This Columbus couple wants to be the ‘Starbucks’ of CBD. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Pamala Connor used to take 12 to 16 Advil pills every single day.

The maximum recommended dosage was six pills in 24 hours. But a car wreck left the 58-year-old with unbearable pain, and she refused to take opioids.

So, she began the cycle: Advil and regular visits to the chiropractor.

“It was the only way to get through life,” she said. “I did what I had to do.”

She turned to CBD oil after her husband, Thomas, 71, started using it for treatment of severe back pain. Now, nearly a year later, the couple will soon own five CBD stores in the Chattahoochee Valley.

And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved CBD for the treatment of medical conditions — aside from Epidiolex for serious forms of epilepsy — the Connors say CBD has done wonders for them.

“Each of us has our own testimony,” Thomas Connor said.

It hasn’t been easy. The couple has had to navigate changing state and federal hemp and CBD laws.

Hemp comes from the same species of the cannabis plant as marijuana, but hemp contains minuscule amounts of the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects — tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). CBD is another chemical found in the cannabis plant. All of the Connors’ CBD (Cannabidiol) products are made from CBD extracted from hemp.

The Connors first experience with CBD came after seeing what it did for long-time friend Racheal Quinn and her Crohn’s Disease. Quinn eventually opened the first Your CBD store in Florida in March 2018.

“My wife and I jumped in the car and we couldn’t believe what we saw,” she said. “After 30 days, she was back to her normal self. That was the start of this.”

‘Founding fathers’ of Your CBD stores

Thomas Connor ‘s back pain was so severe that he was spending half of his life in a wheelchair. That’s why he started using CBD products, he said.

A stroke, too, has slightly affected his mobility. He has to use a cane to get around, but the wheelchair now sits in his garage.

Quinn, the Connors and other friends became a group that Thomas and Pamala call the “founding fathers” of the Your CDB stores. All of them look the same. The walls are blue with white trim, and the store can only stock hemp-derived CBD products from Sunflora Inc. under the SunMed brand, Thomas Connor said.

_your CBD store_0613190006.jpg
The sign in front of the Columbus location of Your CBD Store which is owned by Thomas and Pamala Connor. Miranda Daniel mdaniel@ledger-enquirer.com

CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues. It’s commonly used to address anxiety, insomnia and pain. The strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating childhood epilepsy syndrome, Harvard University’s medical blog reports.

The store sells it in a wide variety of formats — oil tinctures, water soluble, gummies, soft gel capsules, vaping liquids, topical creams, even pet products. Prices start at $1.25 but most products range between $15 and $135, Tom Connor said.

The store’s customers range from college students dealing with stress and anxiety to military veterans looking for pain relief, the Connors said.

Every product in the store has a zero percent THC label, and if you ask, Thomas Connor will pull out a binder full of lab results for the store’s array of CBD products.

Nationally, there are still broad concerns about companies following testing protocols, and the FDA is accepting public comments through July 2, 2019, as it determines if and how it will regulate the CBD industry, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

But Connor says that shopping at his store is different than buying from a local corner gas station or vape shop.

“What you’re getting (there is) not the quality that we have,” Thomas Connor said. “We want to be the Starbucks of the CBD industry.”

Navigating laws surrounding CBD

The couple own and operate three stores: one in Columbus at 3507 Gentian Boulevard, one in Auburn and another in Dothan.

Their first store opened in Columbus July 13, 2018, and since then, the CBD industry has taken off. Navigating the federal and state laws concerning CBD oil, though, has been complicated over the past few years.

Hemp and hemp products were made legal following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that December. This means the oil is legal to possess — provided that it contains only 0.3 percent THC or less.

Before that, several factors, including what state you lived in, determined if CBD was legal. Even after the Farm Bill’s passage, some states have yet to change their laws to match new federal rules, the New York Times reported in May. Georgia and Alabama have.

In the early days, the Connors dealt with hemp law confusion in both Alabama and Georgia. In November 2018, local law enforcement shut down their Auburn store for a couple of weeks. Police officers were also at the opening of their Columbus store, the couple said.

Still, the CBD business is booming. Your CBD Store has opened 338 locations since March 2018 spread out across the country, according to their website.

_your CBD store_0613190004.jpg
CBD products offered at the Columbus location of Your CBD Store which is owned by Thomas and Pamala Connor. Miranda Daniel mdaniel@ledger-enquirer.com

Just in the stores they own, the couple has seen about 20% growth per month over the last year, said Pamala Connor.

The Connors will soon open two more stores:

  • Phenix City (2 Westridge Drive) by the end of June
  • Eufaula (1560 S. Eufaula Ave.) by early July

“Let’s put it this way,” Thomas Connor said. “I wouldn’t be opening five stores if there weren’t a market for it.”