Last week, the Quality Dairy chain of convenience stores began carrying some new products at a few locations: hemp oils, vape oils, drink additives and edibles containing CBD. That’s a compound extracted from the hemp plant.
Because they come from hemp, Cannabidiol products, or CBD, are sometimes confused with marijuana, but they contain little to no THC, the chemical that produces a high. Clearing up that confusion is key to a retailer like Quality Dairy.
The news that QD would sell these products alongside the milk, bread and donuts they’re known for might have come as a surprise. Officials with the company are working to educate customers about CBD. Co-CEO Ray Tadgerson isn’t worried that selling CBD will harm their image. “Not at all," states Tadgerson. "In fact, we’ve had a lot of folks actually ask questions about it. (They) want to know more and understand the products that we have.”
Proponents of CBD say the benefits are many, such as pain relief, quitting smoking, and helping people with anxiety, acne, type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a prescription drug called Epidiolex, made from a CBD oil, for treating two types of epilepsy.
The CBD products offered by QD are made by a local company called Holistic Health. Co-founder and General Counsel Dom Bonell carefully points out that they make no health claims whatsoever. “We don’t make any representation that this can cure any disease or help any ailment," Bonell explains. "There is anecdotal evidence to support that it may relieve symptoms of anxiety or pain or that sort of thing, but certainly not a representation that we make. We want our consumer to try it, see if it does anything for them, and then they can make that determination.”
Holistic Health has about 20 employees at their main office in East Lansing and at facilities in Kentucky and Arizona. Bonell says they hope to consolidate and grow in Lansing. They have taken a big step in that direction by purchasing part of the Quality Dairy headquarters complex at Mt. Hope and Washington in Lansing. He continues, "you take the hemp plant and process it into CBD oil, hemp oil. That is what we currently do in Kentucky and that we’d like to move up here. What we will also have up here is the product manufacturing part of the company. We’re going to take the oil, turn it into topical products, tinctures, etcetera.”
Holistic Health started as a wholesaler of CBD products while also offering direct sales online. Bonell and his business partner, Paul Schmitz, see the move into Quality Dairy stores as a step toward bigger contracts with national retailers.
The company currently has access to 2,000 acres of farmland in Arizona for growing hemp, though they aren’t using all of that yet. With expansion in mind, the firm is also pursuing farmland in Michigan.
For Quality Dairy President Ken Martin, it’s a plus that Holistic Health is a local company and partner. He states that "the products that they’re offering, I have been told, are highly rated. Every indication that we’ve got from folks who are familiar with this type of product are very happy with it.”
The health community is watching the growth of CBD’s popularity through the lens of a limited amount of research. Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail sees potential beneficial effects, but also thinks more long-term studies are needed. Vail’s advice to consumers is to proceed with care, adding “I guess I would say to do your research, to talk to other people. Clearly, it’s legal for it to be sold out there, it’s being sold, and to just be cautious of looking for reputable sources, as reputable as you can find them to be, those sorts of things.”
While Quality Dairy is selling CBD products at only seven stores for now, President Ken Martin expects that to expand to more of their 28 total locations.