The trend is a result of a series of federal and state bills that became law beginning in late 2018, loosening restrictions on hemp regulations. At the federal level, the 2018 farm bill became law in December, making hemp products legal nationwide and allowing states to regulate hemp individually.
Shortly after, House Bill 1325 was filed in the 86th Texas Legislature in February to allow farmers to grow hemp and redefine hemp’s classification, allowing up to 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in CBD products. A month later, HB 3703 was filed to expand the Texas Compassionate Use Act—the medical CBD law—to include ailments other than epilepsy, such as multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer and some neurological disorders.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed both bills into state law in June.
“I supported and voted for HB 1325 because I believe they have provided sufficient detail that differentiates the two related plants and their chemical makeup,” said state Rep. Sam Harless, R-Spring. “I believe that HB 1325 contains a number of controls that establish a cautionary approach to production of commercial hemp and its byproducts.”
CBD is a hemp-derived extract that can be used for therapeutic and medicinal purposes. Although CBD and marijuana both come from plants in the cannabis family, CBD is harvested from industrial hemp plants that do not contain enough THC to result in any psychoactive effects that marijuana is known for.
“We want to break the stigma of this plant being bad; we’re here to educate,” CBD+ Botanical Wellness co-owner Cindy Tran said. “[Hemp has] the same benefits [as marijuana] without the high.”
Despite these legislative advances, physicians said questions remain surrounding the long-term effects of CBD.
Dr. Paul C. Van Ness, the director of Baylor St. Luke’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Houston, is one of a dozen doctors in Texas who are able to prescribe CBD medication to patients who have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy through the Texas Compassionate Use Act.
Van Ness said Epidolex is the only CBD prescription approved by the Food and Drug Administration thus far and—prior to HB 3703—was only approved for those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, which are characterized by hundreds of seizures each day.
“It’s a pretty hopeless condition once the doctors have been through standard therapies,” he said.
Van Ness said he has had several patients who have not had anymore disabling seizures, or seizures that cause them to lose consciousness, since taking Epidolex. However, Van Ness said limited accessibility to medical-grade CBD and the price tag associated with it remain obstacles for many patients who could potentially find relief with it.
“[Some people] just can’t afford it, so we’ll never know,” he said.
With limited research, Van Ness said unknowns remain surrounding the long-term effects of CBD, particularly when it comes to pregnancies.
“We have no idea what [CBD] does to pregnant women or their babies,” Van Ness said. “Studies always exclude women who might be pregnant. So this is only going to come out when people don’t follow the doctor’s advice.”
Although research supports CBD’s anti-seizure effects, Van Ness said little to no research other than anecdotal evidence supports other health benefits users of CBD products claim.
“It’s a fad right now, and like all fads, after a few years we’ll find out what really happens,” he said.
CBD shops surge
While physicians said there is much research left to be done on CBD, local shop owners said CBD could provide relief for a host of other conditions, based on customer testimonials.
Ally Horner and her husband, Shane Custard, opened Your CBD Store Spring on FM 2920 in April followed by a second location in Vintage Park in August. Horner, who broke her leg and now has a titanium rod and screws, said she can tell when she does not take CBD.
“If I take a pain pill, I limp the next day. I’m in a lot of pain; you can definitely tell that I can’t walk,” she said. “When I take CBD, I don’t limp; it helps with my pain—it’s changed our lives drastically.”
Custard added all Your CBD Store products are third-party tested and include QR codes on the labels, which give consumers access to each product’s lab results. Cody Zegarrundo and Steven Smolko, who opened CBD American Shaman of Spring on FM 2920 in August, said their products feature similar safety precautions.
“It gives customers confidence because they know what they’re buying,” Zegarrundo said. “That’s a big deal because ... not all CBD is created equal.”
Zegarrundo and Smolko said they have had customers with conditions including neuropathy, autism and turrets find relief with CBD.
“People don’t want to keep taking pills and getting drugged—they want to actually get help,” Smolko said.
Likewise, Tran and her husband, Will, said they have seen success with customers who suffer from Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
“We see people coming in crying in pain, and then days and weeks later, those people come back in crying of joy,” Will Tran said.
While the business owners agreed the area is oversaturated with CBD shops today, they believe the ones that will prevail will be those that offer quality products.
“I think a lot of people just saw the first [CBD stores] open and wanted to jump on the bandwagon,” Custard said. “Once the FDA gets involved, a lot of these other stores aren’t going to last.”