Long Island sellers of CBD — a compound derived from cannabis that isn't mind-altering — can breathe easier this week after President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill this month, legislation that legalizes hemp production in all 50 states.
Hemp, a form of cannabis with much lower levels of the psychoactive compound THC than marijuana, is already grown legally in New York. Its production is restricted to participants in the state’s Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program, administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
The new federal law eliminates some of the challenges faced by local vendors of products infused with CBD, or cannabidiol, allowing them to legally sell their wares and buy raw materials across state lines.
Some enthusiasts of CBD say they use the extract as an alternative healing product to treat ailments ranging from acne to anxiety, insomnia to inflammation, and joint pain to depression and stress. And CBD-based goods run the gamut from sublingual oils and topical lotions, to herbal teas and bottled water to chocolate chip cookies and “calming” dog treats.
The law, which also allocates billions of dollars in subsidies to American farmers, allows hemp growers to apply for federal crop insurance, and CBD product makers and sellers to receive financial services from banks and credit card processing companies.
"For small businesses like ours, it's a big relief," said Wantagh resident Brittany Carbone, who together with her husband Erik Carbone owns CBD oil company Tonic.
The Carbones, who own a 5-acre farm in upstate Berkshire, are licensed by the state to grow industrial hemp there. The couple, who said they will source CBD for their products in 2019 from the hemp they're cultivating, planted the first crop in June and harvested it in September.
Sales for the business, which sells 30-milliliter bottles of Chill Tonic CBD oil for about $90 each, are projected to near $500,000 by the end of the year.
"Credit card processing companies frequently cut services to CBD businesses off without warning," she said. "That recently happened to us and it was stressful because all of a sudden we were left without a way to do business."
The abrupt cease in services from the company's credit card processor affected Tonic's online sales, Carbone said.
"Which of course, are very important because they represent the bulk of our business," she said.
"But in-person transactions are also jeopardized because nowadays most people prefer to pay with their credit or debit cards so, the hope now is, that we won't have to worry about these kind of things happening anymore."
Even so, for the Carbones the farm bill means more than uninterrupted business, it "legitimizes" the CBD industry, they said.
"It separates us from the stigma associated with illegality and brings us closer to being perceived as a wellness supplement instead of a drug," Erik Carbone said.
Hank Berger and his son, Ian Berger, who in January co-founded Altrufuel, an Oceanside-based CBD fitness supplement company, agree.
"The beauty of the farm bill is that it allows small-business owners to sell products without hiding," Hank Berger said.
"It's also a nod of sorts for big-box retailers like the Walmarts and Targets of the world, saying 'Hey, it's OK to carry these products now' and do so without fear of government reprisal. And for businesses like ours, it means we don't have to worry about current retailers having to take our products off the shelf."
Altrufuel products — which include the Recovery Blend, a collagen and CBD vanilla-flavored protein powder, and capsules of Unwind, a CBD relaxation and nighttime supplement — are sold on the company's website and available at several local health and wellness shops, including 7 Leaf Clover's hemp stores in Westbury and Brooklyn.
And though the farm bill has given business owners of CBD companies some peace of mind, Hank Berger said, "it's not magic."
"Companies like Amazon have not yet lifted restrictions on CBD sales and credit card processors are still charging CBD businesses per-transaction interest rates twice as high as those charged to other types of companies," he said.
"Great opportunities are coming but it's going to take some time for the industry to catch up to the new law."