
CBD on tap
In Dane County, CBD products can seemingly be found just about anywhere.
In addition to The Healthy Place’s four locations, other nutrition retailers selling CBD products include Green Bar Door, Community Pharmacy, Quality CBD, and Green RX in Madison; CBD Farmacy and Hoey Apothecary in Monona; Embrace Wellness in Middleton; and Docere Wellness in Oregon. And then there’s also Balance CBD Edibles, CBD American Shaman, A State of Mind Health and Wellness, Community Wellness Shop, Ki Shop, Herb RX, Midwest Best CBD, and Diamond CBD Oil, among others.
Great Dane made headlines in late 2018 when it debuted a specialty CBD beer, which quickly sold out, and CBD-infused cocktails. Mad Ink Glass and Vape sells its own brand of CBD tinctures at its East Washington Avenue location. Other establishments have added CBD to their food and beverages — not to mention lotions and creams — as well, including the coffee at Deja Brew on Commercial Avenue, the cold brew at Pickle Jar on Butler Street, the smoothies at SuperCharge! on East Washington Avenue, and the creams and oils at Retro Hair Studio on Old Middleton Road.
Chameleon Cannabis is a local e-commerce site launched by Zach Henderson and Mike Hansen in February 2019 that sells a CBD pain-relief balm, CBD oil capsules, and two tinctures, including one for pets.
Willy Street Co-op might win the prize, however, for most ways to get your CBD in one stop. At Willy Street, customers can opt to add CBD as a nutritional supplement to juice and coffee.
“We decided to add this as a supplement because we had customers asking for it,” says Brendon Smith, communications director at Willy Street Co-op, “and because it’s been extremely popular in our Wellness Department.” Willy Street Co-op sells CBD in several other products, including chocolate, beer, body-care products, and more.
As far as that notion of CBD as a passing fad? “CBD is here to stay,” says O’Brien. “This is not a ‘Dr. Oz weight loss thing.’ This is a nutrient with massive benefits that was illegal but no longer is. CBD will play a major role in helping my customers for the foreseeable future.
“I think natural alternatives are gaining momentum, so we could see more and more companies opening and growing [in Greater Madison].”