Heather Rickman explains the demand for CBD by talking about herself.
Many years ago, before she sold the cannabis derivative at Amsterdam Coffee Club in Clarkston, she smoked marijuana routinely to get through her work day installing tile roofs.
Cannabis was the only effective remedy for the pain she endured from fibromyalgia. While she didn’t like her judgment being clouded by pot, she worried about long-term damage from prescription medications.
Now, Rickman said, she doesn’t have to make that trade-off after switching to CBD, or cannabidiol, a chemical compound from the cannabis plant that is getting greater attention in the marketplace.
Many CBD products don’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound responsible for marijuana’s high.
That, combined with stories like ones Rickman shares about people treating ailments ranging from anxiety to Parkinson’s disease, are driving its popularity and making it more available.
A growing number of stores in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley carry CBD products. Among them are Smokes & Suds in Lewiston, Cafe De Vapor in Lewiston and Clarkston, Vig’s Health Food Store in Lewiston, Big Smoke in Lewiston and One Stop Mart and Vape Shop in Lewiston.
Washington and Idaho have different rules about CBD that involve a lot of fine print.
In Washington, state-licensed marijuana stores can carry CBD items made by state-licensed producers, but there are not rules for CBD sold in places other than state-licensed cannabis stores, said Brian Smith, a spokesman for Washington state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board.
“(In Washington state, outside state-licensed cannabis stores), this is the wild West,” Smith said in an email. “There are virtually no regulations around it. The product could be sourced from hemp, or it could be lemon oil sold as CBD. There is a real incentive to sell something that people are willing to buy. It’s buyer beware.”
In Idaho, CBD products have to pass a three-part test, said John McKinney, deputy attorney general, in a podcast produced by the attorney general’s office titled “Counsel for the State.” They can’t contain any THC or resin and can be made from only certain parts of the plant.
It’s the responsibility of consumers to make sure their purchases comply with the rules.
“My advice is that there is no immunity if somebody represents to you that what they’ve sold to you is perfectly legal,” said Brian Kane, assistant chief deputy attorney general.
Similarly, store owners should exercise caution and check with a lawyer before selling CBD, he said.
It’s also possible that the Idaho Attorney General’s Office may have an enforcement responsibility based on advertising claims being made about CBD, he said.
“Our consumer protection laws have a requirement that those claims have to be verified,” Kane said.
Decisions about filing criminal charges in Idaho fall to county prosecutors, city police departments and sheriff’s departments, which have discretion in what cases they pursue.
And arguing cases could be tricky. Plenty of laboratories can test for THC levels, partly because Washington state requires that to be disclosed on marijuana products. But it’s not known if technicians could determine what part of the plant was used in a product or how much that analysis might cost.
“The most important phone call (people with questions about CBD’s legality) should probably be making is to their legislators and say, ‘We need to have this area of law cleared up for us as citizens,’ ” Kane said.
So far, prosecutors in north central Idaho’s two most populated counties haven’t charged anyone with CBD crimes.
“Heroin and meth are what I view as our biggest drug-related problems in Nez Perce County by far,” said Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman in an email. “My deputy prosecutors report that they have not had any misdemeanor possession of CBD cases come through for prosecution that they are aware of.”
Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson hasn’t prosecuted any CBD cases either.
“We haven’t had a referral (from a law enforcement agency),” Thompson said.
Asked if he would prosecute someone for possessing CBD, Thompson said it would depend on the quantity and the circumstances.
He would look more closely at a CBD retailer.
“It would be heightened scrutiny on someone actually selling something if it turned out to have illegal components,” Thompson said.
A more prevalent trend Thompson is seeing is a difference in the kind of marijuana in possession cases since Washington made cannabis legal and a retailer opened within walking distance of the University of Idaho campus. Typically the marijuana in Latah County cases is from Washington state stores, not the black market.
“The products are almost always in their original packaging,” Thompson said.
Regardless of the ambiguity surrounding CBD, it is readily available in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.
Keirstyn Johnson, the manager of Vig’s Health Food Store, was the only employee or owner of an Idaho store to return messages from the Tribune. Checks with the Idaho State Police and Lewiston Police Department confirmed her products meet the requirements of Idaho’s laws, Johnson said.
“I buy from … reputable brands, companies I trust, “ Johnson said. “I fully stand behind the ones we stock.”
Amsterdam Coffee Club sells dozens of products with CBD at its location next door to Sativa Sisters in Clarkston, a state-licensed cannabis store that’s under the same ownership, but is a separate business.
Customers can buy drops people place under their tongues, lotions and lower dosages for pets that have bacon flavor, said Kimberly Linder, Sativa Sisters marketing coordinator.
The store has a third-party laboratory test the items to be sure the labeling accurately reflects the potency of the CBD and if they have any THC, Rickman said.
Their customers tell them it helps them in a variety of ways by relieving muscle soreness, making them feel more balanced or stopping headaches.
“People are opening up to it and finding it’s definitely an amazing thing to add to their health regimen,” Linder said.