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CBD retailers growing clients in Green Bay market

By Dan Flannery

GREEN BAY – Finding a store that sells CBD products is not a challenge.

Some convenience stores. Smoke shops. Health food stores. Video stores. And stores that only sell CBD.

Wait a few weeks and you’ll have more options.

Business is booming.

CBD is cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis and extracted from hemp.

It has almost no THC, the psychotropic compound found in marijuana, and does not create the high associated with smoking pot.

Over the past few years, CBD’s potential health benefits have been studied, and customers have reported relief from pain, anxiety, mood, difficulty in sleeping, skin conditions and more.

Kayla and Jason Tokarczyk were among those who turned to CBD for a health solution. They’re also among those who turned to CBD as a business strategy.

Kayla struggled with an inability to gain weight and absorb nutrients from food and said her “puzzled” doctors were unable to find the cause.

“The only solution in most of their eyes was to prescribe various medications and ultimately surgery,” Kayla said. “Frustrated, we felt in our hearts there had to be another way. We did our research and stumbled upon CBD. This product proved to do everything those medications set out to do, while addressing the root of the problem, without the side effects.”

Today, the Tokarczyks own and operate Happy Trails CBD, 2202 S. Ridge Road, and a second store in Kaukauna, where they live. Three more stores – Appleton, Darboy and Shawano – are in the works, roughly a year after opening their first outlet.

Cara Bloom, of Waupaca, is another CBD entrepreneur. She’ll open Your CBD Store at 2901 Ramada Way, Ashwaubenon, by the second week of May, joining her first store in Appleton.

Bloom said she will probably have two or three stores in each market at some point.

Your CBD Store is a national chain of stores, including 11 in Wisconsin, including Bloom’s Ashwaubenon store.

“We’re really excited about it,” Bloom said. “I think the key here is that people become educated on what CBD is. We’ve got so many different companies that are just throwing out a sign that says ‘CBD is here’ with no lab reports. They don’t have the exact ingredients that are located inside the bottle. The milligrams (of CBD on the label) don’t match up with the real true milligrams of what is inside the bottle. So, my goal is to educate people in the Appleton and Green Bay area.”

Bloom’s goal of educating consumers is a shared by the Tokarcyzks.

“Customers enjoy the education,” said Kayla Tokarczyk. “It allows them to make an informed decision. We discuss how to tell a good product from a bad, what CBD is (or) is not, and lots of things in between. Everyone has different questions and different needs. Hence, every consult is very unique to that individual.”

Bloom urges her customers to “go slow.”

“You want to take as minimal amount of CBD as you need, in order to get the proper effect that it can give you,” she said, “and then turn around and increase it if it’s not doing what you want it to do. Everybody has a CBD sweet spot.”

Bloom said CBD’s greatest benefit is in relieving symptoms, not in providing solutions.

“There is absolutely zero cure to CBD,” she said. “If you have an ailment or an issue, CBD is not healing you, it is not curing you. … It minimizes inflammation. It allows the body to not talk to the brain and say, ‘Hey, I’m in pain right now.’ It subsides some of that anxiety, some of that depression, and it allows your brain to just focus.”

CBD products are diverse – sprays, creams, balms, water-soluble oils, tinctures, candies and more – and their costs range from under $20 to $300 or more, depending on the amount of milligrams of CBD in the product, the type of product and, obviously, the whims of the retailer.

A January 2019 story from forbes.com cited a study from the Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research company, that forecast CBD sales in the U.S. of $22 billion in 2022.

You might not expect to find CBD on sale at Family Video. But each of the five Family Video stores in the Green Bay area sells it in various forms, supplied by Natural Native, an Oklahoma-based CBD producer.

“We’ve been carrying CBD in our company for quite a few months now,” said Michael Bentz, district manager for Family Video stores in Green Bay, Appleton and Sturgeon Bay. “It was kind of a trial to see how it went over. And it has been doing so phenomenally well that they are rolling it out in well over half of our stores (700 in 19 states).”

Family Video staffers do their best to educate CBD customers, Bentz said.

Each staffer is trained on every product, he said, and provided with a fact sheet for reference when clients have questions.

“We let them know what it’s meant for, and we let them know – and we emphasize this – this is not a cure,” Bentz said. “… It reacts with every person differently, and we definitely make sure to let them know that. We don’t want them leaving the building with our products, thinking that this is going to be the cure-all for everything that’s out there.”

The explosion in CBD interest centered around the federal Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

In that legislation (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill), hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act.

CBD is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but that will likely change.

For those who operate CBD-only stores, it can’t happen soon enough.

“The lack of regulation in our industry forms multiple issues; poor performing products that give the good a bad rap and money hungry companies that are only out to make a quick buck in a brand-new industry,” Kayla Tokarczyk said. “We see customers all the time who are paying a lot of money for a product that is not what it says it is. How scary?”

“I think it’s extremely mandatory to be regulated,” Bloom said. “I think the more that people know that it’s being regulated, the better I am.”

But CBD’s growth and popularity ensures that it will not be confined to smaller chains or local stores. Far from it.

Walgreens announced in March that it will sell CBD creams, patches and sprays in approximately 1,500 drug stores in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont.

CVS also said in March said it will sell CBD creams, sprays and roll-ons in 800 stores in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, FDA regulations on CBD are developing.

On April 2, the agency issued a statement from its commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, charting a path toward more oversight while exploring greater understanding of CBD’s potential.

“While the availability of CBD products in particular has increased dramatically in recent years, open questions remain regarding the safety considerations raised by their widespread use,” Gottlieb said. “… There are also unresolved questions regarding the cumulative exposure to CBD if people access it across a broad range of consumer products, as well as questions regarding the intended functionality of CBD in such products.”

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