New Spring store will sell hemp prod­ucts, rais­ing le­gal in­quiry

Of­fi­cials probe un­der the pre­sump­tion that shops ‘may be il­le­gal’

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - CITY | STATE - By Jeff For­ward STAFF WRITER

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]

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