Demand grows for CBD products amid legal ambiguity, some local retailers say

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In the Lake Travis-Westlake area, CBD purveyors say business is increasing despite legal and regulatory ambiguities affecting the market.

“The response [to our products]has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Ian Erickson, co-owner of Pure American Hemp Oil, which is sold at multiple stores in the Westlake area. “But I think people are still new to it and what it helps, and we aren’t [legally]able to make any health claims, so I’m not able to tell people what it will cure.”

The compound CBD, or cannabidiol, is sourced from the flower of the hemp plant and is marketed for calming and healing benefits in products ranging from lotions to dietary supplements. It differs from tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the compound that causes the “high” effect of cannabis.

Erickson, who is based in Austin, said his company markets CBD products specifically to veterans and emergency service providers and has seen increasing demand since launching two years ago.

“I wanted to bridge the gap and break the stigma around these products, especially concerning legality since we strip all the THC out of it, … and show it is a very valuable resource for first responders,” he said. “The community has been very positive and supportive of it.”

More than a dozen stores in the Greater Austin area advertise the sale of CBD products. Although the 2018 farm bill legalized hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3% THC at the federal level, there is still legal gray area surrounding the sale of CBD in Texas, said Nishi Whiteley, director for America’s business development for the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute.

Whiteley told Community Impact Newspaper in April state law is complicated but CBD technically remains illegal in Texas.

In May the Texas Senate passed House Bill 1325, which would legalize hemp and hemp-derived products—such as CBD oil—with less than 0.3% THC.

Lake Travis-area resident Gail Corser, who sells CBD products through the international brand HempWorx, said she sees the market growing and is not worried about legal pushback.

“CBD sells itself,” she said. “I don’t think they can make us stop selling it. I think the cat is out of the bag that it’s safe and effective.”

Corser said her products undergo rigorous quality testing but she is concerned the lack of regulation and emergence of low-quality products on the market might affect business as CBD oil products become more mainstream.

“A few bad apples are ruining it for the good companies,” she said. “If people try one bad [product]and it doesn’t work because it is full of fillers, they might pooh-pooh all of it.”

Erickson said the free market will eventually weed out retailers who are not adhering to the safety and quality standards that his and other companies follow.

“It is frustrating when I see other brands pop up and nobody knows what they’re getting. … We can’t really educate people because of the restrictions on what we can and can’t claim,” he said. “But I’m sure people who do it the wrong way and are just looking to make a quick buck, … doing more harm to themselves and their brand, will eventually fade away.”

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Emilie covers community news in Central Austin and is the beat reporter for Austin City Council. She started with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 after working as a journalist in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
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