Nova Aguiniga turned her self-described passion for the medicinal qualities of cannabidiol into a career as a massage therapist.
She started working in June under the same roof as Synergy Health & Wellness on NE Franklin Avenue, and now operates as Green Relief, a separate business. She sees about 80 clients a month, half of them regulars. Not all of them are interested in being massaged with oil that contains cannabidiol, or CBD, a substance found in hemp and marijuana plants. But that’s Aguiniga’s specialty.
“I don’t do it for everyone, it’s definitely specific to the client’s needs,” she said. “I’ve been kind of surprised. My very first one, she’s pretty much anti-cannabis, she never consumes outside of massage, she doesn’t really like the idea of it. But she was open to trying it because she was desperately in pain and she liked the results.”
Across Central Oregon, advocates of cannabidiol are also finding business opportunities in the product. Found in both hemp and marijuana, cannabidiol is nonpsychoactive but its advocates attribute to it a range of benefits, including relief from pain, seizure disorders and cancer. Its claims are largely untested and the products themselves unregulated. But those who sell or use it will testify that they became believers after cannabidiol helped them, a friend or a family member.
“It seems to do so many things for so many people,” said Sherry Raymond-Coblantz, founder of Sher Ray Organic Cosmetics Inc., of Tumalo, who created her own cannabidiol skin care product.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a June 2015 report stated that “pre-clinical research” showed cannabidiol has a range of “therapeutically useful” effects, including anti-seizure, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and more. However, she added, “rigorous clinical studies are still needed to evaluate the clinical potential for CBD for specific conditions.”
In January, a committee of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, in a study sponsored in part by the Oregon Health Authority, recommended further study of the good and bad effects of cannabis, including cannabidiol.
Businesses other than state-licensed marijuana dispensaries that sell or use cannabidiol obtain it from hemp processors in Europe and Canada, they said. Aguiniga is an exception. She uses an oil and a salve made from marijuana that contains some THC, she said.
Oil high in cannabidiol, produced from the flower and resin of hemp plants, is used as a massage oil, made into salves and cremes, folded into edibles like gelatin candies, packaged in capsules and bottles and added to nonalcoholic beverages, among other uses. Sales of products and services that include cannabidiol are taking off, said local business people.
Max Bendis, son of Bendistillery founder James Bendis, said they created a line of nonalcoholic drinks including tea and lemonade that include cannabidiol. They’re distributed locally at places such as The Growler Guys, in the Pacific Northwest and in Colorado. He expects to start shipping the beverage, made at Bendistillery in Tumalo, to Southern California.
“We were cannabis advocates and we saw all the good things it does for people and all the good things it does for us, especially CBD,” he said Tuesday. “It doesn’t get you high and it makes you feel good. We kinda just went for it.”
Justus Wheeler, co-founder of Modern Botanicals, a shop in Redmond that sells only cannabidiol products, said he cleared $7,000 in sales in February, his best sales month after eight months in business. He also managed to clear his and his business partner Brandon Smith’s initial investment.
“Within a month we had a really good, solid business plan,” he said Tuesday. “We just jumped. We took a leap of faith and we did some education on it but it was an easy leap of faith.”
However, hemp production and processing is a nascent industry in Oregon and the value of that market is not well known, said Lindsay Eng, director of market access and certification programs for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
The regulatory process behind hemp in Oregon parallels that of marijuana. Hemp is still a controlled substance under federal law, although the federal Farm Bill of 2014 allowed state agriculture departments and some universities to grow the plant for research purposes, Eng said. Its legal status at the federal level today is somewhat fuzzy, she said.
“You can essentially make a million different products from hemp,” Eng said.
Oregon requires hemp growers and processors to be licensed, but retailers and secondary producers, those who take the processed oil and turn it into other products, do not require a department license.
As early as Friday or Monday, the Agriculture Department plans to release regulations on testing hemp products that mirror those governing cannabis, Eng said. That means the same regulations that apply to testing for marijuana potency, pesticides, water content and microbiological contaminants like mold and mildew will apply to hemp products.
Raymond-Coblantz said she combined cannabidiol with other plant oils about four years ago to create a product she calls Premier 15. She has more than 800 customers, but makes little money from the product because she subsidizes its purchase for people for whom, she said, it provides relief from inflammation, asthma and other conditions.
“It’s the richest oil for the skin that nature ever made,” she said Wednesday. “I’m selling a lot of it but it’s so expensive. There are so many on fixed incomes that really can’t afford it but really need it.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect the amount of sales in February at Modern Botanicals.