Law enforcement agencies are starting to test cannabidiol oil, also known as CBD oil, sold in local businesses, but many owners say their CBD oil fits federal regulations.
The oil, which is derived from hemp plants, can contain small traces of THC, the part of cannabis that gives off the effect of feeling high.
By federal laws, CBD oil is legal, as long as it contains levels of THC under .3 percent.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, with the help of the Myrtle Beach Police Department, is in the process of checking the levels of THC in the oil to make sure they are under the legal limit, police chief Amy Prock said during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
If THC levels exceed .9 percent and a person cannot present a medical note, it is perceived as criminal possession, Frank O’Neal, commander of narcotics with SLED, said during the meeting.
The problem comes in with products that are labeled as CBD oil, but are actually synthetic marijuana — a substance that is harmful to the body, said Janel Ralph, owner of Palmetto Harmony, a local manufacturer and seller of the oil.
“I can definitely see this is a much-needed enforcement to make sure people are being compliant with the law and are indeed selling legal hemp products and they’re labeled appropriately,” Ralph said.
In June, two cases of severe bleeding occurred from synthetic marijuana in Durham County, The News & Observer wrote.
The synthetic marijuana is often referred to as “K2,” “Spice” or “fake weed.” Since March, almost 200 people have suffered from severe bleeding after using the product across the country, the paper reported.
“I’m hoping that the Myrtle Beach Police Department and SLED are really looking at all of these vape stores and shops that are carrying these products, trying to identify the bad players in the market and get those products off the shelf,” Ralph said.
Ralph, who sells to some local vape and health stores, said her company provides lab results from a third-party company that shows THC levels in the oil and checks for any foreign substances like fertilizer.
“If anybody is using a CBD product and they’re having some type of psychotropic effect, it’s not CBD,” Ralph said. “It’s not hemp CBD at all. It’s probably a synthetic cannabinoid like spice, and you should not be taking that at all. It’s bad for your body.”
In the city, various stores sell the oil, including Bay Naturals along North Kings Highway, Coastal Green Wellness in The Market Common and vape shops across the Grand Strand.
“It does not affect our store at all,” said Clay Nance, manager at Bay Naturals. “Our store carries all hemp-derived CBD, reputable companies that are sold across the United States. It’s all hemp-derived CBD. A lot of people get confused about that.”
Nance said the store sells two main types of CBD oil, both of which can be traced back to either Colorado or the Netherlands. Nance said he also can provide documents from a third party, which shows THC levels and where the hemp plants were grown.
The Sun News reached out to a number of vape shops in the city, but they all declined to comment on the testing of CBD oil.
How is CBD oil made?
Palmetto Harmony makes its own CBD oil from hemp plants that are grown and cultivated under South Carolina laws, Ralph said.
The plant produces cannabinoids, which Ralph said is thick like molasses. In order to create an oil, coconut oil, olive oil or hemp seed oils are combined with the cannabinoids from the plant. When the oil and plant matter are heated up, the cannabinoids infuse into the oil.
Officials claim that CBD oil can help with anxiety, inflammation and other pains. But for Ralph, the oil helped her daughter, who suffers from epilepsy.
“Before we put her on Palmetto Harmony, she was having hundreds of seizures a day,” Ralph said. “There was nothing that was stopping her seizures. Basically the doctors told us there wasn’t much more they could do for her and we needed to start making arrangements for her cause they were going to be putting her on hospice.”
After her daughter started using CBD oil, Ralph said she had about 10 seizures a day.
“We’ve been able to remove 90 percent of her pharmaceuticals and we’ve seen a 95 percent reduction in seizures,” Ralph said.
Why does the city want to test THC levels?
During a Myrtle Beach City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Brenda Bethune expressed concerns over the smell of CBD oil, and how some of the products are packaged.
According to assistant police chief Marty Brown, there is no age limit for purchasing CBD oil. However, individual businesses can set an age limit on the products.
“We have stores on the boulevard right now who have cases of edibles and they are marketing to children,” Bethune said during the meeting. “They have lollipops, and if you open one of these jars, it looks and smells exactly like regular marijuana.”
Ralph said it is normal for the oil to smell like marijuana because of terpenes and flavonoids, parts of the plant that create the smell.
“It’s kind of like a rose plant,” Ralph said. “There’s all different types of rose plants, but they all smell. That’s terpenes. So it’s going to smell like, what technically quote unquote marijuana would smell like in a lot of the products.”
Bethune also suggested that some of the products, such as edibles that look like gummy bears, are catered toward children.
“They’re marketing these things where you have gummy bears and you have cookies that are marketed toward children, because again, they want lifelong users,” O’Neal said.