ONE LOCAL COMPANY LOOKS TO BRING THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MARIJUANA TO THE ISLAND — WITHOUT THE HIGH.
Tim McDougall doesn’t look like someone you’d buy marijuana from. With his Captain America good looks, close-cropped blond hair, thick-rimmed glasses and crisply starched white shirt, he appears more likely to sell you a high-end yacht than an eighth of pot.
But then the edibles come out — neon green lollipops and kaleidoscope gummies infused with Nerds candy. Then the crystals and the wax, powders and apricot-scented clumps designed to be smoked through a vaporizer.
What he’s selling definitely looks like the sort of edible and smokeable marijuana now being sold at dispensaries in dozens of states where the drug has been legalized for recreational and medicinal purposes.
But appearances can be deceiving. It’s not marijuana — at least not the way you know it. What McDougall is selling through his company Seed Science only contains one component of the marijuana plant: CBD. It just, you know, looks like it’s illegal. And that’s not entirely accidental.
“We’re taking a little bit from the professional side of medical marijuana with the look and feel of it,” McDougall said. “We try to emulate what the dispensaries do, but we really want to show people there’s a science behind this. It’s to help you improve your life and health.”
Despite the clever marketing tying into the billion-dollar marijuana industry, which continues to be illegal in South Carolina, what Seed Science sells is completely legal. CBD, or cannabidiol for you scientists out there, is actually just one of nearly 113 cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant.
And while it won’t get you high, according to Seed Science its products might help you with a litany of health problems, including insomnia, digestive issues, PTSD, depression, epilepsy, MS and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few.
“What I wanted to do is bring the benefits of the plant, which is illegal, to the people,” McDougall said. “We’re offering something that’s healthy without the high.”
McDougall has built his business around touting the benefits of CBD as a health supplement, slowly growing a supply chain and a business empire in classic entrepreneurial fashion.
So you can imagine his surprise when everything about his industry suddenly became illegal.
“That was a crazy couple of days,” he deadpanned.
The headline on a High Times article from mid-December of last year read “DEA QUIETLY CLASSIFIES CBD OIL AS SCHEDULE 1 DRUG” and it spelled certain doom for Seed Science. Outlets like Rolling Stone and Fox News picked up the story, whipping McDougall’s entire industry into a panic that they were suddenly on the wrong side of the law.
“A lot of people were freaking out,” McDougall said. “It turned out it was just a reclassification. What you have to do is look at the actual document from the DEA.”
At issue was what legal experts felt was the federal Drug Enforcement Agency overstepping its bounds, classifying all parts of the marijuana plant as a Schedule 1 narcotic. However, language in the original controlled substances act clearly excludes the portions of the plant CBD is derived from.
The DEA was quick to walk its new stance back. Speaking to U.S. News and World Report just days later, DEA spokesman Russ Baer said, “…the change published last week in the Federal Register has nothing to do with a crackdown, and in fact will have the primary effect of making cannabidiol (CBD) research easier. From a practical standpoint, we are giving priority, actually, to those researchers who are conducting research with marijuana extracts.”
Which, it turned out, was a blessing for Seed Science, as the DEA became de facto cheerleaders for a branch of research it had just days before launched into a legal gray area.
“I thought it was Big Pharma making a move,” McDougall said. “That was almost a nightmare scenario.”
While legal challenges may yet give McDougall a few more crazy days, he is confident that not only will the possible health benefits of CBD outweigh any stigma associated with marijuana, but that said stigma may be forgotten before long.
“(Marijuana) legalization is a foregone conclusion. When, exactly, I’m not sure,” he said. “The plan is to have a brand name that’s trusted so when (marijuana) is legalized, people will know Seed Science is a place they can come to for the best meds.”