In the days after bartender Davey Jones added the Green Dragon, a CBD cocktail, to his lineup at Millers All Day, word spread quickly via social media and other outlets, and he was selling more of the drink than he’d anticipated.

“It’s not even on the (printed) menu yet,” he says. “We’re selling them like crazy. I sold 36 of them the other day.”

He says he was surprised by how many people know about CBD, but perhaps he shouldn’t be. As health and wellness trends go, CBD, or cannabidiol, has been touted as a magical elixir that can reduce anxiety, help inflammation and generally promote wellness. And people are eagerly giving it a try.

In the past five years, CBD derived from hemp plants, which produce only trace amounts of the psychoactive THC found in marijuana, has become part of a fast-growing industry. According to the Hemp Business Journal, of the $820 million sold in the hemp category in 2017, $137 million was from food products and $190 million was from CBD oil, which can be used to infuse cocktails, coffee, honey, beer and other foods.

And now that South Carolina has legalized CBD derived from hemp and granted special permits to a small but growing crop of hemp farmers, the product is starting to show up more in Charleston.

David Bulick was awarded one of the first 20 hemp permits for 2018. He planted 10,000 plants in March, harvested 87 days later, processed and extracted the oil, and started making and selling Charleston Hemp Co. products at area farmers markets as soon as he could.

He recently sold a barrel of crude CBD oil to Ben Chambers, the operations manager at Fatty’s Beer Works on Meeting Street, who will brew a single-hop, single-malt IPA with it. “It’s called CBD SMASH,” says Chambers, who previously worked for Sweetwater in Atlanta and was responsible for that brewery's best-selling 420 Strain G-13, which uses terpenes, a compound found in fruit, to mimic the smell of a specific marijuana.

CBD SMASH, says Chambers, also will have an aroma of hemp with a hint of passionfruit. “It smells a little bit dank,” he promises.

The beer will get a release party sometime in December and will only be available on tap at the brewery, but Chambers expects it to be something people are eager to try. “We’re not promoting any of the medicinal benefits,” he says. “We’ll let people come to their own conclusions on that.”

As a dietary supplement, hemp-derived CBD oil is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, says Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, the vice president of research at the University of South Carolina, who recently presented at the Inaugural Update on Medical Cannabis conference held in September at the Medical University of South Carolina. Nagarkatti says USC recently received a patent for the use of cannabidiol in the treatment of autoimmune hepatitis based on research he conducted, and he says anecdotal evidence shows that CBD relieves pain and inflammation.

“And that’s been consistent with basic research,” he says. “But because CBD was classified as a Schedule 1 drug like heroin ... not many (research) trials have been done.”

But that could change quickly. Now that the Drug Enforcement Administration has classified FDA-approved CBD drugs as Schedule 5, Nagarkatti says cannabinoids could become more easily researched for efficacy in treating conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, arthritis, lupus and a whole range of diseases where inflammation plays a role in destroying cells.

Ask around and you may find lots of people adding CBD to their daily regimens. A local teacher takes one CBD chocolate a night to help her sleep. A father of three uses CBD in his vape pen to combat anxiety and bipolar disorder. Jones of Millers All Day recently began adding Charleston Hemp Co.’s oil to his morning coffee and says he’s noticed that his road rage is gone and he feels like he’s not sweating the small stuff anymore.

“It’s not as if the marijuana plant has foreign chemicals,” says Nagarkatti. “It’s very similar to what our own endocannabinoid system produces, and if we don’t produce enough, then we lose appetite, get agitated, cannot function. The cannabinoids that we produce are critical. If people take CBD and feel good, it is because they are replacing the cannabinoids that they are not producing."

The biggest drawback, says Nagarkatti, is the lack of FDA regulation of supplements, which makes it a buyer-beware situation. You have to trust the producer is telling the truth. “A lot of CBD oils in market, when they test them in the lab, there isn’t a lot or any CBD in it,” he says.

Bulick at Charleston Hemp Co. is required to submit testing as part of his permit to show that his products have less than .3 percent THC, and the test also shows that his products do indeed contain CBD.

Millers All Day and Fatty’s Beer Works are part of a host of restaurants, bars and breweries around the country dabbling with CBD. In New York, Adriaen Block has staked a claim as the first CBD restaurant and bar in the city while the James Hotel offers guests a CBD-tasting menu with spicy meatballs, tater tots and an ice cream sundae infused with different concentrations.

In California, a state that legalized recreational marijuana, restaurants have long been using CBD from both cannabis and hemp. That is, until the state health department issued a crackdown last summer. According to a report on Eater Los Angeles, restaurants will not be allowed to use CBD until the FDA approves it for use in food. 

In South Carolina, the law is specific about hemp-derived CBD oil being allowed as long as it has trace amounts of THC. As Dr. Nagarkatti says, “It’s the same as turmeric or any other dietary supplement.”

And while SLED cracked down in Myrtle Beach last summer, according to a report in the Myrtle Beach Sun News, it was just to test products being sold to ensure that they did not have more than the legal limit of THC.

The intersection of federal and state rules regarding CBD are murky, just as they were after marijuana was legalized by a number of states despite federal laws declaring marijuana illegal. Last summer, FDA chief Scott Gottlieb released a statement after approving a purified form of CBD to treat epilepsy that said, in part, the department would "continue to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims."    

Meanwhile, Dellz on Rutledge Avenue is selling bottles of CBD Living Water, Huryali on Huger Street is adding CBD oil to your coffee for $2.50, and Eucalyptus Wellness and Elixir Bar in Mount Pleasant offers CBD in their smoothies.

And the Green Dragon? Jones' concoction at Millers All Day tastes like a combination of a Pisco sour and a Midori sour that complements the sweet herbal CBD oil, which tastes like marijuana smells.

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