By Sue Vorenberg
Cannabis Daily Record
Recreational cannabis shops in Southwest Washington are seeing an increasing demand for products with medical properties, such as high CBD edibles and cannabis-infused topicals for pain.
Store managers and owners at the Cannabis Country Store in Battle Ground and The Herbery in Vancouver, Washington, report so much demand for CBD-based products that at times they say it’s hard to keep up.
“CBDs are on the rise – we really can’t carry enough of it,” said Jim Mullen, chief operating officer at The Herbery, which has two stores in Vancouver. “We have so many people coming in looking for it.”
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis used in medical marijuana markets for pain relief, as an anti-inflammatory and for reducing seizures. Requests for high CBD products – or products with a balance of CBD and THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis – at recreational stores often come from customers looking for relief of nausea, pain and a variety of other issues.
Initially there weren’t many high-CBD products in Washington’s recreational market because owners and growers anticipated the greatest demand would be for high-THC cannabis. But as more Baby Boomers and older Americans return to marijuana in legal markets, the demand is changing.
Many want products similar to over-the-counter medications you might find in a grocery or drug store, said Chris Pinkel, assistant manager at the Cannabis Country Store.
“I see where the market is expanding,” Pinkel said. “It used to be just stoners in this market, but now that the stigma is going away, our customer base is really much more diverse. More people are getting interested in the wide array of properties of this plant.”
Washington recreational stores are forbidden by law from talking about medical properties of cannabis, even those that have been backed up by research. That creates problems for budtenders and other store representatives who want to give a wider array of information to customers.
“We have a lot of people that come in seeking information from us for a lot of conditions – chronic pain, migraines, crohn’s disease, PTSD – and we’d love to be able to tell them more directly what cannabis can do for them,” Mullen said. “But at this point we can’t.”
Stores often direct customers to Leafly.com, which has an encyclopedia of cannabis strains and includes information on their medical properties.
Once the state opens up medical marijuana designations for recreational stores, the process will become much easier, but until then it’s difficult to get customers to the information they need, said Loren Carlson, owner of the Cannabis Country Store.
“There are things happening in this market that we just can’t describe because of those rules,” Carlson said. “But people are certainly taking advantage of these new products.”
Code words used by budtenders can sometimes help customers, like “deep body relaxation” for pain relief or “happy, upbeat strain” for relief of anxiety or depression.
Cannabis-infused topicals, like Icy Pot and Flexall 420, are also becoming increasingly more popular, Carlson said.
Customers report using them to relieve shingles pain, arthritis and other ailments.
“People are coming in not looking to get super stoned,” Pinkel said. “They’re looking for that deep body relaxation instead.”
Another new area for topicals are massage oils – including both those for muscle and body relaxation and those aimed at the more intimate sexual market where Plug Lust products are sold.
A new oil at the Cannabis Country Store called Hash-Tro Glide has been selling well, Pinkel said a little sheepishly.
“It’s mostly for her, and customers say it works well,” Pinkel said.
The topicals are also selling well at The Herbery, Mullen said, including products like Fresh Farm lotion and lip balm.
“One of our customers came in and bought topicals to help his mother and his fiance with medical problems,” Mullen said. “And they came back and told us they worked very well for them and they were happy with the results.”
Medical marijuana designations for recreational dispensaries should be issued sometime in 2016. Until then, stores will likely have to continue to use the work-around methods and code to try to help their customers.
“When medical comes up in about eight months we’ll really be able to make a difference,” Carlson said. “We’re very eager for that.”
Sue Vorenberg is the founder of Cannabis Daily Record. She has 20 years of experience as a journalist covering a wide array of topics, including cannabis legalization and consumer markets. She also founded The Columbian’s Cannabis Chronicles blog and spent about three months working in the industry. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org