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Sarasota Police Plan Crackdown On CBD Products

CBD comes in many forms, including oil, topical creams, edibles and whole flowers. Users say it treats a variety of ailments.
Courtesy Second and Seed
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Sarasota Police Department may soon be cracking down on the non-euphoric hemp product cannabidoil (CBD) – a cousin of the marijuana plant.

CBD's users claim the plant – which retails in forms like oil, topical creams and even whole flowers – can help treat conditions like anxiety, chronic pain, epilepsy and more.

But the Sarasota Police Department says it’s been making people sick.

New Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried claims CBD is illegal in Florida.That's despite hemp cultivation broadly being legalized on the federal level under the 2018 farm bill that was signed in December by President Donald Trump.

Under the bill, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC. Before the bill signing, hemp, a form of cannabis, was listed by the federal government as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act.

"It’s not legal here right now," Fried said in the same announcement that named Holly Bell as the new Director of Cannabis. "And that's exactly what I’m hoping the legislation is going to allow. We’re working with some of the lawmakers so they can change the definition so that we can, in fact, do a CBD program here in our state to make it very clear."

Marie Bourgeois, a professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, said that hemp – and a booming CBD industry – are very much a “wild west.”

CBD products can be purchased by anyone online, in convenience stores, smoke shops and specialized CBD retailers. In December 2015, the Food and Drug Administration eased the regulatory requirements to allow researchers to conduct CBD trials, but Bourgeois said more research and regulation is needed to keep people safe.

"[If it’s regulated] you will know what's in it when you buy it and the FDA will stand behind it and force the manufacturers to stand behind it," said Bourgeois.

Shelby Isaacson, who runs Second and Seed in Sarasota, said her company already does that.

"I work with an FDA-inspected lab here in town to create my products. I also have my products tested three different times to endure not only the purity, but the potency,” Isaacson said.

Isaacson said police told her they intend to serve up cease and desist letters and have threatened to remove product themselves if stores don't comply.

They’re not the only ones. The Tallahassee Police Department has raided stores for whole CBD flowers.

"Until we have some level of assurance that the CBD is actually safe for human consumption, then I think we have to rely on law enforcement to keep it away from people,” Bourgeois said.

In an article for Harvard Health, Dr. Peter Grinsppon wrote:

“Some CBD manufacturers have come under government scrutiny for wild, indefensible claims, such that CBD is a cure-all for cancer, which it is not. We need more research but CBD may be prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and  chronic pain. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD is currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting.”

Isaacson is frustrated that convenience store and smoke shop CBD products can make her industry look bad.

"To lump us in with somebody that's selling a so-called product that's similar but isn't a safe place to buy it is really, really unfortunate,” Isaacson said.

A Sarasota Police spokesperson did not return phone calls for comment.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.