ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Not all cannabidiols are created equally.
Richard and Christy Roth are helping blaze a trail in North Fulton, one they hope will bring more legitimacy to the local CBD market.
In May, the couple opened a Hemp Farmacy at 5250 Windward Pkwy. The high-quality CBD store offers a roster of hemp-based products ranging from bath bombs, to full-spectrum vapes, salves, pills and teas.
Hemp Farmacy is a North Carolina franchise that markets itself as “the East Coast’s first hemp dispensary” with eight locations across the Tar Heel State.
Richard and Christy Roth were introduced to the company while attending a business summit last year. They were drawn to an educational approach that focuses on teaching customers about CBDs and decided to open a franchise of their own.
The Roths’ shop in Alpharetta is Hemp Farmacy’s first location outside of North Carolina. They leased their storefront at the end of February with plans to open April 1. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to postpone the grand opening to May 15.
“We’re just bringing a different type of environment now that CBDs are kind of getting out of the shadow of THC and people are learning what it is,” Christy Roth said.
Marijuana and hemp are both harvests of the Cannabis sativa plant, which contains more than 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD, are the cannabinoids that the plant produces in highest concentration.
Industrial hemp is naturally high in CBD and low in THC, the flower’s pyschoactive ingredient that gives users their “high.” The federal government defines hemp as any Cannabis plant with a THC concentration less than 0.3%.
Ushering in the CBD industry
Georgia lawmakers legalized hemp growth in July 2019, opening the door for certain CBD products to be sold.
CBD is known for its natural healing properties. Clinical research shows that the compound can be used to treat cancer, chronic pain, seizures, inflammation, reduce blood pressure and fight anxiety. A pair of preliminary studies this year even suggest CBD can help patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19.
“That’s been the hardest part, fighting the stigma behind it,” Richard Roth said, “people not understanding the health benefits and the qualities of what it can do for you.”
Richard Roth had his prostate removed during an initial bout with cancer that faded into remission. The terminal illness returned to his body three years ago and he had to undergo 38 rounds of treatment to battle it back into submission. He began using a CBD vape pen to ease the pain and discomfort of the treatments and became a firm believer in its therapeutic qualities.
The CBD industry is still relatively new and remains an unchartered frontier in many ways. While shopping for his supply, Richard Roth noticed a lack of accessibility and a landscape with few credible CBD options for people seeking relief.
The couple said some storefronts only had low inventory, while others were smoke shops that they didn’t find inviting. Richard Roth said he also encountered uninformed or disinterested service clerks who couldn’t help him find the products he needed. Other times, he tried products that didn’t live up to what they promised.
“What we found in the marketplace was you either go into a very seedy store like a gas station where you didn’t know what you were getting,” Richard Roth said. “A lot of the products out there are just not regulated, so people don’t know.”
Out of the shadows
Hemp Farmacy intends to bring Cannabis out of the shadows by creating friendly, high-quality CBD shops that appeal to women. Christy Roth noted that all of the products sold in the stores are thoroughly tested and vetted before hitting the shelves.
“We want to be an anti-smoke shop,” she said. “A welcoming, safe place to come and learn where we focus on education and safe products. We want to listen to people.”
Hemp Farmacy boasts some of the most popular brands in the world, like Willie’s Remedy, country musician Willie Nelson’s line of products. The store also keeps a supply of gummies, fibers, CBD-infused hot teas and coffees, loose flower hemp, pre-rolled joints, hemp oil tinctures and pet products, and topical bath salts.
Christy Roth, a molecular biologist, researches the products to ensure the shop offers the very best options.
“I’m a science nerd. So I like knowing about it,” she said. “I’m drawn to the science of it.”
In fact, it’s science that brought her and Richard together. Richard owns a lab in Sandy Springs that does molecular testing for hereditary cancer, genetics and, of late, COVID-19. It’s Christy who runs the lab.
While Christy sizes the products up and down, it’s Richard who puts them to use.
Not only has he battled cancer, he has arthritis in his hands, he got into an auto accident and fused two vertebrae in his neck, requiring two surgeries. He also ruptured tendons in his knee after falling down the stairs during his second bout with cancer.
“Pretty much when people come in — anxiety, depression — I've had almost every bit of what they’re going through before,” he said. “So I’m the test dummy. I can give them real-life experience. This is what I use. It works!”