Hemp Farmacy

Ed Ross, Dr. James Taylor and Stephanie Lett at the product display area at Hemp Farmacy in Southern Pines. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Once considered legal tender that 17th century colonists could use to pay taxes, industrial hemp is making a comeback. In Southern Pines, the Hemp Farmacy recently began offering a variety of cannabinol (CBD) infused products and nutritional supplements.

“I feel the time is now for a hemp revolution,” said Dr. James Taylor, a board-certified anesthesiologist and president of Integrated Pain Solutions. “I think marijuana got started wrong in our country, and that led to recreational use under the guise of medical marijuana. What they skipped over is the CBD.”

There are different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp and marijuana come from the same species but are genetically different. They are differentiated by cultivation methods, use and their chemical makeup.

The plant itself has hundreds of cannabinoids in it. One of those is cannabichromene (CBD) and another is tetrahydocannabiol (THC) — the compound responsible for the euphoric high.

“There are some disease conditions that you need the THC. But those are in limited numbers versus the amount of people that can be helped by CBD,” Taylor said. “THC is the ‘get high’ part. We have removed that and what is still there are all of these other cannabinoids that can be taken as a nutritional supplement with wonderful benefits.”

Taylor and his partners founded Integrated Pain Solutions (IPS) six years ago, seeing a need in the community to reduce pain and also reduce dependency on pain medications — particularly narcotics. The clinic instead takes a holistic approach to finding the right path for each patient, including medication management, interventional pain procedures, psychology, chiropractic services, movement therapies, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy and more.

“Fast forward to 2017. Industrial hemp is grown in the state of North Carolina and the first crops came out of the field last October,” Taylor said. “We are always looking for alternatives. With hemp legalized to grow, we felt comfortable as physicians to utilize it. It is another tool in our toolbox to help our patients.”

Integrated Pain Solutions partnered with the Hemp Farmacy to further efforts at combating the opioid crisis on multiple fronts, in addition to a resource for the community.

“The partnership made sense. They are a company that understands retail and we understand the medicine,” Taylor said.

History of Hemp

For over 200 years in colonial America, hemp was an important commodity. The Colonies produced cordage, cloth, canvas, sacks and paper made from hemp in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.

According to the North Carolina Museum of History, British Parliament passed the Naval Stores Act in 1705, which subsidized premiums for badly needed sailing ship items. North Carolina farmers benefited in particular, receiving six pounds per ton of hemp. Shipbuilding also required tar, pitch and turpentine, all products manufactured from pine trees, which the state also had in abundance.

However, demand for high-quality hemp fiber declined after World War I and crop production was further crippled by politics. In 1937, the federal government passed the Marijuana Tax Act, to regulate the narcotic varieties of cannnabis. Two decades later, the American market was flooded with cheaper, synthetic fibers.

Today, industrial hemp is a valuable agricultural commodity in more than 30 countries where it is processed into food, beverages, fiber, textiles, paper, construction and insulation materials, cosmetic products, and animal feed.

In the U.S., the legal status of hemp has been a bit of a quagmire. Industrial hemp seed is considered a Schedule 1 narcotic substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. An import license must be obtained to import the seed into the United States. Six states — Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia — still consider every part of the cannabis plant, including the non-intoxicating CBD, to be illegal. Other states have passed CBD-only laws to legalize possession and use of CBD products but not those products with high levels of THC.

Hemp Farmcy

Store manager Stephanie Lett sets up the display area at Hemp Farmacy in Southern Pines. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

The Industrial Hemp Act, passed by the N.C. General Assembly in late 2015, allows for the cultivation of hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent THC. By contrast, marijuana typically contains 3 to 15 percent THC. This means, in simpler terms, the state does not treat industrial hemp as a controlled substance when it is grown under the state’s pilot research program.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reports industrial hemp is generally grown for one of three uses; seed, fiber, or cannabinoid (CBD) production. Each is produced in a slightly different way. Hemp seed or oil can be found in cooking oil, salad dressings, pasta, and snack products, and this crop has also generated great interest among pharmaceutical and medical researchers.

This change in policy may prove fruitful for North Carolina farmers. Hemp grows well where tobacco also grows well, so it’s no surprise both cash crops have a long history in the state. Locally the town of Robbins, first known as Mechanics Hill, was also once called Hemp.

In September 2017, to help eliminate confusion with changing policy, the N.C. Board of Pharmacy issued a memo permitting pharmacies in the state to sell hemp-derived CBD products, loosening a restriction from a memo issued last May that only permitted the sale of products produced by growers licensed by the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Commission.

Fighting the Opioid Crisis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. This represents a 21 percent increase over the previous year and, of these deaths, approximately three-fourths are related to opioids.

“The opioid crisis is the real reason we are doing this,” Taylor said. “More than 60,000 Americans are dying with opioid overdoses, and these are not the people you are thinking of. These are mothers, fathers, grandparents.

“As physicians we have very few tools to deal with this. They are psychologically and physically addicted, and our only option is to give them less — to start taking away their drugs — or give them another drug,” he added. “Now all we’ve done is switched them from one drug to another. Or this can drive them to the illegal market where they have no guidance or safety net.”

Taylor said the problem was created by the pharmaceutical industry but does not blame his fellow physicians and pharmacists for their decisions.

“These drugs, we were told they were safe. We were taught that if a patient has real pain, if you give them a narcotic that they would not become addicted,” he said. “There are good physicians out there prescribing this but a primary care doctor only has a few minutes to meet with a patient and deal with a lot of things. Then there is a tolerance with narcotics that happens because, for a patient, more does help for a time.”

Taylor said his ultimate goal is to put himself out of business. He co-founded Integrated Pain Solutions, and several affiliated services including Integrated Laboratory Solutions and Integrated Hemp Solutions, to help achieve that end.

“I’d like all of my patients to get relief from non-addictive dangerous things that can’t kill you. If I can do that, I will be successful,” he said. “With Integrated Pain Solutions, we look at yoga, chiropractic services, and hemp oil. There are some real alternatives we believe can pull patients into a new paradigm of health.”

CBD works by helping to regulate homeostasis, or balance, within the body. Importantly, users should be cautious and recognize that not all CBD or hemp oil products are created equally.

New Future for Hemp

“It is a wild frontier out there. There was a recent study that found 70 percent of products in the CBD world were not as advertised,” Taylor said. “As a physician recommending these products, that is unacceptable.”

Thus the Hemp Farmacy, which operates in the same location as Integrated Pain Solutions, limits its offering to a small array of tested products, including tinctures developed by Integrated Hemp Solutions.

“We only sell products that are laboratory certified. We run each product through testing to make sure it has in it what we say it does,” said Taylor.

Hemp Farmacy

Hemp Farmacy in Southern Pines offers CBD-infused products, including an oil tincture produced by Integrated Hemp Solutions. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilott

Some products have a very low level of THC, others have no trace of this specific cannabidal in the solution. But Taylor also cautioned that none of the products sold are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We cannot say that it treats, diagnoses, or cures any medical condition. What we can say is that patients with chronic pain, seizures, and many other conditions, their symptoms are better when they take the product,” Taylor said. “Physicians cannot prescribe this but we can recommend it. Patients should feel good about using this because it does benefit you.”

Research indicates CBD has potential benefits, including reduction of chronic inflammation and pain, and may reduce anxiety behaviors. It is also being studied for a possible role in treating epilepsy, Type 1 diabetes, neuropsychiatric disorders, as an anti-cancer agent, the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and acne.

Last November, Integrated Pain Solutions sponsored a medical symposium that attracted 150 attendees representing law enforcement, pharmacists and health care providers. Taylor anticipates holding additional symposiums, likely on a more frequent basis, as interest in CBD treatments increases.

Using observational data, Taylor said beyond pain reduction there are three main themes IPS patients have reported: they sleep better, they feel less anxious, and they have a more positive sense of well-being.

“Physicians look at numbers, so for a patient to come back and say they are feeling more hopeful, we can’t quantify that,” Taylor said. “But with hope, they may be more willing to engage in yoga, in exercise, with things they need to do to get to optimal health.”

To better educate the medical community, a new program through Integrated Hemp Solutions will kick-off in February. A booklet for participating doctors includes suggestions on how to talk to their patients about CBD. There is another publication just for patients that covers frequently asked questions, and the program will also allow the Hemp Farmacy to sell to other clinics at wholesale prices.

“You need the relationship and guidance of someone who understands what this is about. The tincture is not like a pill. You might start taking oil and some report results in two or three days, others it will take a month,” said Taylor.

It is also crucial to understand that while using these products, you will fail a drug test.

“All of these cannabinoids look similar in a basic screening test. You will come back positive if you smoke or consume these products. But if the urine is sent for confirmation where they look for the THC molecule, you will get a negative result every time,” Taylor said. “Part of the pamphlet includes this information for patients so they will understand.”

Taylor said it is important for anyone interested in CBD products to first speak with their own physician.

“We don’t want to empower people to think they can take this and not see a doctor. That is not at all what we are encouraging,” he said. “But you are welcome to drop by the Farmacy to learn more. We’d love to educate you.”

The Hemp Farmacy is located at 695 S. Bennett St., in Southern Pines. The retail store is managed by Stephanie Lett, and is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., or call (910) 684-4002, or visit online www.hempfarmacy.org

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