Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ohio health food store keeps CBD oil on shelves despite state ban

AKRON — Despite a state ban on the sale of CBD oil, a billboard on Main Street in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood continues to pitch the product for a local health food store.

In August, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy ruled that the sale of CBD oil was banned by Ohio except for by dispensaries created under the state’s medical marijuana law.

At the time, Akron-area retailers scrambled to remove CBD oil products from their shelves. A few decided to sell what was left in their inventory.

But Seven Grains Natural Market decided to hold fast. Co-owner Gina Krieger says that the CBD oil her Tallmadge store advertises on the billboard isn’t covered by state law. Unless that law changes, Krieger said she is confident she’s offering a legal product.

“We are completely fine now to sell agriculture hemp-derived CBD,” Krieger said. “There’s no psychoactive compound.”

Krieger said her store has been very cautious about all the products it sells.

“We are very careful that we align ourselves with quality companies across the board,” she said.

CBD oil is extracted from cannabis plants, which may include the marijuana plant or its less controversial cousin, hemp. Users believe the oil relieves pain symptoms, and its popularity has soared in recent years. Forbes magazine estimated last year that about $170 million of CBD oil products were sold in the U.S. in 2016. By 2020, sales are expected to reach $1 billion.

Krieger’s supplier has dealt with authorities from other states skeptical about its product and has been able to assuage concerns about its legality, she said.

The pharmacy board’s ruling cited state law to include hemp-derived CBD oil as a substance banned in the Buckeye state. “Ohio law does not make a distinction between CBD extracted from hemp and CBD extracted from marijuana,” the board argued.

In an online explanation of its ruling, the board included language from state law defining what’s considered “marijuana,” including “all parts of the plant of the genus cannabis.” Because hemp is part of that plant classification, the board decided it could only be sold under the umbrella of Ohio House Bill 523, which was passed to permit the sale of medical marijuana and create a production and distribution network in the state.

The section of law cited by the board, however, contains additional language that excludes “the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oils or cake made from the seeds of the plant, or any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks…” from the state’s definition of what’s marijuana and what’s not.

Dan Tierney, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said that the pharmacy board’s ruling did not change Ohio law.

“If it contains THC it will very clearly not be legal,” Tierney said. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces a “high.”

Although state law is explicit about what’s not permitted, Tierney said, the makeup of individual CBD oil products can be a bit murky. The oil can be extracted from hemp seeds, the hemp plant or marijuana plants, and each product has a different composition. To ascertain a product’s THC content, individual products would need to be tested.

“People need to be aware that CBD oil is a product that can have multiple [variations],” Tierney said.

Because of this, the products are difficult to regulate, and the effects on users can vary.

“We cannot guarantee [CBD oil] is uniform from one product to another,” Tierney said. He cautions consumers who insist on trying CBD oil — or any other natural supplement. “Do research on the product. Try to verify independent claims.”

Akron Councilman Bruce Kilby, who represents the ward where the billboard is displayed, said in a phone interview last week that he was not aware of the advertisement until alerted to its presence. He called its placement on the north side of the Alcoholics Anonymous Archives building and the Arsenic & Old Lace tobacco shop “ironic.”

While uncomfortable with the billboard, Kilby said that decriminalization of cannabis products on the federal level should at least be debated. He believes, however, that outright legalization might go too far and encourage greater use.

Still, he said, the billboard should be removed if the product advertised doesn’t comply with Ohio law.

“I’m not comfortable with that if it’s illegal,” Kilby said. “It should be pulled down if the billboard company knows this is an illegal product. It should not be allowed to be advertised.”

The billboard is owned by Lamar Advertising Co., whose signage adorns its frame. The company, based in Baton Rouge, La., operates a Cleveland-Akron-Canton division.

A message to the company’s Akron office was not returned. Messages and an email to the Baton Rouge headquarters were not returned.

City of Akron officials were similarly tight-lipped. The city’s director of law, Eve Belfance, did not return a message. Mayor Dan Horrigan’s deputy chief of staff Annie McFadden did not return a phone call.

In the meantime, Seven Grains and at least one other local retailer continue to sell CBD oil products. Seven Grains has no plans to pull its product from its shelves, Krieger said.

“We have several customers who have had very good relief from symptoms,” she said. “I have registered nurses coming in here buying it.”

Her husband, Dave Krieger, is even more enthusiastic about the benefits of the hemp plant.

“Hopefully, we’ll see fields of hemp in every state of the union,” he said. The plant has a long history in the U.S., he said, being used in the manufacture of ropes, cloth, paper and other products well beyond CBD oil.

“It’s a fantastic commodity,” he said.

Source: https://www.dispatch.com/news/20181104/ohio-health-food-store-keeps-cbd-oil-on-shelves-despite-state-ban

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