The signs for CBD are everywhere.


Road signs, billboards, gas stations, dedicated stores – CBD has become, by recent estimates, as much as a $1 billion industry, and its sales are estimated to grow.

But there are concerns.

"Did you know your elementary-aged child can walk into a gas station in the state of Alabama and legally purchase gummies containing enough THC to send them to the hospital?" said Major Clay Hammac, Operations Commander with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

Most people have heard of CBD, which comes in the form of oils, beverages, chocolate-flavored snacks, gumdrop candies, gummies, and vapes. CBD is short for cannabidiol, an abundant chemical in the cannabis plant. But it doesn’t have the strength of its more famous cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive ingredient that induces what is referred to as being “stoned” or “high.”

That doesn’t mean you feel "normal" when using CBD.

“Some people take CBD for legitimate medical reasons; others take it to sleep better or relieve anxiety. CBD does arguably have medicinal value in some settings, under the observation of a pharmacist and/or doctor." Hammac said.

But here is what the general public doesn't know - CBD and THC co-exist as they are both chemicals coming from the marijuana plant. Hemp contains CDB and THC.

“You may have heard THC referred to as Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol,” Hammac said.

This topic can be very confusing, according to Hammac, because we see CBD advertised on street corners, on television commercials, and even on billboards. Hence, the general public considers it safe.

See also Dr. Michael Brown's analysis: Montgomery goes to pot; follow the money

"But some CBD products also have traces of THC in them,” he said. “The FDA does not regulate CBD; therefore, there is no oversight or regulation on the product. That means there is no requirement for truth in advertising. So, some of the CBD products claim they include no THC on the packaging, when in fact, they do. In many cases, there is zero warning on the labels for the consumer. There is no accountability.

"And the worst part, there is no age requirement to purchase CBD items, so teens are buying them,” Hammac said. “We have even had a fifth-grader in possession of CBD gummies!”

BJ Autry is an avid proponent of CBD, owning five CBD stores in Alabama. He both agrees and disagrees with Hammac on the issue.

“I agree there should be some regulation on CBD,” Autry said. “Items do not have to be approved by the FDA because they are considered supplements.

“We welcome the FDA to get involved. This way, an age limit would be set, and the products can get out of gas stations and convenience stores, where they are readily accessible to children. The scary part - some gas stations are selling synthetic cannabinoids (man-made and called Delta 10, THC-O & HHC products), and those are illegal nationwide. ... Of course, we do NOT carry any of these in our stores. Anyway, there is zero education at convenience stores, period.

“You must be 18 years of age to purchase in all of our stores.”

Because CBD is sold over the counter and does not require a prescription to purchase it, people think it is safe, Hammac said.

"Yet, on occasion, we encounter drivers operating a vehicle under the influence after consuming CBD gummies or other CBD products, not knowing they were also consuming THC, which impairs their driving," Hammac said. "Some drivers get behind the wheel, not even knowing they have THC in their system, which just like alcohol impairs judgment and delays response."

Hammac said it's not that parents don't care. The more significant issue is parents and the general public, for that matter, are unaware of the potential dangers of THC contained in CBD products.

"We are talking about a multi-billion-dollar industry that advertises their products deceivingly,” Hammac said. “Taking CBD with other medications may increase the risk of unwanted symptoms or toxicity."

Hammac said one of his greatest concerns is when people ask him why he is so worried about pot because marijuana isn't generally considered lethal like other drugs.

The last time he spoke to a class of students, most kids voted that pot is harmless. Furthermore, Hammac said, most people think pot is not addictive.

"More misinformation,’’ Hammac said. “Those who have a predisposition for addictive behavior can manifest itself much sooner under the influence of THC. The euphoric high from the THC becomes addictive.

"This is not your traditional Woodstock weed. It's big business where plants have been cross bred. The old-school weed you are thinking of contains 3-5% THC. In 2022, these plants can contain up to 30% THC. Vapes and edibles can contain up to 90% THC!

"These concentrations do not only cause a high, they can also suppress the respiratory system, cause hallucinations; your organs can shut down, it can induce psychosis that can last weeks. Bottom line, it can affect the quality of life, and in some recorded cases with young children, THC intoxication has been linked to death.”

Plus, Hammac said, there are no long-term studies on the lasting effects on kids. Consumer CBD products with high concentrations of THC are relatively new to the market within the past 5-10 years.

"We have not learned from history. We are falling victim all over again to big tobacco - they were once marketing to kids! They believed if they get a customer early they have a customer for life. It seems they are doing this to a new generation of victims. Guess who one of the big stakeholders is in consumer marijuana? Phillip Morris! Yes, the same Phillip Morris from big tobacco."

What really concerns Hammac is the push for the marijuana industry to come to Alabama.

"I have spent four years in Montgomery arguing against this, yet lawmakers keep pushing for the decriminalization of marijuana,’’ Hammac said. “We have seen this progression across the nation. The marijuana industry gets its foot in the door by CBD stores popping up. It's a long game for them, but one they plan on winning. More and more states are becoming more relaxed to the idea, and that is sad because this is not medical marijuana, this is consumer marijuana - a big difference!"

Hammac said California is a prime example of what not to do.

"People there wanted the decriminalization of marijuana, arguing it would increase their tax revenue,” he said. “In fact, there is actually an increased tax burden. For example, according to the Rocky Mountain HITDA report, medical and fire response is up because of marijuana-related issues. Schools are negatively affected. There is a reduction in retail and housing growth in areas with normalized marijuana! Now is the time to become an advocate for your kid's future in Alabama.”

Hammac said he agrees there is a place for actual medical marijuana research, but that is not what we are talking about here.

"If you have a medical issue, go to your doctor,” Hammac said. “Don't go shopping for alternative medicine at a convenience store or gas station. Don't go to your local CBD store or to Amazon to purchase. If you suffer from a real medical issue, consult your doctor. Don't confuse medical research with a gas station clerk selling CBD/Delta 8/Delta 9.”.

Autry agreed with Hammac that people should talk to their physicians first before ingesting any products.

At the same time, he said his customers are intelligent adults and can make their own decisions.

“I have everything from schoolteachers to attorneys that shop with me regularly,” Autry said. “And you would not believe the number of people that come into my stores and say their doctor, therapist, chiropractor, or even their child’s pediatrician sent them.

“Adults don’t always want to take pills, like codeine and morphine, to manage pain. My mom died of cancer when I was 17 years old, and I wish she would have had this option because I watched her suffer. I suffer from Type One Diabetes, and since using gummies, my insulin levels are the best they have ever been.

“And as far as parents go, there are plenty of moms and dads out there that don’t want their child on Ritalin and Adderall to deal with ADHD or attention issues in class, so they turn to us and use vegan gummy bears to calm their little ones.”

Autry said many of his customers take CBD to help them manage lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.

“Of course, the big pharmaceutical companies are against us because we provide an alternative to people, giving them less pill-popping customers. Cops don’t like us because if marijuana becomes legal, that will be fewer people for them to go after, which reduces their arrest numbers.”

Autry said his products go through regulation procedures, including third-party testing.

“For example, you can walk into one of our stores and immediately scan the barcode on the item,’’ Autry said. “It will tell you if the product is ‘broad spectrum,’ which means there is zero or non-detectable THC levels, or if the item is ‘full-spectrum,’ which means it contains 0.3% of THC.”

Autry said approximately 80% of the CBD items they sell in his stores are broad spectrum. The other 20%, he said, contain some THC/Delta 8/Delta 9 and are clearly marked with large visible signs to make the consumer aware.

“And we verbally reiterate that again at checkout,’’ Autry said. “The last thing we want is for someone to fail their drug test at work by consuming THC and not knowing it.

“In addition, we tell parents not to give their children gummies containing THC.

"Also, on the back of the items containing THC, it says, ‘do not use if pregnant … do not operate heavy machinery or operate motor vehicles as it may impair your ability, etc.’

"Furthermore, anything with THC/Delta8/Delta 9 cannot be sold on the same shelf as the regular CBD products. Instead, we physically separate them in the store to add that extra level of protection for the consumer.”

Bottom line, Autry said, they are not forcing people into a CBD lifestyle.

“We give out free samples, with no pressure, and people can make their own educated decisions,” said Autry. “CBD products are certainly not for everyone, and again, that’s why we only sell to adults in our stores. Some don’t want anything with THC; some want the THC. We educate them on the potential dangers and remind them if they are purchasing an item with THC, only to consume once they get home and will be there for the remainder of the evening.”

1819 News did reach out to the Jefferson County Department of Health and currently they do not have any stats on illness and/or death numbers related to CBD products.



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