Despite an advisory from the state pharmacy board stating that CBD oil — a non-intoxicating substance derived from hemp — has always been illegal in Ohio, the owner of a Toledo shop that has sold CBD products for years has no plans to pull them from his shelves.
The Toledo Hemp Center offers more than 300 products made from hemp, a strain of the marijuana plant that contains less of the psychoactive compound THC, but owner Kevin Spitler said most of his customers come in looking for cannabidiol, or CBD, to help with medical ailments.
“For them to come out at this point to say this is illegal is kind of ludicrous,” Mr. Spitler said. “I’ve been doing this five years. If it was illegal, why am I still here?”
In a statement two weeks ago, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy said CBD oil is illegal unless it’s sold under the state’s medical marijuana program. The deadline for the program to take effect was Saturday, although the state is months behind on its roll-out. The board said it offered guidance based on questions it had received about how CBD would be regulated under the new law.
“Until dispensaries are operational, no one, including board licensees, may possess or sell CBD oil or other marijuana related products,” the board wrote.
Mr. Spitler does not plan to turn his business into a medical marijuana dispensary. Unlike the pharmacy board, he draws the distinction between medical marijuana and hemp, and calls the pharmacy board advisory an “overreach.”
“What we have is a lack of interpretation between hemp and medical marijuana here in Ohio,” he said.
Cannabidiol crystals in a container at the Toledo Hemp Center on March 30, 2017. The Cannabidiol is added to lotion and oils.
CBD can be ingested or used in a lotion. It does not get users high and helps with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and inflammation, Mr. Spitler said. Eighty percent of his clients are older than 55 and come in seeking relief from arthritis. Mr. Spitler also provides CBD oil for pets with anxiety.
In deciding not to become a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, Mr. Spitler said the costs were too high and the regulations too much of a burden. He also didn’t want to scare off his older clientele who might be uncomfortable shopping in a dispensary, even though medical marijuana in Ohio cannot be smoked.
The pharmacy board said it is still informing retailers that CBD oil not produced under the medical marijuana program is illegal. It has no timeline for beginning to enforce the law, board spokesman Grant Miller said.
“We want people to understand what the statute says. If those things continue to be illegally sold with the information that’s being released then the board will re-evaluate it at that time,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Spitler said short of a cease-and-desist order, he won’t halt sales at his West Toledo store. He also helps run hemp shops in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Nashville.
Under the new medical marijuana law, CBD oil would need to be produced by licensed producers in Ohio. Mr. Spitler said the products he stocks are produced in California, Colorado, and Europe.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) said the pharmacy board decision is a power struggle between pharmaceutical companies and the industrial hemp industry.
“This is an emerging market and they may just try to shut it down because they don’t like the competition,” she said. “The industrial hemp industry is not marijuana. It is not medical marijuana.”
Mr. Spitler isn’t worried just yet for his business, which he says was the first in Toledo to offer CBD oil.
“I’m more worried for the people we’re helping and their pets,” he said.
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