LINCOLN — A Scottsbluff mother and son landed behind bars Friday for selling cannabidiol products from their new shop.
Local police arrested Heather and Dreyson Beguin on charges of possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and seized the store’s inventory, one day after it opened.
But the raid has been the exception in Nebraska, as stores selling products made with cannabidiol, or CBD, have proliferated across the state.
More typical have been the 18 quiet months that have passed since Adam Brewer opened CBD Remedies in a historic Lincoln neighborhood. He said he has never been contacted by law enforcement, despite having a police station just down the street.
Nor have authorities questioned Garrett Carbonell, who owns one of three CBD American Shaman franchises in the Omaha metro area.
“We’re not doing anything illegal,” Carbonell said. “We follow the law.”
CBD comes from hemp, a cousin of the marijuana plant that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces marijuana’s high. State and federal law define hemp as having less than 0.3 percent THC.
The new stores sell CBD products as health and wellness aids, similar to herbal supplements. Products include pills, gummies, vaping liquid, oils, lotions and more. There are even some products geared toward pets.
But in 2017 and again last month, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson issued memos to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors saying that CBD “has been and continues to be” illegal under Nebraska law.
The only exceptions, he said, are for a four-year University of Nebraska Medical Center study authorized by the Nebraska Legislature in 2015 and for a prescription version of CBD oil approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in June.
The prescription product, Epidiolex, was approved for treating two rare and severe seizure disorders.
Peterson reminded the officials that Nebraska law defines any other form of CBD as marijuana, which means it is illegal to possess, distribute, manufacture or dispense.
Carbonell and Brewer disagree.
Based on analyses done by their attorneys, they argue that Nebraska law does not prohibit products with less than 0.3 percent THC and less than 10 percent CBD. They said products with higher levels of CBD are limited to the medical center study and Epidiolex.
“His interpretation of the law is just that, an interpretation,” Carbonell said of the attorney general’s memos.
American Shaman has won fights in other states over the legality of CBD products. The company’s attorney, Sean Pickett, helped two people in Herman, Nebraska, get charges dismissed last month over selling CBD products, Carbonell said.
“Nebraska has been one of the harder states to open up,” he said.
Still, business at Carbonell’s Omaha store, which opened in late July 2017 on South 96th Street, has been good enough for his wife to quit her job and become a stay-at-home mother.
The products can be pricey and are not covered by insurance.
Brewer said a typical 500 milligram bottle costs from $35 on up and can last up to a month, depending on a person’s need. But he said his store, which shares space with a vaping shop, attracts a wide range of people.
“They are from all walks of life, from college students suffering with anxiety to elderly people with horrible pain and everything in between,” he said.
In Scottsbluff, Heather Beguin said her interest in CBD products began after she suffered injuries in a car accident two years ago.
Beguin said she did not want to take pain medications for treatment, after becoming addicted previously. Her son, who lived in Florida at the time, introduced her to a CBD product that she says gave her relief.