It's Saturday morning, and Courtney León is standing behind jars full of cookies under a blue-and-white-striped tent at the Coconut Grove Farmers Market (3300 Grand Ave., Miami; 305-238-7747). For the past four years, she's been garnering a loyal customer base through her organic, gluten-free, vegan, and low-glycemic baked goods. Since last May, she's seen the popularity of her Courtney's Cookies line soar exponentially. Her Chill Out and Nighty Night cookies, both CBD-infused, have become hits and — at $5 and $9 each, respectively — sell by the dozens wherever she offers them.
"My cookies were already healthy, and as I learned about the benefits of CBD, it only made sense to take them to the next level of wellness," León says. "Most of the population is dealing with pain or anxiety in some form, and now people are more inclined to go the healthy route to alleviate them. The feedback on the cookies is fantastic. Some of my clients who suffer from insomnia say it is the only thing that helps them sleep."
Her enthusiasm for the growing CBD-infused-food trend is shared by Andrew Rodriguez, owner of Midtown Creamery (2690 NE Second Ave., Miami; 786-536-2281). He launched the CBD-infused Elevation ice-cream line during last year's Art Basel. Rodriguez says he and his wife Suzanne McPherson, a nurse, were aware of CBD benefits but had no clear idea of how to go about boosting their ice cream with it. As luck would have it, Isaac Furer walked into the shop. Furer, along with his brother Aryeh, distributes CBD and introduced the couple to water-soluble CBD, which they claim can be more easily absorbed by the body than its oil variety.
"We had all realized we were thinking the same thing — that ice cream makes people happy and that, paired with CBD, it could make them even happier," Rodriguez says. Together, they created the Elevation line, sold at Midtown Creamery in premade two-scoop portions for customers aged 18 or older. The $20 price tag, he says, reflects its perceived value. "Some customers tell us that it grants them a sense of calm, dialing back their anxiety level a little bit and helping them function better. Others eat it before they go to bed so they can sleep through the night."
An abbreviation for "cannabidiol," CBD is one of the more than 100 chemicals found in cannabis, but unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hemp-based CBD does not have a psychoactive effect. In other words, it is nonhallucinogenic and cannot get you high. But it has been touted for potential therapeutic applications, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved the cannabis-derived medicine Epidiolex for childhood epilepsy.
Jorge Ramirez, co-owner of the coffee shop Selina Brawlers (2819 NW Second Ave., Miami; 954-258-4646), offers coffee and chamomile tea infused with CBD oil, which he sources from California ($7). He says the number one question from customers is whether the beverage will produce a high. "We explain that these are not at all about people getting stoned," he says. "CBD enhances the relaxation effect of the chamomile, while the coffee infusion offers the best of caffeine without the jitter. You get the jump, but you can still focus." He adds that CBD does not change the flavor of the beverages.
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While states continue to legalize marijuana and the trend grows, the use of cannabis-based edibles remains murky and controversial. Though some studies have shown that CBD can help alleviate inflammation, anxiety, and pain, there hasn't been enough scientific research conducted to prove its effectiveness, and regulations have been scant, resulting in products being under- or over-labeled regarding their dosage, for which there's no formal recommendation.
The 2018 U.S. farm bill has offered some development in the process, with the legalization of the domestic cultivation, production, and commercial development of hemp and hemp products at the federal level. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now out of the picture, but under the new law, the FDA still has the authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
"The industry is in a gray area right now, and a lot of companies are in it for the money. They are not educating people and don't have the best quality of product to provide," Furer says. "The FDA cracking down will help customers know exactly what it is that they are consuming."
Correction: The name of Selina Brawler's co-owner has been corrected to Jorge Ramirez.