CBD Craze: Does It Work, and Is It Legal?

A Special Report Takes a Closer Look at CBD in the Northland


Chances are you’ve heard of it “CBD” is a product that’s hit the shelves in Minnesota and Wisconsin stores.

Leaders in the industry are cashing in, calling the trend “a gold rush.” Many of the people who use it say it works to treat their illness, but on the flip side pharmacy leaders have issued warnings calling this new product not quite legal, possibly even dangerous.

In the Twin Ports CBD can be bought anywhere from Amazon, to local salons, smoke shops, liquor stores or even a business fully dedicated to the product in Superior.

“A lot of people like medical marijuana because it takes away their pain, CBD does the same thing without the feeling of the high,” said Applehouse Superior Co-Owner Jason Sutherland.

The Sutherland family has a loyal customer base.

“Some people have come in here and cried that it’s helped them or their loved ones, their pets,” said Sutherland.

A wide range of people use CBD, like stay-at-home-mom Susanna Schafer. She says it treats her anxiety.

“Maybe it’s a placebo effect but I feel like it definitely helped, made me feel relaxed and makes me feel not so worked up and stressed.”

Some users say CBD is keeping them alive.

“It gives me hope, and time for my family,” said Jason Scurlock. “I can’t die anytime soon, I don’t want to.”

Eight months ago Scurlock’s life flipped upside down.

“Right before my 41st birthday I found out I got cancer in my stomach and esophagus,” said Scurlock. “It was one of the worst days of my life. He gave me six months to a year.”

With nothing to lose Jason says, he gained more than he ever thought a little bottle could give him.

“I had another pet scan and my tumor went away,” said Scurlock. “It shrank after radiation but I still had a little bit. After I started using this, the spots on my liver started disappearing.”

While the buzz of excitement grows, so does the controversy and confusion.

The CBD products sold on shelves now are not approved by the FDA meaning there’s no official regulation that what the label says is truly inside.

“The purity and quality control are so unknown it’s hard to recommend someone continue to use the product they are using,” said St. Luke’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Peterson.

Peterson says the hospital won’t recommend CBD oil to anyone except cancer patients who are also certified to use medical marijuana.

“We don’t know how much is too much,” said Peterson. “We don’t know the long-term effects from CBD oil and because of that lack of information we just can’t make a good recommendation for it.”

But the hospital knows, some of their patients will take it anyway.

“There’s a lot of people who are suffering out there that are looking for any, any help at all,” said Peterson. “We do know that the placebo effect occurs in about 15 to 20 percent of people that’s why we need to have studies about what’s effective, what’s placebo.”

Some doctors do embrace CBD.

“We’ve  just started using it in the past 6 months and we’ve had really good results with it,” said Dr. Robert Torgrimson with Associated Chiropractic Physicians in Duluth.

Dr. Torgrimson says he’s prescribed CBD to about a 100 of his patients, but he warns buyer beware. The product does not come without risks.

“Some of the products that are coming in are toxic to the system, they create more problems than they’re worth,” said Torgrimson. “Hemp is a very big heavy metal detoxifier so it needs to be grown on organic soil.”

He suggests, read the labels do your homework. There are possible side effects.

“Some people will get a headache, initially for three to four days, some people might feel nausea. Rarely, but it does happen it can interfere with anti-anxiety medications,” said Torgrimson.

Perhaps the biggest controversy about CBD is its legal status.  Through our FOX 21 investigation we learned CBD doesn’t actually have the “green light,” in Minnesota or federally.

“The sale of these products is currently illegal,” said Cody Wiberg with the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. “For reasons I don’t know or understand, companies started believing that they could sell the product, and they started producing the product. I’ve looked at websites that say, ‘it’s legal in all 50 states and I don’t know where they’re getting their information from or legal advice from but it’s simply not the case.”

A legal gray area hiding in plain sight, even the doctors we talked to weren’t aware of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy’s decision on CBD. However, the board doesn’t have plans of stopping the sale of CBD at this point.

“By the time regulators like the board became really aware of this rapidly expanding industry, the genie is out of the bottle,” said Wiberg. “ I would guess right now that there are hundreds of retail establishments in Minnesota that are selling the product, there are probably thousands of online internet sites it can be purchased from, once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put back in.”

That could change if the board gets complaints about people getting hurt or sick taking CBD.

“Bottom line, if people want to use the product they would be well advised to consult with a healthcare professional, use caution,” said Weiberg. “ Try as best they can to find a reliable product. Not that it necessarily means it’s happened, but it would be better to buy a product that at least claims it’s been third-party tested.”

In Wisconsin, we couldn’t get any response to requests to the Attorney General about the current state-wide laws there.

The FDA put out its own warning about CBD, saying the only federally legal products are ones that have been tested through their drug approval process.

In a statement released at the end of December 2018 they said “deceptive marketing of unproven treatments raises significant public health concerns, as it may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious, even fatal diseases.”

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