Ernie Jones figured the bottle in his hand was nothing more than snake oil, but two years later, he was opening multiple stores selling the very product he had been skeptical about.
Jones, 59, operates Nature’s Wellness, a Tennessee chain of CBD stores in Chattanooga, Tullahoma, Manchester and Shelbyville. The stores carry a variety of products with cannabidiol, a derivative of cannabis that users say promotes wellness but is not yet supported by research.
The former Baptist pastor said his store is a kind of ministry. He is helping people. His customers range from young people seeking relief from sports injuries to older people wanting help with chronic pain to drug users who want help with their addictions. Several area doctors refer patients to the store, Jones said.
After first taking the oil in 2017, Jones said, he got relief from the knee and hip pain he had for years.
He was cautious about CBD, he said. He did not know if using it was sinful, and he did not believe the potential benefits. He spoke with his pastor and researched online.
Then, he turned to his Bible.
Hemp-based CBD is non-addictive, so there was no issue there. It is derived from a plant with low levels of THC, unlike marijuana, so it is not mind-altering. CBD is natural and the body has built-in receptors for the oil. And even the Bible says to use things, such as wine, to help with an illness, he said.
There was no Biblical or moral problem with taking CBD, Jones said. The only remaining issue was how church members would view the product. Changing attitudes is his mission now.
Read more: From the fields of Tennessee to a lab in Alton Park, here’s a look at Chattanooga’s growing hemp industry
“What I want people to understand is that, Christians, this is really good and God-given and it has a lot of great things for Baby Boomers,” Jones said.
Jones said he wants to meet with churches and civic groups to talk about the benefits of CBD and dispel myths. Religious people should not be afraid of using the oil and there are multiple ways to ingest it, from drinkables to chews to creams to smoking, he said.
“I believe freedom from pain is a blessing,” Jones said.
The novelty of CBD to the market has produced many anecdotes of its benefits, treating anxiety for example, but there is little research on CBD’s benefits or side effects beyond the product’s success in treating cases of epilepsy, according to an analysis by Harvard Medical School.
The Tennessee General Assembly removed hemp and hemp products from the state’s criminal code in 2014. The 2018 Farm Bill eased federal regulations on hemp-based CBD, opening the door for research into the product.
The lack of understanding about whether CBD can improve health has not stopped the industry’s rise. The industry is expected to total $6 billion by 2025, according to an analysis by Nielsen.
In August, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Health Council released a consumer guide for using CBD, which includes the risk of failing a drug test since CBD contains some THC, the compound that makes marijuana intoxicating.
The brochure’s information was distributed after the council heard reports of people who use CBD losing their jobs after failing drug tests, said Rae Bond, chairwoman of the panel.
“We felt that it was an important, ‘buyer beware’ situation that if people choose to use these products their employment could be in some danger,” Bond said.
The council also emphasized CBD is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and there are no guidelines for vendors. There is also a risk of negative drug interactions if CBD is used alongside opioids, codeine, oxycodone and antihistamines, among other drugs.
Contact Wyatt Massey at email@example.com or 423-757-6249. Find him on Twitter at @News4Mass.