Plenty of people come to trendy restaurant Gracias Madre in West Hollywood for their vegan Mexican cuisine. But many are showing up for special cocktails infused with cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a compound derived from cannabis that, purportedly, has health benefits.
Beverage director Maxwell Reis’ favorites are the grandmothers. “The little old lady who wanders in the front door and says, ‘My daughter started giving me CBD for my arthritis and I saw on the internet that you have it.’” It happens a lot. “They’ll have two, be a complete delight, and come in routinely afterward.”
That’s when I decided to try one of these wellness potions. For journalism.
CBD won’t get you high because it is non-psychoactive, unlike THC, the main component in cannabis. According to devotees, however, it has anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties. Most CBD oils are hemp derived, an over-the-counter version of its marijuana cousin, so there’s none of the stoner baggage associated with weed.
Now prominently displayed on health food store shelves and easy to buy online, CBD oils and supplements promise everything from clearer skin to pain relief to a better night’s sleep. Fast-gaining popularity among grandmothers, celebrities and professional athletes, earlier this year, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed it from their prohibited substances list.
Gracias Madre introduced their cannabis cocktails a couple of years ago, in the “High Vibes” section of the menu, with names like “Stony Negroni” or “Rolled Fashioned.” All made with CBD oil, now they’re among the most popular drinks on the menu.
The range of CBD products on the market now is staggering. Olivia Wilde told the New York Times that she swears by Lord Jones CBD Body Lotion to soothe tired muscles. There are bath bombs, “Peace & Wellness” coffee, Sexy Time Personal Intimacy Oil, promising to create a “soft glide” and “uplifting mood.” Also, face masks, chocolates, gummy candies and even products for pets. They’re not cheap. “With CBD” seems to translate in most cases to “costs over $50.” Some spas offer CBD-oil massages and facials.
Josh Hendrix, a Kentucky-based hemp producer, and director of business development at CV Sciences says he’s seen sales practically double in the past year for the company’s Plus CBD Oil, now sold in 1800 stores across the country.
“Everybody wants to feel better, not everyone wants to get high,” he says. There’s an appeal to the touted benefits minus the stoner stigma. “People that are coming to health food stores and buying CBD oil probably wouldn’t go into a dispensary to get a botanical extract. They’re buying fish oil, turmeric, curcumin, and this is the newest supplement, the hottest category.”
CBD is marketed as a pain and anxiety reliever, and every so often at an LA party one might overhear an anecdotal, “ … and it cured her cancer!” story, but the actual science is slim, and clinical trials are underway. Legally, it’s hazy. You can order CBD on Amazon to ship anywhere in the country, but the Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies extracted CBD as a Schedule 1 substance, along with marijuana and heroin. They don’t appear to be storming into health food stores making busts, though. (Hemp growers cite the 2014 Farm Bill, which legitimizes industrial hemp production as evidence it’s legal.)
At Gracias Madre one Friday afternoon, Reis makes me an “Alternative Medicina,” his take on a penicillin cocktail, citrusy and smoky, with a few drops of CBD. He drops a CBD-infused ginger candy into a tiny, plastic drug baggie that he clips to the side of the glass with a mini-clothespin roach. It’s extremely Instagramable.
He offers to put a few drops of the oil on my hand to try by itself. It tastes exactly like pot. Herby and musty, but surprisingly smooth. Reis himself uses CBD – an Apothecanna face oil that he swears eliminated the bags under his eyes, and he sends a body creme to his dad for his arthritis.
I’m halfway through the drink and feeling not buzzed, not high, but – chill. “Yours is a half dose,” he tells me. He did that on purpose. After all, I’m working. But he indicates the souvenir that comes with the drink for when I go home. “If you eat the ginger candy, you’ll feel a lot better,” he says. I skip the candy and end up falling asleep at nine o’clock that night. I sleep a full ten hours. It’s the best sleep I’ve had in years.