A hemp extract known as CBD oil is selling fast at local Houston-area smoke shops.
But the legal ambiguity of CBD oils and extracts has left many government agencies scratching their heads.
Users of the product claim it relieves stress, treats migraines and combats anxiety better than pharmaceuticals they’ve tried. Some of them say it can have positive effects on chronic medical conditions as well.
“It’s blowing up in popularity,” said Kevin, who works at a smoke shop southwest of downtown. "People with everything from diabetes, cancer, epilepsy are seeing positive results.”
The cannabidiol (CBD) extracts are made from industrial-grade hemp - the same type of plant used to make hemp clothing and hemp seed oil. Sellers say the oils do not contain traceable levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. They say that while it might help with anxiety, CBD does not get you “high.”
A Houston-area CBD distributor Aaron Petersen said he started taking CBD after a car accident. He said few drops of CBD oil helped with pain and inflammation, and he can now “sleep deeper and feel better.”
KHOU 11 News contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Texas, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Houston Police Department.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said it will address the use of CBDs on a case-by-case basis and let the testing of the products determine their legal status. The DA’s Office said this is a new trend it will now have to address.
Houston Police Department spokesman Keese Smith told KHOU 11 News they have seen increasing amounts of CBD products, but they are not concerned with the product in the same way they were with the recent synthetic cannabis, or “kush” epidemic.
“If it does not have THC, it is legal,” Smith said.
Smith added HPD’s approach to the matter is an “educational effort.”
HPD Narcotics has tested the openly sold CBD products, and in some tests, they have found trace amounts of THC, which is illegal in Texas.
The HPD spokesman emphasized it is a quality control issue, and there is no certain way to know if the CBD oil you buy is completely THC free. He said the only way to know for sure is independent lab testing.
“CBDs aren’t illegal,” said Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Captain Josh Dale. "There is no legislative statute right now that makes CBDs illegal to possess in the state of Texas. There is also no federal statute against CBDs right now.”
The most recent legal questions concerning CBDs arose during the Jan. 28 arrest of William Goss, 19, who Fort Bend Precinct 3 Constables said was in possession of marijuana and solid, commercially-available CBD wax.
The wax tested positive for cannabinoids during a field test, according to Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Constable Wayne Thompson.
The manufacturer of the product, a cannabidiol isolate, told KHOU 11 News it is impossible the CBD contained THC and said it was likely a cross-contamination issue.
Constable Thompson does not discount that could have been the case but says the CBD tested positive for THC nonetheless.
“If (the tests) turn like that, you can almost guarantee that’s the real deal, if you know what I’m saying,” Constable Thompson said. “And this one was a really quick result, according to the deputy.”
Thompson said that further lab results will be a factor in the prosecution of this specific case.
“The information’s not out there and that’s what is confusing people,” Kevin said.
Nearly all smoke shops KHOU 11 News visited during the course of this story are currently selling CBD oil. They cost approximately $40 to about $100, depending on the manufacturer, quality and strength.
The users of CBD oil interviewed for this story claim they have not experienced any side effects from smoking the hemp extract.