TALLMADGE — About 120 people turned out Tuesday at Lions Park Hall to learn more about CBD, a part of marijuana and hemp that supporters say has therapeutic and health benefits but has been declared illegal in Ohio unless it comes from a medical marijuana dispensary.

Jesse Miller, a member of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a coalition of hemp companies, spoke about hemp and agricultural hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD, during an informational session hosted by the owners of local health food store Seven Grains Natural Market who aim to help people learn more about the cannabis component.

"There's been a little confusion in Ohio," said Miller, who also works for CV Sciences and lives in Indiana, where CBD oil is legal.

Miller said a good deal of confusion stems from the difference between marijuana and hemp, which are both classified in the same family, cannabis sativa. Marijuana has high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the part of cannabis that gets users high. Hemp has low levels, less than 0.3 percent, which won't get users high.

"That's where a lot of the confusion comes in," he said.

Miller compared the amount of THC in hemp versus marijuana to the levels of alcohol in kombucha or "near beer" to the amount in tequila, or the amount of caffeine in a cup of decaf coffee versus regular coffee. Over the centuries, Miller said hemp has been used for everything from clothing and food to nutritional supplements and body care products.

President Donald Trump signed an $867 billion farm bill into law in December. One part of the law legalizes the production of hemp and designates it as an agricultural crop.

But the Food and Drug Administration has said CBD, a nonpsychoactive compound found in hemp, is a drug ingredient and illegal to add to food or health products without approval from the agency, according to the Associated Press.

In August, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy ruled that the sale of CBD was banned in Ohio except by dispensaries created under the state’s medical marijuana law, the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com reported in November.

According to the pharmacy board, CBD is considered marijuana under Ohio and federal law, and Ohio doesn’t make a distinction between CBD extracted from hemp and CBD extracted from marijuana, as hemp is also considered marijuana under Ohio law.

Akron-area retailers removed CBD products from their shelves or sold what was left in their inventory after the August ruling. Seven Grains and at least one other local retailer have continued to sell the products.

Miller said the state legislature needs to differentiate between marijuana-derived CBD — which contains THC — and hemp-derived CBD, which does not.

"It's a gray area until you get clearer definitions in legislation," said Miller, who said lawyers for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable recently sent a letter to the Ohio Attorney General's Office proposing clearer legislation.

According to the pharmacy board, Ohio businesses are also not permitted to sell marijuana or CBD products under the state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program. The board’s efforts for now are informational, but “if CBD continues to be illegally sold despite entities having accurate information, the Board will reassess at that time,” a board statement said. 

Seven Grains co-owners Gina and David Krieger said they've been selling CBD products in their store for about a year after seeing a demand for them from their customers. Gina Krieger said customers are coming in multiple times a day to either buy or ask questions about CBD products, which include oils, soft gels, capsules, topical balms, sprays, health and beauty items, skin care items, soaps, cosmetics and protein powders.

"There's so many people who have so many questions," said Gina Krieger, who said she's used CBD gummies to help her sleep and "was amazed at how well it worked."

Gina Krieger said the CBD products sold at the Tallmadge store aren't covered by state law and are legal products, as they contain agricultural hemp-derived CBD, not marijuana-derived CBD. She added she's heard nothing from the state or authorities about not carrying or selling the products.

"You always have somebody out there who for whatever reasons they may be, for financial reasons or whatever, who wants to kind of steer people away," she said. "If people can help themselves, that's less money being spent on the pharmaceutical industry, and sometimes, that doesn't go over very well with certain people."

Gina Krieger and Miller both listed several uses for hemp-derived CBD, including pain management and anxiety and depression — the top reasons people buy the products at Seven Grains, Krieger said — along with diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, epilepsy, arthritis and cancer.

Miller added CBD products are only one small part of taking care of the body. He also said CBD works on a bell curve, and it takes trying different products and formulas to find the "sweet spot" to treat symptoms or conditions, which he said varies for each user.

"In no way am I making any claims that CBD is gonna have any [effect]," he said. "All I can do is show you what the research is showing you, and it's not a panacea."

Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.