Silver handcuffs laying on marijuana leaves

After Grove City police recently confiscated CBD products from a vape shop after executing a search warrant, what does this portend for all local CBD retailers who are not licensed by the state?

Depending on how each local police agency views CBD it could mean shutting down the retailer.

CBD is one of the many cannabinoids or compounds derived from the cannabis plant. When processed into an isolate form, it is non-psychoactive, unlike its mind-altering cannabinoid relative Delt-9-tetrahydrocannabinoil (THC).

Many are coming to the realization that CBD is potentially the next big thing in holistic health. There is little federal research to go by, but millions of CBD users swear by its anxiety and pain reducing powers, and thus the market could reach $2 billion by 2020, according to the Hemp Business Journal.

Yet in a surprise and controversial move the Ohio Board of Pharmacy in August said selling CBD from anywhere but state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries is illegal under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. The board also stated it would be up to local law enforcement agencies to make their own decision on whether to crackdown on CBD sold by independent retailers.

But there’s debate as to whether CBD, which is derived from hemp, should even be legally defined as marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are members of the same plant species (cannabis), yet hemp is considered a food or a fiber while marijuana is a psychoactive mind-altering drug.

What’s more, the 2018 farm bill, or US Agricultural Improvement Act, removed hemp as illegal under federal law.

Nevertheless, on February 19th Grove City police took all CBD products from Midwest Vapors on Stringtown Road.

“We received information this business was illegally selling CBD products and a search warrant was requested and granted, and the products were seized,” says Grove City police Lt. Doug Olmstead to the Free Press. “Under state law all parts of a marijuana plant, which CBD is considered a part of, are illegal. House Bill 523 (Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program) does grant licensed dispensaries to sell CBD products under certain circumstances, but Midwest Vapors is not a state licensed facility to sell these products.”

Other CBD retailers across the state have also had their product taken and the state has sent out a number of cease-and-desist letters. What’s more, state officials from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy have visited CBD retailers demanding they sign a letter promising to soon stop selling CBD.

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy was one of the three state agencies tasked with getting the medical marijuana program up and running.

Rob Ryan, director of the medical marijuana advocacy group Ohio Patient Network, was in Yellow Springs back in October when he first heard state pharmacy officials were showing up uninvited to headshops.

“They visited a bunch of them in Yellow Springs telling them to sign this letter,” said Ryan. “Most of them said, ‘Get the f--- outta here!’”

Some activists have speculated as to why the state’s pharmacy officials have such a bent against CBD sold by mom-and-pop hippy stores?

Kevin Tidd, the owner the family-run and independent natural food store The Farmacy in Athens, says there’s a simple answer for this: Big Pharma has ideas on controlling the future CBD explosion. Big Pharma no doubt would boost the price of CBD while also establishing stricter controls and limiting access, i.e., needing a doctor’s script.

In a state where several of the nation’s largest opioid distributors are based, Big Pharmacy has the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio General Assembly on a short leash, believes Tidd.

“I think it’s absurd. It has nothing more to do then pharmaceutical control. It’s a pharmaceutical coup. They want you to only go to them,” says Tidd.

He believes the public, the consumer, has the power to derail Big Pharma’s desire to corner the CBD market. By convincing the Ohio General Assembly to regulate CBD as hemp and a food and not marijuana.

“Tell them CBD is perfectly safe and you as a consumer want it in the market place,” he says. “You don’t want to have to go to a (state sanctioned) dispensary or a drug store to buy a product that’s given a lot of people a lot of help.”

Ohio is gradually coming out of the Stone Age (not Stoned) of medical marijuana. With all the delays and confusion, it’s obvious the Ohio General Assembly and its offices running the program didn’t have the expertise for a smooth roll out. Ryan says the way Ohio is now handling CBD, however, still shows the state not only lacked expertise but basic knowledge of the medicine.

“This whole convoluted CBD situation is a debacle. The politicians are like, ‘It’s illegal, it’s not legal, what is it, we don’t know,’” says Ryan flabbergasted.