HOUMA, La. — While cannabidiol, or CBD, products have been available in retail stores in the Houma-Thibodaux region for well over a year, the state only just approved regulatory oversight this month.
Under Act 164, signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control will oversee the sale of CBD products in the state and issue permits to licensed retailers.
“Any retailer planning to sell hemp or CBD products is required to complete an application and obtain a permit,” ATC Commissioner Juana Marine Lombard said. “We will begin processing applications immediately.”
Aurora CBD and Hemp opened its doors on Barrow Street in late 2017, selling drops, shampoos, balms and other products that contain the oil. It has become one of the largest retailers in the state and continued to sell its products even as the industry remained in a “grey area,” co-owner Hunter Poiencot said.
“Aurora has never closed their doors or yanked a single product,” he said.
While the business still has some questions about the application, Poiencot said, “all products we sell in our shop are going to meet regulations.”
The bill also legalized the growth of industrial hemp, in accordance with federal regulations passed last year. CBD oil is made from hemp plants and must contain a THC concentration of less than 0.3 percent to be sold in the state. THC is the principle chemical compound in marijuana.
Before the law was passed, some in state government weren’t sure if CBD oil was actually legal in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy and the Louisiana ATC issued notices earlier this year stating the oil was illegal, but enforcement was unclear. Now, the new law makes way for the ATC to issue permits to CBD retailers in the state.
The ATC announced that once an application is approved, retailers can begin selling right away under a temporary permit that expires in February 2020. Once a retailer’s products are certified by the Louisiana Department of Health, it can be issued a permanent permit.
The new regulations are a good step forward for the industry, Poiencot said.
Since opening its first store in Houma, Aurora CBD has since expanded to Baton Rouge and has plans to open a third location in Youngsville next Friday. It will be its biggest retail storefront, Poiencot said.
“We’re finally out of the grey area and we can finally operate our business in a white light, or a legal light. Now it’s time to put the pedal to the metal,” he said.
The current law doesn’t allow for the sale of CBD products that can be inhaled or are part of food, drinks or alcohol. Louisiana is expected to hold off on allowing edible CBD products until the Federal Drug Administration approves it.
While those regulations are restrictive now, Poiencot said, industry leaders are willing to continue working with the state and ATC. The inhalation of CBD oil is the most effective method, he said, much like medical marijuana — which was also approved for inhalation, not smoking, by the Louisiana Legislature this year.
Inhalation is typically done through an inhaler-like device like those used for asthma medications.
“We’ve got to crawl before we can walk,” Poiencot said.
With the new law in place, Poiencot said, he and his brother and co-owner Dylan will be moving back to Houma to expand the business into CBD education initiatives.