Your CBD Store to Close Following Legal Complications

May 20, 2024
• Following months of discussion and legal review, the local wellness store plans to close its doors at the end of the month.

After an investigation by Needham health officials, owner Anna Schickel will be moving out of her Great Plain Avenue storefront in the coming weeks. She announced the impending closure on Facebook last week.

The move comes after the Needham Public Health Division visited the store back in February to discover Schickel was selling gummies containing CBD, short for cannabidiol. State regulations and federal guidance dictate CBD cannot be added to food, and Schickel agreed to take them off the shelves. The town also requested a full product list, which Schickel said she provided.

After further review in March, the division also found Schickel’s water-soluble droplets and tinctures — oils dropped under the tongue — to be ingestible and thereby also out of compliance in Massachusetts. On May 10, Board of Health members felt they had no choice but to enforce legal requirements and therefore mandate the products not be sold in stores. Schickel has until May 31 to sell off the products.

All told, the prohibited products make up the vast majority of Schickel’s inventory. The decision to close, therefore, was not necessarily a difficult one to make, Schickel said.

“It’s not sustainable to stay in business just selling topical creams. That’s about 15% of our business, and the ingestible products make up about 85% of the business,” she said in an interview. “I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills, so there’s no way I could stay open.”

Your CBD Store is a franchise location of Sunmed, who declined to comment for this story.

Schickel pleaded her case at the last two Board of Health meetings in April and May, drawing a distinction between marijuana and hemp-derived CBD, which contains less than .3% THC, the compound found in cannabis. Marijuana is legal in Massachusetts.

At the root of the matter is restrictions around CBD, which cannot be added to food or dietary supplements because CBD is an active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug, Epidiolex, which treats for seizures.

In the nearly five years she’s operated the business, Schickel said she hasn’t received any complaints.

“A lot of people don’t want to get high using the marijuana plant,” Schickel said in an interview. “They want to seek out options for relief with a non-psychoactive product that’s not going to make them high, so that they can go function in their daily lives.”

Your CBD Store on Great Plain Avenue. (Cameron Morsberger)

The initial store visit by public health staffers followed a Boston Globe story on delta-8, a type of intoxicant that comes from the hemp plant, said Timothy McDonald, director of health and human services. The division scanned local liquor stores, gas stations and Schickel’s store to see whether any businesses contained products with delta-8, McDonald said.

In regard to the oil tinctures and water-soluble hemp-derived drops, the FDA wrote in an email to the Needham PHD that CBD products “cannot be lawfully marketed as dietary supplements.” McDonald said, from his understanding, business owners cannot make claims of therapeutic benefits.

In an email to the PHD in March, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health wrote that, accounting for the FDA’s position on the matter, “it sounds as though these hemp-derived oil tinctures and water-soluble drops are not foods from ‘approved sources’ [and] therefore cannot be sold in MA.”

While CBD in candles or similar products would be fine, McDonald said CBD in a food or beverage is not allowed. They took the matter to the Board of Health, which authorized public health officials to work with Schickel to “wind down her sales,” McDonald said.

From a regulation perspective, products must be proven safe, McDonald said, and there are rules around food safety that must be adhered to.

“We acknowledge it’s been a real challenge for her and her business, and obviously that’s not something we feel happy about. We don’t want to put people out of business,” McDonald said. “We do have to enforce rules.”

Schickel noted she was not required to have a food and beverage license when she opened in 2019, saying that “there’s been a shift in the definition of food, apparently.” When the store opened, Schickel said public health staffers did complete an inspection, and she was selling the oils, capsules and water solubles at the time.

But in the months following the store opening, the Needham Public Health exchanged numerous emails with Schickel, finding that she was offering free samples of a water soluble in store, which officials said was not allowed on site. McDonald said food sampling is not allowed, unless it’s from a food service establishment.

In an email dated Feb. 26 2020, Assistant Public Health Director Tara Gurge informed Schickel that cosmetic-type items, such as lotions and oils, containing CBD “may be generally valid for sale,” but that CBD cannot be added to food or drink. Gurge added that “no product can make any sort of therapeutic claims,” based on federal law.

Oil tinctures on display at Your CBD Store in Needham May 17, 2024. (Cameron Morsberger)

Schickel later began selling CBD gummies because “everyone in town was selling them, and I thought the rules had changed,” she told the BOH April 12. Schickel said she hasn’t heard of other Massachusetts franchise locations having similar complications.

Facing the end of her business, Schickel said she’s unsure what will happen to her additional inventory. At the BOH’s suggestion, she will be able to sell to other Your CBD Store locations in the state, she said.

After a debilitating back injury at 23 years old, Schickel was left in severe pain. Prescription medications caused bad side effects, which led her to seek out more natural therapies. A car accident 10 years later resurfaced her back problems, but CBD reduced her pain, she said.

Customers have shared similarly positive experiences with the chemical, and Schickel said her store was thriving. Since announcing the end of the business, she said she’s overwhelming support, both publicly and privately. Several people spoke at the BOH’s meeting in April, siding with Schickel. The oil tincture is her most popular product, she said.

Lisa Cherbuliez, who said she used CBD after a sports injury, told the board she’d be disappointed if the store were to shut down.

“If this closes, I can go elsewhere. Needham will lose a shop, we’ll have another open place,” Cherbuliez said. “We might get a bank, we might get a nail salon, we might get a pizza place.”

As the store comes to a close, Schickel said she’ll be looking for someone to take over her lease, which runs until August 2025. If she’s unable to find a sublessee, she said she’ll still owe her landlord rent.

Given the “huge financial investment” she’s made in the business, Schickel said she feels the town should have considered the potential harm they could be causing by enforcing the regulations.

“In this case, it seems as though the health department and the Board of Health have decided to protect themselves rather than the community,” she said.

McDonald reiterated that the town is not forcing the closure of her store, but rather enforcing regulations around what she’s able to sell.

Inspecting restaurants for inspections and permit renewal is routine, McDonald said, but their department never did that with Your CBD Store. He said he feels they made their position clear on what was and wasn’t allowed for sale in the late winter and spring of 2020.

“And then she has been selling products for a long time,” McDonald said. “I think she feels like we’re pulling the rug out from under her.”

Schickel does not plan to reopen elsewhere anytime soon. She may return to the speech pathology field, which she left about a year and a half ago to run her store full-time.

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