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Can cannabis be healthy? Some in North Central Washington say yes

Todd Carter wasn’t looking for CBD when he first encountered the trendy wellness compound — he was just trying to support the local arena football team. Last year, Carter walked into the Wenatchee CBD Co.’s downtown storefront looking to see if the company would sponsor the Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks, but instead of a new sponsorship he walked out with a bottle of CBD that he says changed his life.

“It was a godsend,” Carter said, referring to the tincture of Deep Relief CBD he bought that day. “At that time I had a torn meniscus in my knee from playing men’s softball and refereeing high school wrestling. So I tried a CBD product and it worked great for my knee.”

Carter is the owner of TC Slingers, a landscaping company that delivers materials like sand and gravel around the valley and the state. The 57-year-old said after the CBD tincture relieved the pain in his knee he decided to try a different formulation aimed at improving sleep.

“With a hectic schedule and staying up long hours for my job, I was having trouble sleeping at night and I tried this product Deep Sleep, and I have nothing but great things to say about it,” Carter said.

CBD, or cannabidiol as it’s technically called, is a plant-derived anti-inflammatory compound that has been shown in scientific studies to have powerful medical effects, from relieving arthritis and joint pain to reducing anxiety and reducing brain cell loss. The compound exploded in popularity in 2018 after Congress legalized CBD derived from hemp, a cousin to the more widely known marijuana plant.

Botanically speaking, both the hemp that produces CBD and conventional marijuana are different varieties of the same plant: cannabis. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that, by law, produces essentially zero THC, the compound responsible for the euphoric “high” feeling associated with marijuana.

Genuine hemp products are unable to give you the intoxicating “high” effect. CBD also doesn’t have an addiction risk, according to a 2017 report by the World Health organization.

But there’s still good reason to be skeptical of hemp being sold in America. There are currently no health standards or government regulations for hemp CBD products and a 2018 Food and Drug Administration investigation found that the majority of CBD products for sale do not contain their labeled amounts of CBD, and nearly 20 percent of CBD products actually contained illegal amounts of THC.

Given the lack of regulation on CBD, it makes sense to only buy products that have been tested by a reputable third-party lab. Jason Fonville, one of the co-owners of Wenatchee CBD Co., said all of his products are third-party tested and he has certificates of analysis for any of the tinctures, lotions, capsules or even CBD bath bombs that are on his shelves. Fonville, a lifelong Wenatchee Valley resident, said he was convinced of CBD’s power after trying the natural compound himself a couple years ago.

“I was dealing with a lot of back pain and I just noticed that after taking this CBD tincture when I got out of bed in the morning I wasn’t in pain and I didn’t have to hunch over,” Fonville said. “My mental health was better. I just felt healthier all around.”

Carter, who said he is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and has been sober for 25 years, said at first he was skeptical of CBD, worried that it was “some kind of marijuana” and that it might give him a high. But after doing some research and consulting with his own AA sponsor, he felt that it was OK to try, and he hasn’t regretted taking it.

There’s clearly demand for THC-free hemp products, but there are some medical benefits to combining CBD with THC, according to Bonni Goldstein, M.D. Combining CBD, THC, and other natural cannabis compounds can create an “entourage effect” where the compounds work together to produce a more effective medicine.

“CBD is often more effective when some THC is present due to the entourage effect,” Goldstein writes in her latest book, Cannabis Revealed.

Rachel Greenfield, the store manager and medical consultant for Wenatchee’s The Happy Crop Shoppe, a state-licensed marijuana store, agreed, saying that “Sometimes you need that THC for the cannabis to really be effective, even if it’s a small amount of THC.” Greenfield said she is able to do one-on-one consultations with prospective clients and regularly receives referrals from local doctors who trust her product recommendations.

“It feels amazing when I help people find cannabis that can improve someone’s health — that’s why I do this, to help people,” Greenfield said.

Carter said one downside of CBD is that it can get expensive, although it’s valuable with a job driving dump trucks of gravel and landscaping supplies around town.

“It’s a little bit pricey at times, but it is worth it for a guy like me with a real hectic schedule,” Carter said. “Everybody is landscaping this year.”