It’s late afternoon on a recent Monday in Venice, and fast-walking Angelenos enter and exit the busy Erewhon health foods market like ants frantically prepping for a storm. Two perpendicular tables near the entrance to the market entice shoppers to stop and take a gander at the goods laid out before them. Energetic staff in matching hats stand ready to serve up some samples and talk about the products: CW Hemp's CBD oil and a cannabis coffee blend served by a real, live chef. Almost every person stopped to ask questions, seemingly undaunted by the fact that hemp is cannabis (this is Los Angeles, after all), yet a few were surprised that it won’t get you high and, furthermore, that it is sold legally in stores like this one.
Renowned “ganjier” and cannabis chef Holden Jagger brews up his proprietary “Holiday Helper”— a concoction of spices, coffee, and CW Hemp CBD oil — using extension cords, a blender, and a french press. Beaming as he explains the ingredients to each person, he remarks on the quality of the product. “The CW oil is so clean, so smooth, and won't get you high,” he gushes, literally rubbing his hands in excitement. “I’m always seeking high CBD strains to pair with my meals and this stuff is the best.” The drink is spicy, with a hint of something chocolate. “That’s the MCT,” he explains, holding up a bottle of Charlotte’s Web Hemp Oil in Milk Chocolate. “There’s about 5mg per sample cup of CBD, the perfect amount to ease anxiety and take the edge off. Plus, CBD is a good way to combat a small overdosage of THC during consumption.” Chef Jagger says he infuses cannabis in his low-dose, customized meals (salts, sugars, marinades) and professes his hope for full legalization in the near future
The story of the Charlotte’s Web strain begins with the Stanley Brothers, the men behind the eponymous company and CW Hemp products. Two of the seven Stanley Brothers are present at this event (all named with “J” names), including CEO Joel Stanley. He sips a “Truth Tonic” from Erewhon comprised of 17 super-food ingredients including reishi, ghee, gynostemma tea, and, of course, his CW Hemp, which is sold in the store. “I take it twice a day,” he confides. “Right under my tongue or in a tonic like this one.” He gestures to the “Truth Tonic” cup he's holding.
Originating as a plant called “Hippie’s Disappointment” (aptly named for its inability to give the euphoric effects that a typical THC-rich plant produces), Charlotte’s Web grows as wild, feral hemp, breeding high CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, the cannabinoid substance in cannabis and hemp that is non-psychoactive but maintains documented medicinal benefits, known for its anti-anxiety and anticonvulsant effects. With a low, almost undetectable level of THC (less than .3 percent) this plant qualifies as hemp and not medical marijuana. According to the 2014 US Farm Bill, hemp is excluded from the definition of “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and give states the exclusive authority to regulate the growing and processing of the crop under state law, thus negating the need for a medical marijuana recommendation to purchase products made from these plants. They're sold in health food stores, like Erewhon, all around the country.
You might’ve seen videos or new clips of Charlotte Figi, a young girl with Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, being administered CBD oil and watching as it calmed her seizures almost instantaneously. Fiji reportedly went from 400 seizures a week down to one or zero. She reportedly stopped taking other pharmaceuticals, relying solely on CBD oil. The oil was made from the Colorado-grown plant, renamed in her honor, and is now sold as tinctures in three dosage levels (~10mg/ml, ~25mg/ml and ~85mg/ml) in either Mint Chocolate or Olive Oil flavors, as well as in capsules and a topical gel pen. Many videos like Charlotte’s have since surfaced, lending anecdotal evidence that CBD may help to keep seizures at bay. The Stanley Brothers embarked on a journey to get their medicine to hundreds of pediatric epilepsy patients in Colorado. While originally prohibitive laws kept Charlotte's Web inside of Colorado's borders, Federal hemp legislation changed in 2014 and now the Brothers are able to ship their medicine directly to all 50 states.
The National Institute of Health issued a government patent in 1998 (#6630507) regarding Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants with “particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia.” This, along with the 2014 US Farm Bill section 7606 have given growers and researchers the governmental backing needed to continue exploring the medicinal benefits of CBD. “They went after symptoms and stopped treating the cause,” Ashley Grace, the Chief Marketing and e-commerce officer for CW Hemp explains. So while CBD doesn’t cure epilepsy, it helps many patients to alleviate or completely halt their seizures.
Joel is confident in the neuroprotectant effects of their product. When asked if he believes it will keep him from getting Alzheimer's, dementia, or Parkinson's he doesn't mince words. “The research backs that belief, and I back the research,” he says. “If this supplement is going to keep me from losing my mind to those diseases then damn right I’m going to take it. Every day.”
Joel continues his spiel excitedly as he brings up the research done through the non-profit he and his brothers co-founded, The Realm of Caring, whose mission is to educate the general public and policy makers to the benefits of cannabinoid supplements and performing advocacy for those using cannabinoid therapies. The organization collaborates with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to help validate the benefits of cannabinoid therapy and if you call for advice on the usage or effects of CBD they will cite you the school's research as a guide but offer no advice on their own. It's still a legal gray area.
Joel's brother Josh has given a Ted Talk about the positive medicinal effects of CBD. He says that while he obviously believes CBD is a neuroprotectant that’s not why he takes it. “It’s definitely a preventative measure, for sure,” he says quickly, “But I take it for clarity and energy. I don’t take it at night because it can tend to keep me up.” He smiles. “Everyone is different. It’s non-psychoactive, non-addictive, and non-toxic, and also good for meditation. That’s the perfect supplement to take daily, in my opinion. And many others’.” Josh references Dr. Ruth Galili, who does behavioral health studies in Israel. Her findings indicate that CBD helps ease mental trauma with minimal side effects.
In addition to the line-up of tinctures in various doses, CW Hemp sells a topical gel pen that every person at this event claims will help with crow’s feet. Spreading a lot of it over a large surface area like your face still won’t get you high since the THC percentage is, again, under .3 percent. The anti-inflammatory effects of CBD oil are well-lauded, and they hint that a tattoo cream and other cosmetic products are in the works. When asked if they’re worried about legalization, or having higher-ups halt the process, Joel gives a definitive “No.”
“The benefits are proven, and this train is going full steam ahead; there’s no stopping it now.”