By Jamal Melancon, Mid-City Messenger
Simply CBD has brought its non-psychoactive cannabidiol products to a new flagship store in Mid-City.
Co-owner Joe Gerrity, who writes a real estate column for Uptown Messenger, said that he entered into the CBD business as an alternative to owning a head shop. Gerrity’s partner, David Reich, said once he started following the industry, he was ready to help his former Tulane classmates through digital marketing expertise. They formed Crescent City Vape, which has four locations in the metro area.
Reich said he and Gerrity had always talked in school of starting a marijuana business together. “After four years of [Crescent City Vape], we started selling CBD, and three years after selling CBD, it became very clear that it was going to be a major driver of sales and major industry in general,” Reich said.
A growing industry
It may seem that CBD products are suddenly everywhere. That’s in part because the 2018 Farm Bill legalized, on the federal level, the regulated production of hemp or any part of the cannabis plant with a THC concentration below 0.3%. THC, also a cannabinoid, is the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, the stuff that produces a high.
States, however, have the final say in whether or not cannabis-derived products are legal within their state lines. In June, the Louisiana Legislature legalized the sale of hemp and hemp-derived cannabidiol products, or CBD.
These products cannot come from the THC-laden marijuana plant, a close relative of hemp, and cannot have a THC concentration above 0.3%. Hemp and CBD are still banned from use in food and drinks.
Gerrity and Reich claim that many people in the CBD industry are not producing or selling products correctly. They said they discovered errors in the labeling their products and in the support and feedback to those using it.
“We realized early on how much stability and trust are in this space, so we started sending products into independent labs where we can test products and make sure that what was in the label was correct, no pesticides under contaminants or anything.” Reich said.
“People are using CBD for many different reasons, and they expect it to be effective and actually contain what it says on the label,” Gerrity said. “And people that are taking it are looking at it that same way. We want to be 100 percent sure that everything we are giving our customers is legit.”
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first CBD drug in the U.S. as a treatment for two seizure disorders. CBD is also commonly used for anxiety, insomnia and pain relief. Studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep, according to a Harvard Health Publishing article, but more studies on humans are needed to substantiate claims on pain relief.
Reich said that he personally uses CBD products every day. He applies them to aches and pains from playing soccer.
Gerrity and Reich have a friend who worked at a large CBD company and who was eager to start on his own. They formed a team of people who could start manufacturing their own product.
Reich said their team was able to find high-quality CBD, based on their relationships in the industry. That’s how the locally owned CBD brand, Crescent Canna, was formed. Simply CBD sells Crescent Canna as their main line of CBD products.
Counterfeit CBD or CBD tainted with pesticides or heavy metals have been the causes of health concerns, according to Gerrity. Reich said synthetic compounds like K2 or spice are even labeled as CBD.
Gerrity said they could easily manufacture safe CBD products like edibles or oil cartridges in the state, but the “fear of marijuana” is still very real. Reich said that when you allow people to regulate products, you ensure safety. His team believes the CBD market will dominate the cannabis industry.
“Even if THC is legalized across the country, the CBD without THC, I’m pretty sure will be the biggest part of the market because it helps tons of people from ages 18 to 80,” Reich said.
“Not everybody wants to get high, but everybody wants to feel better,” Gerrity said.
Kelly Brupeacher, who attended Simply CBD’s grand opening, said the store caught his eye on a trip back from his dentist’s office. Brupeacher said he would usually go to The Herb Import Co. for his shopping.
“I came here last weekend and bought some CBD,” Brupeacher said. “I bought it for anxiety and for sleep, so it worked well.”
The Louisiana Department of Health is responsible for the regulation of CBD. Retailers must obtain a CBD permit from the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. As of Oct. 10, the state had issued 11,102 permits to sell CBD products.
Simply CBD employee Collin Avrard said that he thinks it’s important for responsible businesses to step into an industry that’s just starting to become legalized.
“I have been working with them specifically because I want experience in something that challenges our daily policy in Louisiana as well,” Avrard said.
He said many are just learning about CBD, so there has to be some middle ground of someone understanding the product and making people feel safe using it.
“That’s why this business has done so well,” Avrard said. “We offer a home space where you walk into, where you feel comfortable to talk about things that are bothering you, especially with your health, because that’s also sensitive information to anybody in the world.”
Reporter Jamal Melancon can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.