Madison Tart has been interested in hemp products ever since they helped relieve her anxiety while studying at UNC.
So, when the 22-year-old graduated with a degree in psychology last year, she took a job with Cannabliss, a cannabis store in Chapel Hill. She was drawn to the shop because it centers around empathy, healing and education.
“I applied for the position with the hope that I could connect with the people in the community, help them treat their physical and mental ailments, explore my own personal passion for cannabis and grow knowledge on the subject,” she said.
Cannabliss, which opened its first store front early last year, is working to destigmatize hemp use in education and with social events. Although in-person events have been paused due to the omicron variant, the shop has hosted monthly music, art and dance parties in the past.
Paige Henderson, the shop's dispensary director, said that the shop plans to bring the events back as soon as it is safe.
“We really wanted to create a space for people to meet and connect with others that didn’t have to center around alcohol,” she said. “We would love to be a space that facilitates that authentic and therapeutic connection in a time where people feel separate from each other.”
Cannabliss sells a variety of CBD and hemp products including edibles, concentrates, flowers, cartridges, pre-rolls and topicals at prices ranging from three to $100. Henderson said the shop's goal is to have a health-centered approach to hemp use.
“The vision of Cannabliss was to add professionalism back into cannabis stores," she said. "To have a specialty hemp store ... that really focused on the health and wellness of its guests,” she said.
The cannabis market is unregulated by the federal and state government, meaning individual businesses are responsible for ensuring their products are high quality and safe to consume. Because of this, Henderson said all Cannabliss products are third-party tested.
Many of the shop's customers are first-time hemp users seeking help with sleep and pain management.
“They are usually pretty intimidated at first because of the stigma still surrounding hemp products for medicinal use," Tart said. "But they often leave feeling really relieved.”
Mihaly Lukacs, hemp tender at The Hemp Store in Chapel Hill, said that education is central to the destigmatization and enjoyment of hemp products.
Henderson said a big part of the staff’s education at Cannabliss comes from owner Sean Parekh, who has had experience with growing, consulting and retail in the industry. She said they also read and watch content from hemp conferences.
“You gotta learn about the product and know how to dose it correctly and safely, what it's best used for,” she said. “But then understand how to best apply it to certain people’s ailments and what they need and want from their medicine.”
Rod Kight, an attorney who represents cannabis businesses, turned to cannabis products after undergoing chemotherapy for testicular cancer. Although initially skeptical of cannabis' medicinal properties, he tried it anyway.
“The results and the way it helped me were so stunning, immediate and comprehensive that I decided that I needed to change my career path and start getting involved to advocate for cannabis,” he said.
With the broader availability of cannabis, people are beginning to see hemp and CBD as products that have the ability to help people, rather than cause harm, Kight said. According to a recent study by the Brightfield Group, a company that compiles data on the cannabis industry, the hemp industry is predicted grow to $16 billion in annual revenue by 2025.
Cannabliss plans to host educational events in the future that will focus on the therapeutic aspects of cannabis, the history of the plant and its medicinal uses.
“We can’t wait to continue to get more involved with the community and be a host and a facilitator for more connections,” Henderson said.
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