After the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD, THC's little sibling had a major glow-up. Walk into a natural foods market or even a well-stocked home goods store today and you'll find a dizzying array of CBD tinctures, oils, gummies, softgels, lotions, and salves.
Since CBD (short for cannabidiol) isn't psychoactive like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the Farm Bill made growing cannabis legal as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent of THC (which then classifies the plant as hemp). But with almost no other regulations in place, the CBD market has become a bit like the Wild West.
"CBD is really confusing for people. There's a million brands on the market and it's not one-size-fits-all," says Grant McCabe, owner of The Leaf in Beacon, a CBD specialty boutique that opened in 2019.
According to him, the CBD market has become saturated by companies looking to make a profit by creating low-quality, inconsistent products. The "wild swings" in quality frustrated McCabe, who had been selling CBD since its earliest days at his Beacon vape and smoke shop, Smokers Mecca. After the Farm Bill passed, he decided to jump head-on into the CBD world himself.
McCabe applied for a growers' license as part of the Department of Agriculture's industrial hemp research program—allowing him to control the supply chain start to finish. He then began working with trained formulists to create CBD products from his New York-grown hemp that he could sell at The Leaf.
Unlike many other CBD brands, The Leaf provides a space where McCabe and his team can educate customers about how to select and use the products they've created. "We put a lot of time, thought, and energy into research and development," he says. "We look at what people generally want to accomplish with CBD, like treating anxiety, stress, pain, or sleep then reverse engineer products that do what we need them to do."
To do so, the team isolates and extracts many other compounds found in the hemp plant, not just CBD. The tinctures, for instance, pair CBD with terpenes (the same plant compounds that give cannabis its pungent aroma and taste) that produce indica or sativa effects, and the Nighttime Gummies are formulated with an additional compound called CBN (cannabinol) to help you stay asleep.
When the team develops new products, they often show up in the shop for customers to try and provide real-time feedback. In fact, customers can sample many of the over 100 products at The Leaf—from tinctures to gummies, softgels, raw hemp flower, pre-roll joints, teas, salves, and bath and body products made with hemp seed oil. "We sample our products because they're good and we believe that much in them," says McCabe.
In October 2020, Governor Cuomo announced proposed state regulations for CBD products aimed at establishing quality controls for manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and laboratory testing. Except for a few labeling changes, the standards are already in line with what McCabe and his team have been doing to bring their products to market. "For a lot of companies it's going to be a huge compliance issue, but for us it's not a big deal," he says. "If you start from the beginning with quality products, the end result will be quality, too."