Adam Combs gently pulled down the woman’s purple shirt, exposing her right shoulder, and began rubbing the oil into her skin. A sudden whiff of eucalyptus and mint filled the store as the woman exhaled a sigh of relief.

“Oh that feels good,” she said. “I can feel a warm sensation relaxing the muscle.”

This was the first time she had visited Camel City Hemp in Winston-Salem, the city’s newest Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, shop, situated on Burke Street.

CBD, is a naturally occurring cannabinoid, or chemical compound that’s found in the cannabis plant. The other well-known cannabinoid is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound that gets marijuana users high. Because CBD doesn’t have the same mind-altering effect as THC, it’s gained immense popularity amongst those who seek pain or anxiety relief without getting high. To capitalize on this new demand, many in the industry have turned to hemp plants, which have low levels of THC and higher levels of CBD when compared to marijuana. Shops like Hookah Hookup and even House of Health carry CBD products these days.

This morning, the woman had come to Camel City Hemp looking for alternatives to synthetic drugs to deal with chronic pain that began when she was in the army.

“I have degenerative arthritis in my lower back and shoulders,” she said. “I used to take medication but I couldn’t function so I don’t take drugs that have more than two side effects anymore.”

Hesitant to ingest any of the oils or teas, Combs convinced the woman to try his topical CBD spray, which he says helps alleviate pain. The woman, who preferred not to be named, was one of several customers who entered Combs’s shop, which opened in late June. All had come to satisfy their curiosity about the newest trend in natural health care.

Supporters tout CBD as a one-size-fits-all medical marvel. Products with varying levels of CBD claiming to help with sleep, anxiety, pain, and even acne have flooded the market. Many companies contend that CBD products are safe for kids and pets. Combs is one of those believers.

“All of our products are natural and contain less than 0.3 percent THC which is the legal limit,” Combs said. “It’s for people looking for natural pain relief.”

Dressed in camo shorts that show off the skull tattoos on his legs and his navy Adidas Boosts, Combs doesn’t look like the stereotypical health nut. That doesn’t stop him and his wife Casey from eating only natural foods, avoiding GMO products and synthetic drugs. Instead, they use their CBD products for things like sleep and anxiety. And while many aspects of the couple’s lifestyle could be considered controversial, their passion for CBD, at least, is backed by science.

Learn more at camelcityhemp.com.

Sativex, an oral spray product containing both THC and CBD has been used in several European countries to help those with multiple sclerosis since 2010. In late June of this year, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution for kids with rare forms of epilepsy. Most hemp or CBD products on the market however, aren’t regulated by the FDA, and hemp production is still illegal in many states. The 2014 Farm Bill helped legalize hemp production in North Carolina, but only as part of the state’s pilot program as allowed under federal law. To change this, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky introduced a bill in April to remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances and give farmers across the country the ability to grow it legally.

Still, many who come in to Camel City Hemp are wary of the negative connotations attached to using CBD products because of its close association with marijuana which remains illegal in North Carolina.

Two of Combs’ first customers of the day also declined to give their names.

They, like the veteran who tried the spray, had come to the shop looking for ways to cure their many ailments but felt uncomfortable being publicly associated with CBD. The woman, who suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, and the man, who lives with chronic back pain and epilepsy, both say they were prescribed the highly addictive opioid Oxycodone, to deal with their pain.

“I would just rather have something that I know works without the harmful side effects,” said the man.

Both listened eagerly as Combs described several products that filled the glass case and slim refrigerator next to him. Ingestible gummies and caramels along with CBD-infused tea, sprays, facial serums, tinctures, and popular oils were displayed under stark, fluorescent lights that gave off a subtly sterile vibe.

camel-city-hemp-winston-salem-cbd
(photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

In the end, Combs sold the pair on a 1,000 mg, whole-plant extract of hemp oil, to be administered under the tongue, and a pack of vegan CBD gummies.

“I wanted something that’s more like going into a pharmacy and knowing what you’re getting,” said the woman. “I was excited to hear about this shop opening.”

And that’s exactly Combs’s goal.

“In 10 years, every single pharmaceutical company will be a CBD company,” Combs said. “The future is pharmaceutical-grade CBD products.”

The entrepreneur even provides certificates of analysis with all of his products to show customers exactly what’s in them.

“We’re just doing our part to offer a clean product that’s what it’s supposed to be,” Combs said. “I’ve been a believer in cannabis my whole life. I’m just waiting for the market to catch up.”

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