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Are Hemp-Derived CBD Products Illegal In Minnesota?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A controversy is growing over a trend showing up on Minnesota store shelves.

CBD products claim to help with everything from anxiety to seizures. The key ingredient comes from hemp plants, and supporters promise benefits similar to medical marijuana -- but critics don't think the products are even legal.

There are pouches for sleep and stress, oils, gummies, soft gels and deodorant. It's available to calm your dog and help with hips and joints. And now there's a store dedicated solely to products containing CBD.

Stores get around selling CBD over the counter because it's extracted from hemp, but it's legally a gray area.

"I tell people this is God's medicine, we were made to take this," said Marie Schneider, owner of The CBD Store.

Schneider's St. Cloud store advertises conditions the products can help, and they offer complimentary samples.

"Come in with a headache and leave without it. Come in anxious and leave feeling fantastic," Schneider said.

Her store has done so well since a spring opening, relatives opened a store in Maplewood.

"This is all about CBD. This is all about we want to help people be healthy," Doug Herkenhoff said.

Customers like veteran Maurice Champagne drive for hours looking for relief. He took four hours to travel from Mountain Iron.

"I have PTSD, depression, anxiety. I'm hoping it's at least part of a solution anything that will give me hope. I'm kind of grasping at straws," Champagne said.

That's why Stacey Simmens of Shakopee brought her mom, Shari Jewett of Grand Rapids.

"My mom suffers from pretty severe migraines. She's had a traumatic brain injury from a car accident," Simmens said.

"Some days I can't even get out of bed it hurts so bad," Jewett said.

It's being touted as a cheaper and more easily accessible alternative to medical marijuana, where you don't need a doctor or prescription to buy the hemp-CBD product. But the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy warns the industry is too liberally interpreting the law.

"I've sometimes characterized this as the Wild Wild West," Executive Director Cody Wiberg said. "This was a very rapidly developing industry. There is actually very little regulation of it. The sellers will say this is a dietary supplement, the FDA has actually said no."

Wiberg says the pharmacy board is currently questioning sellers' legality, but admits it is a complicated issue.

"We don't think they're legal right now," Wiberg said. "We don't want to deprive people of products that really could be helpful and may be a cheaper alternative and that could be the case if these products are ultimately regulated and have some standards in terms of their production and testing."

Wiberg urges customers to use caution. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture tested bottles from various locations brought in by authorities.

"In some cases the products contained no CBD at all, in other cases the CBD was perhaps half of what was stated on the label," Wiberg said.

Minnesota Poison Control Center's Dr. Travis Olives says this is a "buyer beware" type of situation.

"This is an unregulated, psychoactive drug that is out there, number 1, and 2, it's the other stuff that might be in there that you don't know about in unregulated products," Olives said.

For now, the legality isn't being enforced and the products aren't going anywhere. Analysts foresee a $20 billion industry by 2022.

"To prevent the sale when people can buy on and there are probably hundreds or thousands of retail businesses in Minnesota," Wiberg said. "It's pretty hard to go back and shut that all down."

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency considers CBD products illegal. It's looking at the issue and reviewing exact statutes.

The state urges caution against using the products and expects the issue to be addressed this legislative session.

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