Inventory may be changing at Your CBD Store on Great Plain Ave./ Credit: Needham Observer

The murky regulatory structure that governs the sale of products containing cannabidiol (CBD) has a Needham Center store owner facing the threat of going out of business.

Anna Schickel, who has operated Your CBD Store at 1096 Great Plain Ave. since October 2019, received a temporary reprieve from the Board of Health at its meeting last week after having initially been told she faced an April 16 deadline to stop selling products she said comprise the vast majority of her inventory.

The action trickled down from the federal Food and Drug Administration through at least two state agencies and eventually to the Needham Board of Health, which was notified last month that many of Your CBD Store’s products should not be allowed for sale based on FDA guidelines and a state directive.

“On March 25, we were told that we were not allowed to sell any of the initial products that we had been approved for — the oils, the water solubles, the gel capsules,” Schickel told the Board of Health during the public comment period of its April 12 meeting. Not being able to sell those products, which make up 85% of the store’s sales, would force it to go out of business, she said.  

“I do understand that you are bound by the Massachusetts regulations. And I’m aware of this patchwork of regulations that has been put in place, based on statements by the FDA,” said Schickel. “But what I’m asking, since we have been selling this very innocuous product for the last four-and-a-half years, is to have an extension.”

CBD, a derivative of the hemp plant, has pain relieving and anti-anxiety properties but does not cause a psychoactive “high” like marijuana or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The state’s Cannabis Control Commission regulates marijuana in Massachusetts.

Tim McDonald, the town’s director of health and human services, indicated the Board of Health has limited options based on guidance he received from town counsel, the state Department of Agricultural Resources and the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards. 

Anna Schickel, owner of Your CBD Store, at Board of Health meeting/ Credit: Needham Observer

 “We are confident that we are following the rules,” he said. “Illegal is a strong way to put it. Better to say these are products that are not allowed for sale.”

Because the issue with the store was not on the board’s agenda, further discussion on how to proceed was conducted at the end of the meeting, when members discussed alternative courses of action.

“The FDA for a year has been looking for a new paradigm for regulating these products,” said board member Stephen Epstein. “They still have significant concerns about the health impacts.”

According to an FDA statement in January 2023, “The use of CBD raises various safety concerns, especially with long-term use. Studies have shown the potential for harm to the liver, interactions with certain medications and possible harm to the male reproductive system. CBD exposure is also concerning when it comes to certain vulnerable populations such as children and those who are pregnant.”

The FDA noted that “existing regulatory frameworks for foods and supplements” were not the right tool for CBD products. The announcement was seen as a blow to the burgeoning CBD industry, which had hoped the agency would greenlight CBD’s use. The FDA pledged to work with Congress on a fix, but none has emerged.

At the state level, legislators have been receiving complaints from the heavily regulated recreational marijuana industry regarding the sale of unregulated products by stores such as Your CBD Store. The Cannabis Control Commission has said the sale of hemp-derived CBD food or beverage products that make therapeutic claims is prohibited.

In February, the Commonwealth Beacon reported, “The products are technically illegal in Massachusetts, but neither the Agricultural Department, which regulates hemp, nor the Department of Public Health, which regulates food products, has stepped up with any enforcement. The agencies have left that job to under-resourced local boards of health which have taken no action.”

Needham, however, has a well-resourced local health board that has the bandwidth to take action.

“This is an unfortunate situation and we probably do need to wind down the business,” said Epstein. “But how can we do that in a responsible manner?”

McDonald said the initial course of action was recommended by town counsel Chris Heep, who expressed liability concerns. “He suggested giving 10 days maximum, time to sell off supply. We ended up giving just under three weeks.”

“Town counsel didn’t think it was a great strategy to delay enforcement,” McDonald explained.

After some discussion, the board decided it would extend the time frame and take no further action before doing more research. It intends to resume the discussion at its next monthly meeting on May 10.

Jennifer Tirnauer contributed to this story

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