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Trepidation and hope with CBD oil craze in Lansing

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Legal in Michigan since June 2018, the CBD oil industry is blossoming from hemp farmers cashing in on a new crop to veterinarians prescribing the oil to ease a dog’s final days. There are stories of CBD (short for cannabidiol) being used to treat depression, anxiety, chronic pain and even low libido. 

Are we traveling back to the days of Wild West snake oil salesmen or is this legit?

Let’s start with what can be said for sure. 

CBD oil is derived from hemp plants containing less than 0.3% of the psychoactive THC content. For reference, most marijuana contains over 30 percent.

The oil is most commonly sold in a small glass bottle with a dropper or a tincture. Depending on the dosage, most bottles advise consumers to drop the oil under their tongue and hold for 10 seconds undisturbed.

It, like its THC brethren, targets the endocannabinoid system, latching on to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and body. What it does from there has scientists, physicians and the general populace perplexed. 

The only clinical breakthrough thus far is the CBD-derived drug Epidiolex for children 2 years and older with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, rare forms of epilepsy.

The FDA tested around 700 children with these forms of epilepsy in clinical trials with a placebo control group.

After both Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome sufferers responded with fewer seizures than the control group, the drug was approved by the FDA last June. It is expensive, costing $32,500 for a year’s supply before insurance coverage.

That’s where undisputed evidence-based research ends.

The majority of CBD oil is on shaky ground for its touted benefits in the scientific community. 

A 2017 study on CBD labeling accuracy by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found 70 percent of CBD oils sold online to be mislabeled with too little or too much CBD.

In Michigan, CBD was roped into the Marijuana category of legislation before it had a chance to be separated from its THC containing counterpart last June. 

The law 

It wasn’t a pot smoking liberal who wrote the legislation that clarified the legality of CBD oil. It was state Rep. Steven Johnson, a Republican from West Michigan.

Johnson wrote and proposed House Bill 6331, separating hemp and all of its properties from marijuana. It was signed into law as Public Act 642 of 2018.

“I’ve never used it. I don’t know if it is ingested or applied and I don’t care. I just know the people who do and they say it works for them. Why would we want to stop that?” Johnson said.   

Johnson first heard about CBD oil from his pastor, who took the drug for an illness. The pastor was frustrated after he found out he needed to get a medical marijuana card to acquire CBD, which would void out his license to carry a concealed weapon, Johnson said. 

“It seemed pretty simple and a minute thing and I wanted to get that fixed,” he said. 

The scale of things changed when the act went public in the house. 

“When we introduced this legislation, I heard from people all over the state: Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals.” 

The support continued on the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives, where it passed unanimously. The Michigan Senate passed the bill almost unanimously with one no-vote before then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed it into law. 

“CBD oil is a big opportunity for Michigan because it is an emerging market here and an emerging market for our country,” Johnson said. “Why can’t we be the policymakers that embrace CBD oil and what it brings? Let’s be the leader and develop all the technological innovations with it.” 

President Trump later signed the farm bill, which made hemp and CBD oil legal nationwide in December. 

The vendors

Founded in 1974, Su Casa of Old Town is one of the oldest family-owned Lansing headshops.  Manager Lucas Peña first heard of CBD oil in 2015 at a vendor show in Las Vegas. 

“At first I didn’t think much of it and looked into it. As time evolved, I saw and heard a lot more of the benefits of CBD itself.” 

Customer stories range from elderly people being able to overcome pain to walk again to anxiety sufferers able to kick their meds to be treated with CBD exclusively, he added. 

“I’ve heard it all and I wouldn’t be surprised with anything.” 

Su Casa’s CBD products include topical creams, tinctures and the hemp flower itself. 

Hampi, the company that makes the smokable hemp flower Su Casa stocks, includes a QR code to scan so people can see its test results for CBD concentration from a third-party tester.

This is the most popular way to self-regulate the CBD market in lieu of FDA oversight. The QR data is linked to a report from EVIO Labs, a Nevada company specializing in testing cannabidiol products.

Theodore Blackwell, assistant manager of The Haven smoke shop on Saginaw Highway, said there has been a surge in CBD traffic within the last month. 

“A year ago, CBD might have taken up half a row in a case,” Blackwell said. “Now it takes up the whole case.” 

Blackwell, an Army veteran, is a medical marijuana card holder and was skeptical of CBD at first. He has an injured knee from the service and doctors tell him his ACL is in fragile condition. 

“I get chronic pain with it, but I take CBD gummies and it makes totally forget about it.” 

What needs to change most with the CBD market is coefficient pricing with dosage, Blackwell said. Less reputable establishments will charge $50 for a bottle of CBD regardless if it is a high or low CBD concentration.   

“I want to see more legit stuff versus a lot of people riding the wave and craze. I don’t want anyone wasting their money.” 

The pharmacist 

Pharmacist Michael Salquist has worked in the Lansing area for the last 40 years. 

He co-owns Central Pharmacy, a branch with 12 locations in Central Michigan. He said he gets at least five calls a day about CBD from customers and another five calls from CBD suppliers wanting to stock their products.

One of the problems with measured efficacy of CBD oil is there is not a lot of research being done on the endocannabinoid system, Salquist said. 

“When I graduated from pharmacy school in the early ‘70s, there was no mention of it. Up until the last five years, the endocannabinoid system wasn’t even discussed.”

Researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system in 1992. They isolated an endocannabinoid in the human body for the first time. They called it ‘anandamide’ after the Sanskrit word for bliss. 

“As a pharmacist, I have to ask myself, ‘How can it treat depression while giving you energy while taking your pain away all at the same time?’ It’s too much.” 

It is still worth checking into to see if it could negate opioid addictions, he added. 

“Other than making you feel drowsy or funny, there aren’t a lot of alternatives out there. If the product and bioavailability of CBD is true, it could be a great product. Or it could be the newest thing and everyone is jumping on board trying to get a piece of the pie.” 

The CBD market needs time to figure out what is real and what isn’t, he added. 

The current problem is no one can tell you the proper dosage for a therapeutic level of CBD to “titrate” or treat the symptoms it claims to alleviate, Salquist said. 

The placebo effect must also be taken into account, he added. 

“There are stories of people who have had great successes from pain to anxiety with CBD. Is it mind over matter or part of the endocannabinoid system working? I don’t know.” 

The epilepsy community 

Russ Derry is the director of education for the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan. Over his career, he has seen the rise and fall of multiple treatments and the inclusion of once alternative methods move into the mainstream. 

“With any new treatment, you approach it with a combination of hope and skepticism,” Derry said. 

CBD reminded him of the Ketogenic Diet for people with epilepsy where it started out as an alternative or complementary treatment and moved into a mainstream treatment with a great deal of evidence to support it. 

This doesn’t mean everyone should run out and use it, Derry said. Before taking CBD as alternative medicine for epilepsy is considered, “make sure you have been to a comprehensive epilepsy center, evaluated by an epileptologist and explored all of the widely approved and widely accepted treatments for epilepsy,” Derry said. “If you have explored all of those, absolutely it is something to discuss with your neurologist.” 

Outside Epidiolex, there is a great deal of interest in using CBD in the epilepsy community, he said. “A smaller percentage will actually try it and an even smaller percentage use it regularlyxbecause it is effective.”

For Derry, the answer is not to forbid people from using these developing alternatives but to emphasize caution. 

“Often the case is when people are desperate for new treatments when existing ones are not working, they will try things before the solid evidence is available,” Derry said. “You want to make sure of the potential risks of doing so, and you want to make sure the research is at least coming down the pipeline.”    

Though it is hard to pinpoint, CBD started getting introduced within the epilepsy community in the last 10 years, Derry said. 

The evidence thus far is limited for everything else, Derry said. “It is all anecdotal. There is a lot of research to explain why it might be effective, but provisioning centers and CBD suppliers haven't been through the rigorous testing a drug has.” 

This is nothing new, Derry said. 

“With any complementary therapy, there is a tendency to overstate its benefits and paint a picture of a cure-all or panacea.”   

Though CBD is legal when derived from hemp (as opposed to marijuana), the FDA only rescheduled it to schedule V status with a potential for addiction akin to prescription strength Robitussin with codeine. “Descheduling” —taking CBD off the FDA's addictive substance list — would allow fewer restrictions on testing the general population.

“We would like to see existing barriers continue to be removed in terms of descheduling to provide more opportunities to research,” Derry said. “There is a lot to still discover and we need to still be working towards finding these solutions.” 

CBD oil vendors in Lansing

The Haven Smoke Shop

thehavensmokeshop.com

Locations:

5225 S. Cedar St., Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

(517) 993-6494

3205 W. Saginaw St., Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to midnight daily

(517) 993-6494

The Better Health Store

thebetterhealthstore.com

Locations:

305 N. Clippert St., Lansing, MI

8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday

11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

(517) 332-6892

6235 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday

9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday

Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

(517) 323-9186

Wild Side Smoke Shop

instagram.com/wildsidemi

1101 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing, MI

10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

(517) 580-4833

Puff Puff Smoke Shop

puff-puff-smoke-shop-vaporizer-store.business.site

5912 S. Cedar St., Lansing, MI 48911

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday

10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday

Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

(517) 721-1990

Su Casa

sucasaboutique.com

1041 N. Cedar St., Lansing, MI 48906

10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

(517) 487-9090

Exscape Smoke Shop & Vapor Lounge

exscapesmoke.com

225 M. A. C. Ave., East Lansing, MI

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday

11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

(517) 253-7266

Joost Vapor

joostvapor.com

6334 W. Saginaw Hwy. Ste. E, Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday

Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

(517) 347-7650

Wild Bill’s Tobacco

wildbillstobacco.com

Locations:

3020 E. Saginaw St., Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

(517) 483-2200

4213 S. Cedar St., Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

(517) 272-0155

5023 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

(517) 679-1200

Central Pharmacy

centralpharmacymi.com

Locations:

1001 E. Mt. Hope Ave., Lansing, MI

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

CLOSED Sunday

(517) 316-0711

1122 W. Holmes Rd., #23, Lansing, MI

(517) 574-5015

4801 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing, MI

(517) 833-4629

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