NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - People in Louisiana are already buying cannabis to help treat their pain weeks before medicinal marijuana hits the shelves.
It’s called cannabidiol or CBD for short and it’s available right now without a prescription or any worries about the law.
“CBD is a hundred percent legal as long as it does not contain THC,” Sean Partridge, who co-owns Simply CBD, said.
Simply CBD on St. Claude Avenue stocks nothing but cannabidiol products including oils, salves, gummies, and vapor pens.
The people who use CBD say it really works.
“With the oil it's just two drops under your tongue and it lasts like 3 or 4 hours,” Gustavo Naar, who uses CBD, said.
Naar is a chef at Estano and uses CBD regularly, even before shifts.
“I mean, being a cook on my feet for 12 hours a day I need the least amount of pain I can have because I'm constantly picking stuff up when I'm working,” Naar said.
His relief is what researchers would call anecdotal, not necessarily backed by data. Dr. Brobson Lutz, the former New Orleans Health Director, said when it comes to research on CBD the files are thin, but they’re growing quickly.
“There are about 6,000 mentions on PubMed about CBD including its use for trials, various conditions, over 150 conditions. These are all preliminary, they're not necessarily double-blind control trials but, it does look like CBD does have medical importance,” Lutz said.
CBD is usually extracted from hemp plants, often from Kentucky where acres of cannabis cover farmland.
People of all walks of life are chewing gummies and taking tinctures, or cannabis extract, like Taylon Floyd, who was injured last year during a hit and run accident that left her bruised and broken. Doctors gave her prescription narcotics for the pain.
“They gave me the hydrocodone, I also suffered a really bad head injury as well, they made my head, it already hurt all the time and was pretty irritated, and they made my head feel really woozy,” Floyd said.
She wanted to ditch the narcotics and try something natural, so she turned to a CBD balm.
“That's where the neck pain comes in and it is something that I deal with every day and now it's like less of a problem. I just rub it on in the morning before or after work,” Floyd said.
The products are very similar to their cousins loaded with THC on shelves in states where marijuana is legal, like Colorado and California.
Here in Louisiana CBD products are tested and supposed to be THC free, that’s why it’s legal to buy.
“It's not going to impair your ability to do things and you can go about your day with the medical relief of the marijuana plant,” Partridge said.
Customers are encouraged to consult their physicians, but when it comes to legitimate medical relief, without a lot of research, some doctors are left scratching their heads.
“I'm a physician, I don't know what to tell anybody if someone comes in and asks me about it. I can tell him well look it's a plant product, are there long-term complications associated with it? I don't know. Are there short-term complications? Well they probably aren't too bad. If you want to try it you're on your own,” Lutz said.
It’s not just people that are taking CBD, some folks are using to treat pain and arthritis in their dogs.
“The last 6 months we noticed a pretty big change in her arthritis in her back leg,” Joe Gerrity said about his 13-year old husky, Kita.
Gerrity has had Kita since before Hurricane Katrina. He calls her his partner in crime and recently wanted to do something to help her pain, so he started giving her CBD daily, dosed on a dog treat.
“When we first started it seemed like she was jumping on beds that she hadn't been on in 2 or 3 months. She's dying to get in the car, she's trying to jump out of the seat of the F-150, instead of jumping onto the floor,” Gerrity said.
He said if it improves her life just a little bit, he’s willing to keep it up, but Dr. Lutz cautions, without a wealth of research it’s your choice.
“These testimonials do not equal data the data will be down the road, however if it's working for somebody it's working,” Lutz said.
The FDA recently approved the first CBD application under the prescription drug Epidiolex. The drug is used to treat two rare seizure disorders and just hit the market weeks ago.