POCATELLO — The recent statewide media coverage about the first standalone CBD business to open in Idaho has not sat well with one local entrepreneur.
Cody Hellickson, a 33-year-old Aberdeen man, is the founder and president of Snake River Solace, a standalone CBD business with locations in Idaho Falls and Pocatello. He was surprised to see many media organizations publish articles last month claiming Gold Nugget CBD, a business to open in Meridian on June 15, was the first standalone shop to sell CBD products to Idahoans.
Hellickson knows he can’t claim rights to that title either, however, considering he knows Global CBD in Sandpoint opened its store about six months before he opened his Idaho Falls location in March 2018.
But he does want to set the record straight.
“(Gold Nugget CBD) may be the first standalone store to open in the Boise area, but they definitely weren’t the first in Idaho,” Hellickson said. “We’ve been open since March 9 of last year so they can just be quiet.”
As surprised as he was though, Hellickson said he was unbothered by the media coverage, because in his opinion, any information that helps alleviate the stigma and confusion surrounding the sale of CBD products in the state is beneficial to the industry in the long run.
“We are trying to make it so that people are educated about the product and know what is legal and what isn’t throughout our state,” Hellickson said. “If you don’t know about CBD and come into my store, we want to educate, if you do know about it, then we want to conversate.”
Hellickson not only sells CBD oils from his Idaho Falls store and his new location on North Main Street in Pocatello that opened June 17, but he also sources the CBD isolate in powder form, manufactures the oils and bottles and labels each package himself in a laboratory inside his Idaho Falls location — a process he guarantees is 100 percent safe and legal.
CBD is an abbreviation of the word cannabidiol, which is a molecule derived from the cannabis plant, both industrial hemp and marijuana. Unlike THC, which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD is devoid of psychoactive activity, with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Idaho Office of Drug Policy.
CBD oil has received national media attention as a substance that can be a homeopathic treatment for many conditions, but unlike THC, CBD does not produce euphoria or intoxication and is primarily sold as an artisanal product in the form of a tincture, concentrate, capsule, topical, spray or vape oil, the Idaho Office of Drug Policy says.
Epidolex is the only drug comprising CBD that has approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for being effective and consistent in treating seizures among individuals 2 years and older with epilepsy, according to the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. In 2015. former Gov. C.L “Butch” Otter signed an executive order allowing up to 25 Idaho children with persistent seizures from epileptic conditions to use Epidolex.
It’s not only difficult to decipher the difference between CBD and THC, but the combination of federal and state laws surrounding CBD and industrial hemp products are equally confusing, Hellickson said.
With regard to the legality of CBD products at the state level, a 2015 Idaho Attorney General’s opinion says that state statute defines any “material, compound, mixture or preparation that contains any quantity of either (marijuana) or (THC)” is defined as a Schedule I substance, a drug category that also includes heroin and methamphetamine.
Furthermore, the Idaho Attorney General opinion states that oils extracted from the cannabis plant must meet two conditions in order to not be a controlled substance.
First, the oil extract cannot contain any quantity of THC — not just less than the 0.3 percent threshold set forth in the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, which removed certain hemp-derived products with a THC concentration of no more than 0.3 percent by dry weight from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
Second, the oil extract cannot be deemed marijuana. To meet that criteria, the oil must be derived or produced from mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds or the achene of the plant, sterilized seeds from a plant incapable of germination or any other compound, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks.
“Even if a product has absolutely no THC, if through some sort of backward investigation or engineering you can determine that the product originated from one of the prohibited parts of the marijuana plant, it is illegal,” Deputy Attorney General John McKinney said on June 11 during the third episode of Counsel for the State, an Idaho Attorney General’s Office podcast. “And Idaho law makes it a misdemeanor to possess any substance that is marijuana or contains THC.”
Hellickson says if a person wants to distribute CBD in Idaho the only way to guarantee they meet both the above conditions is if they produce the product themselves.
“Really, we are not doing anything special; we just specialize in CBD,” said Hellickson, adding that businesses run afoul when they attempt to resell a CBD product from a third-party distributor.
Such was the case in Pocatello in October when a local business became embroiled in a CBD controversy after the product it was selling contained trace amounts of THC when tested at an Idaho State Police crime lab. Ultimately, the business removed the CBD oil — a product from the Texas-based company Zilis LLC called UltraCell — from its shop and the shop owner was not criminally charged. A sign that reads “CBD sold here,” again hangs in the Yellowstone Avenue storefront window.
“The (Yellowstone) business was taken advantage of in thinking that the product was okay because the bottle said zero THC,” Hellickson said. “Zilis advertises on the bottle that its product is guaranteed to contain less than 0.0 percent THC. Key words there are less than, which means there are other numbers behind those zeroes. Our labs don’t lie to us. They are state-ran.”
Hellickson sources his CBD isolate powder from CBD Pur US in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, an international company that has patented a process of extracting CBD from the cannabis plant. He then mixes the powder with a medium-chain triglyceride coconut oil, which he says is approved by the FDA as a food product as well as a topical. He then bottles and labels each product himself.
“We don’t get our bottles from China or Japan but from Container and Packaging right here in Eagle, Idaho, and they’ve been in this state for over 35 years,” Hellickson said. “The labels are sourced from a local graphic and sticker guy. Everything is hermetic heat sealed and tamper-evident. We also use child safety locks on the droppers.”
To ensure his product contains absolutely no THC, Hellickson also uses a state-ran lab in Montana.
“We independently lab test all of our products, which is done through Fidelity Diagnostics in Missoula, Montana,” Hellickson said. “We do what is called a full-compliance test since there is no regulations on testing CBD products in our state. This test shows that we use a CBD isolate in powder form, it’s purity content and that there is no THC in the product at all. It also checks for any residual solvents, mycotoxins, microbials and pesticides, which my product passes in every category.”
Hellickson says he is ahead of the curve on the CBD market in Idaho because he fully understands the nuances surrounding the product. He said it helps that his product is rather affordable, too.
“Nobody wants to buy something that is hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” Hellickson said. “We sell a product that is 1,980 milligrams for terminal and severe conditions that is $80. Most people online are running upwards of $160 to $200-plus for that same milligram.”
Snake River Solace offers CBD products in the form of oil that can be administered orally or topically, a tincture, a topical creme and massage oil. Hellickson also offers CBD infused sodas and is working to expand his inventory to include confections and other CBD-infused beverages.
As the CBD market continues to grow, Hellickson said he wants to be a leader in the field, both in retail sales and in the form of educating consumers and state lawmakers.
However, Hellickson also says CBD is nothing new to the state of Idaho, claiming many counterculture and tobacco stores have been selling CBD oils for years, only quietly through word of mouth. He is hopeful such stores will eventually learn enough about CBD to find a product that works for them and is also legal in the state.
“Let’s take baby steps guys. We don’t need to rush in and legalize pot,” he said. “But if CBD doesn’t cause harm, by all means, somebody should be able to do it. We don’t tell people they can’t go run 30 miles or eat 100 cheeseburgers. CBD cannot be on the shelf because of that stigma, and I want to be a leader in erasing that stigma. CBD has been around Idaho for a long, long time. We were just the first ones to say, ‘Lets come out of the dark.’”