By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
One local Cherokee business has been carrying multiple products made from CBD (cannabidiol) oils, derived from industrial hemp, since November 2018 and is about to start selling a smokeable version of the product. Ric Youngblood’s Smokeshop, owned by Richard Bird, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is set to start selling industrial hemp flower or CBD flower products that can be smoked.
This product is legal and is quite different than recreational marijuana.
“Marijuana and industrial hemp are different varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L,” according to information from the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission. “Marijuana typically contains 3 to 15 percent THC on a dry-weight basis, while industrial hemp contains less than 1 percent.”
According to WebMD, “THC is the main psychoactive agent in marijuana. Its full name is delta 9 – tetrahydrocannabinol. When you smoke cannabis, THC goes from your lungs into your bloodstream and then into your brain. It stimulates the part of your brain that responds to sources of pleasure, like food and sex. That lets loose a chemical called dopamine which causes the high.”
On CBD, the site states, “Also called cannabidiol, this is another well-studied compound. It doesn’t make you high. Instead, it can counteract the effects from THC and bring you down from any paranoia or anxiety. It also have been found to have beneficial uses in treatment for the side effects of chemotherapy and treating epilepsy.”
Bird will get his new products from the Elite Foundation, a firm based in Asheville.
“Our product has an unregisterable amount of THC,” said Anthony Newell, Elite Foundation product manager and sales associate.
Aaron Moss, Elite Foundation chief executive officer, stated, “The Farm Bill stated that anything that wasn’t THC delta 9 or didn’t contain THC delta 9 at a quantity at or over .3 percent is a commodity good.” He said that their products contain less than .05 percent THC.
“It’s a commodity good, like buying lettuce at this point.”
Their products come in several forms including pre-rolls similar to cigarettes and natural flower products. “It’s the most natural,” said Newell. “There are tinctures and other stuff, they have stuff they put it in to make it consumable. This is a natural product. It has natural benefits.”
Moss added, “All of our packaging is sealed at point-of-sale. That way, you know that it’s our product, our compliant product, inside the package whenever the customer opens the package. We had concerns about people taking our packaging or pre-rolled vials and using our compliance QR code to try and duck the law. We designed our packaging in a way that it was tamper-evident. If it has been opened or tampered with, you know.”
Bird said customers shouldn’t be leery of the look of the product – in that it very much resembles marijuana.
“Many times if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but we provide lab paperwork with all of our products and a QR code that is unique to that specific phenotype,” said Moss who noted that all of their products have been lab-tested to be compliant with the law.
Bird commented, “The thing that caught me the most was the health benefits. I’ve got people coming here every day testifying to the fact that they have been able to put their pain pills down. And, that’s what’s killing our people – the pain pills.”
Moss said, “Whenever it comes to pain management, it affects the CB1 and CB2 pain receptors in a way that aids the body’s inflammatory system in order to reduce pain and muscle tension.”
Newell added, “CBD encourages the body to product endocannabanoids naturally whereas pain pills will block those receptors and artificially replace them.”
A recent study from the Brightfield Group and HelloMD found that 80 percent of CBD users found the products to be a “very or extremely effective treatment” and 42 percent of CBD users “have stopped using traditional medications”.
The study reported a pro of CBD is that it “provides medical relief and relaxation without the possible psychoactive effects that can result from THC”. A con reported is that “some users were disinterested because of pricing, availability, or efficacy in the case of hemp”.
Brightfield listed many conditions people use CBD to treat including: anxiety, insomnia or sleep problems, joint pain and inflammation, depression, muscle tension or strain, migraines or tension headaches, severe or chronic pain, arthritis, and nausea.
“I really think it is beneficial,” said Bird. “I’ve heard so many testimonies, especially elders. They’ve been taking these pain pills for so long that they’re no longer effective…it’s a natural product that God gave us, a natural plant. These pharmaceuticals are man-made, and it’s already proven that their effects are killing our people.”
Moss added, “This is a native plant, a gift, and our mission is to spread that positivity to help people.”
The tribal government is also looking into cannabis as a possible business opportunity.
Last October, Tribal Council approved a cannabis feasibility study which will be overseen by a group including representatives from the Cherokee Tribal Court, EBCI Public Health and Human Services, the Kituwah LLC Board, EBCI Division of Commerce, and one Tribal Council representative.
Wolftown Rep. Jeremy Wilson submitted the legislation for the study and said in a statement to the One Feather at that time, “My intent is not to encourage abuse of the marijuana plant to get high. It is to promote the remedy of relief for chronic illness, treatment, and economic diversification.”
The study will only cover the Tribe’s possible foray into a medical cannabis and/or industrial hemp business – not recreational usage.