RALEIGH, N.C. — The unofficial holiday of cannabis lovers everywhere was seized as an opportunity to promote understanding of medical marijuana in Raleigh on Wednesday.
What You Need To Know
April 20 is celebrated by advocates for marijuana
John Boccella is a chiropractor who opened a CBD and hemp store in 2019
SB 711 Compassionate Care Act introduced to legalize medical marijuana in 2021
Current hemp protections expire June 30, 2022
April 20 is traditionally a day some celebrate marijuana through consumption.
It’s also the day John Boccella created a cannabis-related event outside his second business he called “HempFest.”
“An event like this is a chance for us to celebrate but also a chance for us to create awareness,” Boccella said.
Boccella and his wife opened The Hemp Company in 2019. Inside their flagship store are shelves lined with hemp and CBD products.
“We do know that CBD and Delta 8 and CBG, CBN and all these other cannabinoids all have health benefits,” Boccella said.
How beneficial CBD is for long-term pain treatment is a topic scientists want to continue exploring.
The National Institutes of Health listed CBD as helpful in “rare forms of epilepsy” among other uses for separate diseases.
The first HempFest was held on the third anniversary they started their business — at a time when societal interest is growing for a healthy alternative to pain.
“I believe that the reason this industry is so popular in North Carolina, despite the pandemic, is that people are searching for natural approaches to health care,” Boccella said.
The allure of food vendors, live music and discounted items inside their store was part of a greater discussion about hemp laws in North Carolina.
Some farmers growing the crop are worried about what will happen when the current hemp laws expire at the end of June. It’s why he asked people to sign a petition to protect the laws already on the books.
Boccella said he’s concerned if new laws aren’t passed he could be affected.
“I also think people need to understand these products are safe. They aren’t hurting anybody,” he said. “We don’t just sell products just to sell products.”
He wasn’t saying all that solely from the point of view of a businessman. Boccella is a licensed chiropractor who has been interested in better ways to manage pain for several years.
”The stigma that’s associated with cannabis, in general — whether we are talking about hemp or whether we are talking about marijuana — those walls are coming down,” Boccella said.
Boccella said his passion for chiropractic medicine began at 12, when he had a curvature in his spine.
“My mom took me to a chiropractor, and I just loved it. I loved the X-rays. I loved everything he (the chiropractor) did. He just made me feel better,” Boccella said.
Treating pain for his patients is what led him to experiment with hemp and CBD on his own body.
”I brought a few products into the office, mostly topical (ointments), and it was such a hit patients began sending their neighbors,” Boccella said.
Since he couldn’t sell from a chiropractic office he opened the store.
Three years later Ken Tyson is looking for different pain remedies in The Hemp Company.
“Now I am bone to bone, and it is just a matter of when I am going to have surgery,” Tyson said.
Tyson, 60, is a disabled veteran who has chronic hip and leg pain.
“I have been a disabled vet for a long time, and I have always tried Ibuprofen. I just want to try something different and give it a shot for myself,” Tyson said.
Boccella is realistic about what customers should expect.
“People do come in all the time and say, ‘I have this condition or that condition. What product would you recommend for arthritis? What product would you recommend for insomnia?’ We don’t recommend any specific products for any specific medical conditions,” Boccella said.
While Boccella did not make any claims, he said he offered a choice outside of opioids to keep people from abusing those medications.
“Marijuana has its place. Hemp has its place. People are looking for stress relief,” Boccella said. “It’s more about our legislators becoming educated.”
Boccella said the smokeables, vapes and gummies open a portal into the legalization of medical marijuana.
State Senate Bill 711 Compassionate Care Act was introduced in 2021, but it has a long way to go before it becomes law.