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First-of-it-kind Twin Cities hemp shop heightens curiosities

A customer tries a free sample of pain cream for her arthritis, and after bought a large container at Minnesota Hempdropz in Maplewood, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press1 / 2
Co-owners Abbie Schneider, right, and Doug Herkenhoff talk to a customer who was interested in a pain cream for her and her mother's arthritis at Minnesota Hempdropz in Maplewood, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press2 / 2

MAPLEWOOD, Minn.—The Twin Cities metro area's first edible-hemp store is now open in Maplewood, and the owners have a lot of explaining to do.

Yes, hemp is a cousin of marijuana.

No, it doesn't make you high.

Yes, it is legal.

No, you don't smoke it, but you can vape it.

"I am getting a lot of questions," said Abbie Schneider, co-owner of Minnesota Hempdropz, which opened Aug. 11 in a strip mall at 2225 White Bear Ave.

Her specialty is products containing one of the active ingredients in hemp and marijuana — CBD, or cannabidiol.

Health claims for CBD — none of them supported by the federal Food and Drug Administration — include relief of pain, anxiety, insomnia, acne, seizures and even cancer.

Health food stores and others have sold CBD-containing products for years, but the Maplewood store is the first in the metro area dedicated entirely to them. Schneider's brother opened a similar store, CBD of St. Cloud, in May.

Hemp has been grown for thousands of years for the fiber used in clothing, paper and rope. It contains CBD and only small traces of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol — the ingredient that makes pot smokers high.

Its relative, marijuana, is cultivated legally and illegally to maximize THC content.

"The two components go hand in hand," said Schneider. "Marijuana is on the THC side, and we are on the opposite side, with no THC at all."

The store illustrates the limbo between illegal and legal drug use, said Tom Gallagher, chairman of the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Marijuana and hemp are linked in public perception, he said, even though they have different uses and effects. The hemp store is a step toward public acceptance and legalization of marijuana, said Gallagher. "I see it as a bellwether."

"Hemp and even medical marijuana were legal into the 1950s," he said. Acceptance of hemp and marijuana go hand-in-hand, he said, and the justifications for the restrictions are fading.

Neither CBD nor medical marijuana has been approved for any ailment by the Food and Drug Administration. The single exception is using CBD for treatment of seizures related to two rare forms of epilepsy, which was approved by the FDA earlier this year.

Even though the FDA has not approved CBD for treatment of certain diseases, it can be sold legally in states that have approved it.

In some ways, the new store competes with the medical marijuana industry.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Minnesota in 2015, and today two manufacturers sell it at eight locations statewide. Some of the claimed health benefits — to treat pain, anxiety, side effects of cancer treatments, depression — are shared by both.

The medical marijuana industry does not, however, offer the variety of products sold at the Maplewood store, including CBD-containing pain cream, products for anxious pets and gummy-style candies.

One manufacturer of medical marijuana, LeafLine Labs of Cottage Grove, sells a product with high concentrations of CBD, in addition to other products containing THC. LeafLine officials did not respond to phone messages left last week.

Medical marijuana is sold only with a doctor's approval. LeafLine's website lists prices for various products ranging from $29 to $145.

"In addition to the obvious price difference," said Schneider of her CBD products, "you can get this without a prescription."

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