New Spring store will sell hemp products, raising legal inquiry
Officials probe under the presumption that shops ‘may be illegal’
Montgomery County residents who want to purchase hempbased cannabidiol to help with medical ailments will have a new store to shop at next week for the products, the legality of which are still being debated nationally and in Texas.
Billy Franklin, a Willis resident and The Woodlands native, plans to open Ojas CBD at 1902 Rayford Road in Spring to sell what he believes are legal products that contain CBD.
The products that Franklin intends to sell are different than those allowed under Texas’ restrictive medical cannabis law, the Compassionate Use Program. He acknowledged there is no proof CBD can cure any medical condition, but he added that he believes it can help with various medical issues.
“We’re going to start off (selling) CBD tinctures, but we will also have various mouth sprays, bath bombs and eventually we’ll be carrying (CBD) lotions and edibles,” Franklin said. “We are getting (hemp-based) CBD mainly from Colorado and Washington. It is all hemp-based with zero THC.”
Cannabidiol is one of many chemical compounds found in cannabis and can be derived from either a traditional cannabis plant. Cannabidiol does not give a user the typical “high” effect that the flowers of cannabis, also referred to as “buds,” do. Many medicinal marijuana proponents believe CBD has more medical benefits than traditional cannabis with tetrahydrocannabinol.
Cannabis is currently considered a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means there is no proven medical benefit or value to its use. However, as an increasing number of states legalize both medical
and recreational use of cannabis, many scientists and politicians have called for the rescheduling of cannabis so that it can be used for medicinal purposes.
Cannabidiol found in legally grown hemp has far lower CBD potency than does a normal cannabis plant.
Lyndsay Meyer, a spokesperson for the FDA, said the agency recently approved a CBD-based medication called Epidiolex — which is specifically designed to treat seizures from childhood epilepsy. However, she added, CBD has not been approved for use as a dietary supplement or as an additive to food products.
“We’re talking about interstate commerce,” Meyer said of the FDA guidelines that have been issued. “We’ve also issued warning letters to companies about CBD.” Compassionate Use
Under Texas’ Compassionate Use Program, patients who have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy can be prescribed CBD oil, which is sold at one of three state-licensed dispensaries. The CBD oil regulated in the CUPis derived from cannabis and contains extremely low levels of THC along with more elevated levels of CBD than what are found in products sold at stores like Franklin’s.
Texas doctors can legally prescribe low-THC CBD oil by registering with the state. The only known doctors in Montgomery County with authority from the state to prescribe CBD oils to patients are two neurologists, Drs. Benny Wang and Shaun Varghese.
The types of CBD products Franklin will be selling do not fall under the authority of CUP, which is administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Franklin said he will sell specific products that do not require a prescription.
Because CBD products like the ones that Franklin intends to sell are not regulated under CUP, they fall under the purview of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said agency spokeswoman Lara Anton.
Anton said whether it’s legal to sell CBD oils in Texas is unclear.
“We do not have any protocols (on CBD) at this time,” Anton acknowledged. “There are so many ways it could be regulated … the department does not have a protocol in place. It depends on how it is labeled and what its intended use is for.”
‘A lot of gray area’
The issue of CBD’s legality has been a question for states across the country, including Texas, because of the lack of research on the CBD’s effects as well as FDA limitations on research. There is also the issue of fake CBD products, which have been found in several states and led to numerous FDA warning letters to manufacturers.
Anton said state officials in Texas became more aware of CBD when the department proposed regulations on the inspections of food product manufacturing. A period of public comment spurred dozens of comments about the prevalence of CBD in scores of products.
“There (were) a lot of comments from people about how people benefited from (CBD) and that it was used in a wide range of products,” Anton said. “We sought the advice of the FDA, the DEA and the Texas (Compassionate Use Program). That’s where there is a lot of gray area.”
The sale of CBD also poses questions for law enforcement officials, said Lt. Scott Spencer of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
“I would say that there are some (CBD) oils, depending upon the manufacturer, (that) may be found to be legal or illegal,” Spencer explained. “While THC’s legal status tends to be cut and dry, CBD’s legal status is more complex and can be confusing and products still may be subject to seizure with the possibility of arrests.”
County narcotics investigators are “continuing to do investigations on CBD shops under the presumption that it may be illegal,” Spencer said.
“We will do a search warrant, seize the product and send for testing prior to any possible arrests. We never know what may be in the product, so these shops sell them or advertise them as a ‘legal’ substance,” Spencer added. “Keep in mind that there is no real oversight in the manufacture of (these) oils, so anyone purchasing (them) is assuming that the product may be legal and non-harmful. We believe otherwise.” jeff.for[email protected]