Your CBD Store Lakeland is believed to be the first in Polk County devoted entirely to products containing CBD, or cannabidiol, a naturally occurring compound in marijuana plants.
LAKELAND — You won’t find the word “marijuana” on display anywhere at Your CBD Store Lakeland. Customers won’t find any products that will get them high.
“There are people that come in with that misconception, and we educate them right off that our products are zero-percent THC and that it’s the health without the high,” store owner Tony Bryan said.
The shop, which opened Nov. 12, is believed to be the first in Polk County devoted entirely to products containing CBD, or cannabidiol, a naturally occurring compound in marijuana plants. The store is a local manifestation of a worldwide trend toward mainstream acceptance of cannabis products for their presumed health benefits.
Bryan and another employee explain to customers the difference between CBD and THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, another compound found in marijuana plants. THC produces the euphoric sensation, or high, for which marijuana is best known. CBD does not have that effect, and is not likely to cause a positive drug test result.
Federal law bans commercial sale of products containing THC, but that doesn’t apply to the items on offer at Your CBD Store Lakeland. Those products are derived from industrial hemp, a variety of cannabis that contains essentially no THC.
Florida and 32 other states allow the use of cannabis-based items for medicinal purposes, and 10 have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Under the supervision of the Florida Department of Health, 14 companies have received licenses to grow marijuana for medical use. The list includes GrowHealthy, a Lake Wales facility.
Two dispensaries have so far opened in Polk County — a Curaleaf store in Lakeland and one operated by Liberty Health Sciences in Winter Haven.
Dispensaries offer oils and other products with varying amounts of both THC and CBD, which are thought to play roles separately and in combination to relieve physical and psychological maladies. In contrast to Your CBD Store, dispensaries are controlled by the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
Only residents who receive a state-issued card and receive a doctor’s recommendation are allowed to buy products at dispensaries.
Items containing CBD are widely available online and in businesses ranging from vape shops to gas stations. You don’t need a state ID card or a doctor’s note to enter Your CBD Store Lakeland and buy anything on the shelves.
The store is part of a national chain with about 70 stores, Bryan said. It occupies a 1,433-square-foot space in Scottsdale Plaza at 3145 S. Florida Ave.
The shop is airy, uncluttered and sparsely decorated. A table in the center of the store is used to present free samples — on Tuesday afternoon, small cups of water infused with water-soluble CBD crops in pina colada flavor.
Some of the store’s products have a vaguely medicinal appearance: cobalt-blue containers of body lotion, dropper bottles of vape tincture and squat bottles of topical cream. One section, labeled “Edibles,” contains products with a more colorful and eye-catching appearance.
Bags of Infused Edibles offer glimpses of what appear to be candy — Peach Rings, Blue Razz Tubes and Strawberry Banana Bits. There also are containers of gum drops and fruit-flavored gummies, along with just-add-water bags of birthday cake mix and chocolate-chip cookie mix.
The store also sells vaporizer pens and cartridges with such flavors as watermelon and fruit punch.
A shelf devoted to pet products promotes tinctures in such flavors as peanut butter and beef-flavored Bark Bits.
Though no rule blocks the sale of CBD items to minors, Bryan said his company has a policy of not selling products to anyone under 19.
Prices on 30-milliliter bottles of tincture range from $40 for 250mg to $250 for 3,000mg. Bryan said the bottles offer a 30-day supply. A vape pen and cartridge set goes for $50.
Edibles start at $20 and go up based on CBD content. The cake mix goes for $30. Individual bags of hard candies, containing 10mg of CBD, are $4 each or 20 for $20.
The Food and Drug Administration does not inspect consumer products containing CBD, and Bryan said he and employee Kevin Warren make no claims that their offerings have medicinal properties. The products occupy the same legal zone as supplements sold at health stores.
Instead, the store plays up the claims of patients for the beneficial effects of the products. A large video screen near the front door plays a continuous video loop of customers from other Your CBD Store locations discussing how products have eased such ailments as migraine headaches, anxiety, phantom limb pain and rheumatoid arthritis.
Bryan said customer feedback reinforces his belief that his store’s wares have health benefits. He said customers say CBD products have helped them wean themselves off opioid pain medications that can have unpleasant side effects and the potential for addiction.
Bryan said customers so far have generally ranged from about 30 to 70s seeking relief for all manner of ailments. He said younger customers typically want something to help with anxiety, and older customers want pain relief and sleep promotion.
Ben Pollara, who led the campaign for Amendment 2, said stores selling CBD products fit into a legal gray area.
Pollara raised concern about potential confusion for the average person unaware of the difference between unregulated CBD items and the tightly regulated products sold in dispensaries. Many CBD products are imported from China, he said, a country known for lax inspections and regulations.
That means the products might not actually contain any CBD, he said, or they might contain harmful ingredients, such as heavy metals from pesticides.
“I’m mostly of the opinion it’s not good for the public welfare or the cause of marijuana reform,” Pollara said. “It’s potentially dangerous to the evolving public opinion on marijuana.”
Bryan said almost all of his store’s products are supplied by SunMed, a company that obtains its raw material from Colorado and manufactures products in Tampa. He said SunMed contracts with two independent laboratories to test the products for safety and CBD content.
On Tuesday, Bryan displayed copies of test results for the oil used in the free samples of water.
Darrin Potter, vice president of production for GrowHealthy, said he also always worries about confusion among the public. Independent laboratories test GrowHealthy raw marijuana for heavy metals, solvents and microbiological contaminants.
“CBD is non-regulated, so what you have is a lot of people entering the space selling CBD because it’s the new miracle molecule, if you will,” Potter said.
Vinit Patel, regional dispensaries operations manager for Curaleaf, said employees at his company’s outlets explain to patients the difference between hemp-based products and the ones Curaleaf produces. Though not familiar with the Lakeland store, he said CBD products in general can vary greatly in ingredients.
Hemp-based items are made from the stalk and seeds of plants, whereas regulated products derive from the flowers, which have much greater potency. Patel said CBD products Curaleaf sells contain 20 or 30 percent CBD, much higher than in over-the-counter products.
“In reality, they’re not very similar,” said Patel, a doctor of pharmacy. “We are required to test in a third-party lab. Everything goes through rigorous potency testing as well as microbial, bacterial and all that testing. All these things need to be taken into account before we ever release any of our products.”
The over-the-counter CBD market is likely to keep swelling in Florida. Florida’s newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture, Nikki Fried, is a former lobbyist for a medical marijuana company.
During the campaign, she pledged to expand a state pilot program for industrial hemp production. Hemp not only serves as a source of CBD but can also be used for paper products, textiles and other purposes.
Gary White can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.