So far, lots of attention has been paid to the opening of recreational marijuana shops in Massachusetts. But a related kind of store is also starting to pop up on the North Shore — stores selling products made from a cannabis compound called CBD.
And even though the products, designed to ease anxiety or sooth pain, are derived from a cannabis plant — hemp — no license is needed to sell them.
Two of stores specializing in remedies made from cannabidiol, or CBD, are Kind Lab in Beverly and Cape Ann Botanicals in Ipswich and Newburyport.
Both sell balms, edibles, oils, salves and other products that contain CBD, one of the more than 100 compounds found in the cannabis plants. The stores' owners say CBD has been well-studied and is known to help with chronic pain, anxiety and rheumatoid arthritis.
These stores are also taking advantage of changing attitudes toward marijuana and cannabis, which has been legalized in Massachusetts. A medical dispensary and a recreational store are open in Salem, and others are in the planning stages throughout the North Shore.
What is also helping is the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which now allows farmers to grow industrial hemp and transport it across state lines under a tight regulatory framework.
Hemp and marijuana are essentially varieties of cannabis plants. Hemp, which is also used to make clothing, oils and other products, has high concentrations of CBD, which can't get a user high but can have some health benefits. Hemp only has trace amounts of the psychoactive compound THC, less than 0.3 percent by law.
Marijuana, on the other hand, tends to have low concentrations of CBD and high concentrations of the compound that can get you stoned.
Cape Ann Botanical
At 8 Central St. in downtown Ipswich, Cape Ann Botanicals has its motto written on the front of the building: "CBD for a Balanced Body and Mind."
"We are actually an educational store as much as we are a product store," said Spencer Kalker, 64, president and CEO of Cape Ann Botanicals and president and CEO of Old Planters of Cape Ann Inc., a sister company that is moving ahead with plans to open medical and recreational dispensaries and a grow facility on the North Shore.
"If we are not educating people in the community to understand how these natural products that have been around forever can help them and ease their suffering or help them deal with the daily stresses of life, then we are not doing our jobs," Kalker said.
Kalker's younger brother is also part of the business. Kurt Kalker, 57, is a registered nurse who belongs to the American Cannabis Nurses Association. He formerly lived in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since the mid-1990s, and said he has seen how the cannabis industry has grown. He's Cape Ann Botanicals patient care manager. He says he also uses a hemp product to manage pain from an arthritic disease without the side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs.
Cape Ann Botanicals has been open for 10 months in Ipswich and for more than 10 weeks in Newburyport at 49 Pleasant St. The brothers say the store has been well-received. There are eight people working between the two stores.
The company does not make its own products, but their sister company, Old Planters, might at some point. They plan to have a retail medical and recreational dispensary in Rowley, at 300 Newburyport Turnpike, and are building a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse on a 17-acre site in Ipswich. They expect to employ more than 60 people when Old Planters is up and running.
Kind Lab opened three weeks ago at 276 Cabot St. in Beverly in a space once occupied by Casa De Moda and Bogie's beer and wine shop.
"CBD is great for anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory," said owner Angela Arena Foster, 47, of Marblehead.
Pain, sleep and stress are the three main reasons why people turn to CBD for relief, Foster said.
"You get many of the health benefits of cannabis," she said, "but you don't get that high."
About five years ago, Foster was working at a Boston-based startup medical device company in a stressful job that kept her up at night. Glasses of wine, pints of ice cream and over-the-counter sleep remedies provided no respite. A friend who was a medical marijuana patient had her try some, and she was able to sleep.
She had a hard time understanding why something so effective was considered illegal, which she believes was due to social issues more than anything else. She did some research and found that cannabis is nothing new to humans — it was found in ancient Egyptian tombs and in the American Pharmacopeia until the 1940s.
So how did she turn her fascination with cannabis into a business on Cabot Street?
Foster said if she becomes interested in something, she wants to become an expert.
She obtained her medical marijuana card, and researched the benefits of cannabis. Then a bulging disk in her spine had her worried about how much ibuprofen she was taking. Her first product, she said, was a soothing balm that contains CBD and other herbs known for helping with circulation and inflammation.
She then started making balms for friends and family and began formulating products with CBD for other health problems like restless leg syndrome and eczema. After coming up with a number of products, she tested the store concept with a pop-up shop in Marblehead.
"I think in the past year, the conversation around cannabis in general has gotten considerably easier," said Foster, who plans to pursue a license to be able to create marijuana-infused products to be sold in medical dispensaries.
"And, I think as people see legalization coming," she said, "hemp is just a lot more accessible because you don't have the THC, you don't have that intoxicating effect."