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Laura Morro is the manager of Canni Hemp Co. in Walker's Point. (PHOTO: Royal Brevvaxling)

CBD in MKE: New hemp products are here, but are they legal and do they work?

Although there are nine states in the U.S. where recreational pot is legal – and 31 where medical marijuana is no longer a crime – Wisconsin does not land on either list, which is part of the reason why the legality of cannabidiol (CBD) is hazy here.

Cannabidiol and marijuana are both derived from hemp plants, but they are very different in effect when smoked or consumed. Marijuana – otherwise known as weed, pot, ganja, the devil's lettuce, cheeba, bud, nug, wacky tobacky and so on – contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) whereas CBD – which doesn't seem to have any nicknames yet – contains very little to none.

"The therapeutic uses of cannabis can't be denied and people are ready for alternative sources of emotional and physical pain management," Laura Morro, the manager of Canni Hemp Co.

Canni (pronounced "Can I"), is a hemp specialty shop owned by Colin and Megan Plant that opened at the end of September at 810 S. 5th St. in Walker's Point.

Canni offers a wide range of products including tinctures/oils, smokables, vaping products, edibles, cold brew coffee, pet supplies, health and beauty products, apparel and a small line of grocery items.

"All of our tinctures are vegan, organic and non-GMO. We don't carry anything in this store that doesn't have third-party lab testing and a certificate of authenticity so we know exactly where it's coming from and how it's sourced," says Morro. "That's very important to us."

Morro says everything in the store is legal because all of the products contain under .3 percent THC. Customers must be at least 18 years old to buy it.

Erth Dispensary, a business that's opening next month in Bay View at 1200 E. Oklahoma Ave., will offer a full line of CBD products and Milwaukee's first "Bud Bar" featuring different strains of hemp flowers that customers can view under a microscope before purchase as well as pre-rolled organic smoking products.

Owners Jennifer Kawczynski and Jason Ranic also say CBD is legal.

"CBD is 100 percent legal in all 50 states. It is non-psychoactive, non-addicting and it is safe to use with little to no side effects," says Kawczynski. "There is no trace when it comes to CBD usage that appears on blood or drug testing."

And yet, the legality of CBD in Wisconsin gets confusing. In May of this year, the Department of Justice released this information which states the Wisconsin State Legislature allows the possession and distribution of CBD only for very limited circumstances that require a doctor's certification along with approval from the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Board.

Thus, it is safe to say that, for now, CBD – which is not only available in specialty shops but mall kiosks, gas stations and adult entertainment shops as well – is tolerated in Wisconsin.

In the meantime, business is booming at Canni.

"We opened quietly, but we've had a lot of customers," says Morro.

The vaping pens are Canni's hottest sellers. They are available in two different styles with the most popular style priced at $32. There are five different pens with varying ingredients called "Euphoria," "Relief," "Sleep," "Focus," and "Calm," each providing roughly 90 "hits" per pen.

Hempflower, which looks and smells very similar to marijuana, is also selling well at Canni, as are CBD-infused chocolate bars, gummy candies and cold-brew coffee.

Customers looking for a buzz, however, will be disappointed.

"Nothing in the store is going get you 'high,'" says Morro. "There's no 'head stuff.' For some people certain products create a calming effect, but it's not recommended for recreational purposes. It's very subtle."

CBD products might reduce inflammation, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, chronic pain and autoimmune diseases. It's also a popular alternative with people attempting to quit smoking nicotine cigarettes.

Like with marijuana, the serious health risks are low and it's not possible to overdose using a CBD product.

"Nothing horrible is going to happen to you. At worst you'll be tired," says Morro.

And yet the grey area of CBD use ranges in at least 50 shades. How much to take without feeling sleepy and yet feeling something is different for everyone and something that is discovered over time and through very thoughtful and gradual use of the products.

Canni has samples available for people who want to experiment with it before committing and Morro stresses to everyone the importance of starting out small and paying close attention to how they are feeling.

"Dosing is very personal and you're not going to get all the benefits if you don't get the dosing down," says Morro.

Some also wonder if CBD is effective at all or mostly a marketing sham.

Melissa Ryan says she has used CBD tinctures for a few years and although it's not a miracle drug, it helps with her anxiety.

"I definitely feel calmer," says Ryan. "And I don't feel foggy or buzzed. But I have another friend who says it doesn't do anything for them, so it depends on the person and what or how much you take, I guess."

Whether or not someone should drive after smoking or ingesting CBD is another question with uncertain answers. Common sense says because it could make a person sleepy, driving isn't a good idea and yet it would be difficult to detect a driver was experiencing any side effects from it.

Aside from the aforementioned specialty shops, CBD products are also available at a Mayfair Mall kiosk called 414 Hemp that's owned by former alderman Mike McGee Jr. as well as all Outpost Natural Foods locations.

Later this month, Outpost will also offer CBD oil as an extra in smoothies or juice bar drinks as well as house-made cookies that feature CBD oil.

"CBD oil seems like a remedy for these times, helping with anxiety, pain and providing a feel-good balm, if you will, to both young people and elders," says Lisa Malmarowski, Outpost marketing director.

Morro emphasizes the importance of buying CBD products at reputable shops as opposed to the internet or gas stations.

"Integrity matters. Knowing where your stuff is sourced matters and not all CBD is created equal. There's a lot on the market and we want people to know that no matter what they are walking out with from our store it's something of quality," she says. "CBD has been life-changing for a lot of people and we're just really happy and proud to bring it to the city."


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