Will CBD-Centric Venues Start Popping Up Like Weeds?
As laws begin to soften, experiential spaces centered around the hottest new health supplement are opening up and helping consumers chill out.
Photo: Richard Edens
“We have created a space for everyone to find what brings them joy. And if they can’t find it, we help them create it,” explained Shauna Blanch, Color Up Therapeutics’ co-owner and C.O.O., about the brand’s recently opened CBD Wellness & Education Center.
Located in downtown Denver, the 12,000-square-foot campus is the largest facility dedicated to CBD and cannabinoids education in the city, which is saying something considering Colorado has been at the forefront of the marijuana and CBD legalization movements.
“The goal is to break the stigma surrounding this medicinal plant through education and awareness, and to help our community see a different side of cannabis.”
In addition to a variety of CBD-focused events, spa services, and offerings, the wellness center is also home to Color Up Therapeutics’ manufacturing and production lab where visitors can take a tour and get a peek at the creation of the brand’s hemp-derived products such as eye creams, lotions, and lip balms. “This is unique, as most CBD products are not actually made by the company selling them. Here at Color Up Therapeutics, people can see our process from start to finish and we are able to infuse mainstream activities with the healthy benefits of CBD,” Blanch said.
The center had a soft opening back in January, with plans for a grand opening slated for April 20 (yup, that's 4/20). The activity comes on the heels of the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill back in December, which made hemp-based CBD cultivation legal nationwide.
Before this, under the Controlled Substances Act of the 1970s, cannabis of any kind had been banned, with individual states enforcing their own regulations surrounding CBD. (States will maintain this power under the new bill.)
To be clear, the new legislation refers to products that contain cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating compound found in hemp plants, which purportedly helps with anxiety, insomnia, pain, and inflammation. Legal CBD products must contain less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive compound THC (the stuff in marijuana that causes a high).
According to the Farm Bill, hemp is now classified as an agricultural commodity (as opposed to a controlled substance), making it easier for legal and possibly higher-quality products to be more readily available around the country. Plus, there are now no longer restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, as long as the items are produced according to the law.
And the law can be tricky.
Wellness brand Recess, which makes sparkling water that’s infused with hemp extract and adaptogens, recently opened a semi-permanent pop-up space in New York’s NoHo neighborhood. Recess IRL, the brand’s “first recreational wellness destination,” is designed to be more than a retail space, but rather an experiential place with wellness programming where consumers can “take a Recess” from daily life, explained Benjamin Witte, the company’s founder and C.E.O.
But in February, just days before Recess IRL opened, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a ban on the use of CBD in food and beverage items sold in restaurants, bars, and cafés in the city, based on federal guidelines that say CBD is “not safe as a food additive.”
Even though the drink has been described as the “LaCroix of cannabis,” Recess contains hemp extract, not CBD, so the company believes the ban doesn’t pertain to the beverage. But Witte explained that the company is still working to remain on the up-and-up as laws evolve.
“As the current letter from the New York Department of Health appears to be focused on restaurants adding CBD isolate to food or drink products made on-premise, we are confident that this does not apply to Recess,” Witte said. “Even more importantly, Recess is infused with hemp extract, not CBD isolate, and is fully compliant with all product and packaging regulations. That said, Recess is working behind the scenes to ensure further clarification of the law as a part of the broader movement to introduce hemp products into the mainstream.”
Because the hemp and CBD industries are largely unregulated, with laws that vary from state to state, brands like Recess and Color Up Therapeutics are hoping to educate the public—and build trust—as part of the buying experience. For example, Color Up Therapeutics’ CBD Wellness & Education Center hosts educational workshops surrounding CBD and cannabis, as well as offering CBD-infused cooking lessons and CBD-infused yoga classes and spa services like facials and massages. The company also holds classes for beauty industry professionals like estheticians and massage therapists who want to become more versed on CBD.
The Brightfield Group, a cannabis industry research firm, predicts that the hemp-based CBD market could reach $22 billion by 2022, with the Farm Bill helping to feed that growth. Over the past year or so, the event industry has seen a bit of this so-called “green rush” with the introduction of CBD-infused cocktails for example. But will the trend spread further, with venues such as the wellness center sprouting up like, well, weeds? Blanch thinks so.
“Absolutely. We hope to see them on every corner,“ Blanch said. “Our company has been approached by several wellness professionals hoping to franchise. We are looking into that opportunity now as we want to continue growing this community, spreading the knowledge, and helping others find a safe space to learn about cannabis and how to incorporate it into a healthier lifestyle.”