CBD issues brewin' in Rochester: You can get it there, but you can't get it here

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Dee Hassen, left, of Barrington, gets ready to enjoy a delicious vanilla latte, sans CBD, at Fresh Vibes of Rochester on Tuesday, while her sisterTheresa Hassen of Rochester, looks on. (Rochester Voice photo)

ROCHESTER - Dee Hassen likes nothing more than to occasionally come in to Fresh Vibes restaurant in the downtown and enjoy a cup of their CBD-infused coffee.

But on Wednesday she found they were no longer serving the cannabidiol, a legal, non-psychoactive compound derived from cannabis and hemp that is often sold in oil form.

That's because Rochester Building, Zoning and Licensing Director Jim Grant had it pulled from Fresh Vibes' menu under a 2009 FDA Food Act that prohibits its use in food and drink.

In an exclusive interview with The Rochester Voice on Thursday, Grant said it's not that he's against CBD, seen by many as a panacea for everything from anxiety to inflammation to even seizures. He just can't let it be sold or served in food or drink in the city of Rochester.

CBD is derived from the family of cannabis-related plants, but to be legal under the 2018 Farm Bill it must be under .3 percent THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

In its simplest terms, the difference between hemp and cannabis is simply the amount of THC in the plant, according to a Maine cannabis caregiver: If it's less than .3 percent, it's hemp; if it's more, it's cannabis.

Grant noted that CBD is legal to be sold in Rochester as a tincture, salve or oil, but not in a food or beverage.

Besides Fresh Vibes, which had been selling CBD for about a year, Headlines Boutique of Rochester and local vape shops have been told to pull CBD edibles off the shelves.

Meanwhile, at Headlines main store in Nashua, Steve, a manager who would only give his first name, said the majority of the CBD product they sell is in the form of edibles, such as in drinks, gummies, chocolate and other foods.

"CBD has many formats to consume, it's endless," he said, adding, "It's legal in New Hampshire."

The pulling of CBD infused food and drink in Rochester won't likely deter those who enjoy CBD edibles as they are fully legal in Maine, where the governor in March legalized all such sales, proclaiming it a food supplement rather than medicine.

CBD-infused coffee is still being served at Dover Natural Marketplace and Café, a worker there said today.

Grant said he's aware of the good things said about the health benefits of CBD, and he hopes the state and federal government can come together to regulate it properly and uniformly. But for now CBD edibles are off the menu in Rochester.

"I don't care if they sell CBD, they just can't put it in food or drink," he said. "I hope this can get regulated; people should know what they're eating."

Fresh Vibes owner Kris Enis was not immediately available for comment today.

Meanwhile, Maine and New Hampshire cities and towns that continue to sell CBD edibles could run afoul of the FDA, which recently said adding CBD to foods is not allowed under federal law as CBD is now classified as medicine. The active ingredient, Epidiolex, is an approved anti-seizure medication, and under federal law, "medicine" cannot be added to food.

Even so, most believe the lucrative CBD and hemp farming industry is only going to grow.

Maine hemp farmers can earn between $16,000 and $200,000 per acre, depending on their production method, product quality and end market, a Portland Press Herald article recently reported.

One thing is certain for now, however. Hassen will be able to find some CBD infused coffee somewhere else, even if she can't in Rochester.

Her sister, Theresa Hassen of Rochester, will too, but not for her, for her dog, who is 12 and has arthritis.

"She loves it, she's like a puppy again," she said.

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