Gas stations, national supermarket chains and just about every other retail outlet is jumping on the CBD train to help sales. Mobile vendors are even selling it — but how long will the wheels keep moving?
Bart Mowrey originally built his Clowdee trailer as a mobile vendor for vaporizer products but has shifted toward CBD as he's noticed the cannabinoid's popularity grow. He has since parked his Airstream-style trailer outside of suburban shopping centers and at local food and arts festivals, and hasn't had problems attracting attention.
"You always try to find a vertical where there's zero population, and mobilizing something gives it a sense of individuality," he says. "It's a little challenging from the standpoint of being viewed as something new and different. People are a little weirded out about it, so connecting with the street can be difficult. But it's changing slowly. People aren't used to seeing mobile commerce outside of food."
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Projected to reach as much as $16 billion in value by 2025, the CBD industry has boomed as more states legalize marijuana and federal hemp laws loosen. Despite commercial interest and desire having been established, society is still figuring out where and how we put CBD into our bodies. The non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis (both hemp and marijuana) has shown promise for helping anything from joint pain to post-traumatic stress disorders. But the confusion surrounding CBD's effectiveness and legality has made buying it a challenge for consumers, while zealous entrepreneurs are trying to quickly shove CBD into their otherwise average products.
All of that unknown could scare some business owners away, but Mowrey believes in CBD's potential so much that he's hit the road, taking his self-built Clowdee trailer to local festivals and parking lots to spread the gospel. Since then, he's found out that being a CBD salesman also means being a teacher.
"It's almost 100 percent educational compared to selling. From what I've seen, people are reasonably sure they want it, and that's wonderful, but there comes a disconnect in terms of understanding what it's functional for," he explains.
CBD products derived from hemp are legal for sale and consumption in Colorado, thanks to our laws that define hemp-infused foods and legalize recreational marijuana. And with the 2018 Farm Bill ending federal hemp prohibition, Colorado retailers and eateries can legally sell CBD or add it to their products as the industry waits on pending CBD regulations from the Food and Drug Administration.
Like smoke shops, CBD boutiques and other brick-and-mortar locations in Colorado, the Clowdee trailer sells CBD topicals and vaporizer products, which typically run anywhere from $30 to $70. Price tags like that usually require a little persuasion, though, especially for anyone who's confused about CBD's legality.
However, $3 or $5 for a one-time try might be a little easier for food vendors, even if it is on top of a hot dog or hamburger.
La Xochitl food truck made a splash in May when owner Chito Arreola announced he was adding a CBD secret sauce to the menu for hamburgers — which did wonders for growing La Xochitl's initial profile, Arreola says. The early success prompted him to add $7 CBD-infused sodas to the menu, which he quickly sold out of.
According to Arreola, roughly 60 percent of his customers don't know what CBD is when they walk up to order, and there's a good chance that lack of education extends past the public and into the world of restaurateurs — many of whom would rather be known for their cooking than their experimentation with cannabis, he adds.
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"My culinary background is very extensive, and I don't want to be the guy who goes down in history for CBD," Arreola says. "There's so much in this area that we all need to learn. I had to do my homework for, like, three weeks to make sure I wouldn't get thrown into jail."
Part of the public's growing acceptance of CBD could be linked to coffee shops that started adding it to products a couple of years ago for a small fee. Since then, a handful of Denver bars have incorporated CBD into their drink menus. Sit-down restaurants still haven't been as welcoming, but junk food and casual operations have.
Carl's Jr. received criticism for adding 5 milligrams CBD to a hamburger sauce on April 20 earlier this year, while the maker of Oreos has floated the idea of adding CBD to its cookies. A hot dog cart at last weekend's Cherry Creek Art Festival offered a CBD-infused topping for $5 hot dogs, nearly doubling the price of the hot dog for 30 milligrams of CBD.
For Arreola, it doesn't matter how it gets into his body, as long as the CBD is quality. "I'm all for it. I sleep better, and it can help me get energized during the day," he says. "This gives me a chance to have a conversation with our customers and educate them about what CBD can and can't do."