When Christian Butts decided on downtown Elberta to locate his hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) oil store, he had no inkling of what may be a bit of infamy concerning the town and marijuana.
Though hemp and marijuana are in the same cannabis family of plants, hemp’s miniscule amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the substance that gives users a high — renders it useless to those looking for a buzz. But the CBD oil extracted from hemp is used to treat everything from epilepsy to anxiety to weaning people off of painkillers. It is believed to be an effective anti-inflammatory, among other things.
But Butts’ marijuana-leaf logo caused a mild uproar in Elberta, which culminated in a raucous City Council work session on April 9.
“They just kept calling me a liar, saying the only reason why I put the dispensary here was because ‘we were known for growing some of the best weed in America in 1980s’ or something like that,” Butts said one of the detractors told him. “I didn’t know. If you stand in the shop for one day, you’ll hear somebody tell you the story about Elberta Purple and how it was in High Times magazine. I keep telling them, ‘I promise you that’s not the reason.’”
Butts’ Seedless Green shop is one of two hemp stores that opened up in south Baldwin County this month. The other was met with hardly a whimper, but Seedless Green faced a whirlwind of small-town controversy.
“Seeing a big pot leaf on a sign on a main street does not send the right message,” one of the townspeople said at the April 9 meeting.
The other, Wonderfully Hempful, is on State Hwy 59 in Foley just a few blocks south of the U.S. 98 intersection. It’s logo is of a drop of green oil with “CBD” printed in the middle, but it has not drawn any scrutiny from townsfolk.
“I chose not to do a sign like that because for one, it’s misleading,” owner Daniel Smith said. “I don’t want to fool people into thinking they’re getting something they’re not. And, two, there’s just a stigma that doesn’t need to be there and I didn’t want to get into. I named it Wonderfully Hempful so everyone knows it’s hemp.”
Smith, who moved to town from Kansas, said he’s personally benefited from using the CBD extract and wanted to show other people how it can help them. The medical community remains skeptical of the medicinal value of the oil, according to a report on WebMD.com. It’s been approved by the FDA for treatment of childhood epilepsy, the same report said, but testing has been scant on adults for treating the other ailments proponents say it can treat. “For the rest of CBD’s potential uses, there is simply too little evidence to make a firm conclusion,” the same report states.
Alabama farmers are hoping to take advantage of CBD oil’s popularity; 180 are permitted to plant a crop this year.
“What we’re focused on right now is CBD,” farmer and Hemp Tek owner Chip Bryars said. “It’s the highest value per acre that we can grow this crop for.” Bryars said there are as many as 25,000 uses for the plants from fiber to biofuel.
As for Butts’ sign, he’s thinking about redesigning it, but it will still contain the iconic leaf that adorns all his products. City officials say there is nothing illegal about the sign and are unlikely to take any action.
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