As hemp medicines headed for CVS store shelves, Northern California cannabis topicals makers are unfazed

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The announcement by the CVS pharmacy chain that it would begin to carry hemp-derived topical medicines could increase competition in the already crowded field of companies peddling wellness products based on the cannabis plant.

CVS announced in March it would begin selling cannabidol (CBD) creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves in seven states including California. CBD is a hemp-derived nonpsychoactive chemical legalized under federal law last year. Manufacturers claim its health benefits range from pain relief to sleep aid and beyond.

The market for CBD products, particularly topicals like creams and sprays, has a bright future according to a February report from the investment bank Cowens.

The bank estimated the CBD market could be worth roughly $16 billion by 2025, a quarter of which could be topical products like those CVS plans to carry.

The report found retail sales of CBD consumer products in 2018 were estimated between $600 million and $2 billion

The report noted other retail giants including, Neiman Marcus, and the makeup chain Sephora already offered different CBD products, which can also include oil for vaporizers.

Local manufacturers of cannabis topicals were unworried by the announcement, however.

Levi Strom is the founder of Awakened Topicals, which sells a variety of cannabis-derived topicals throughout the Bay Area, including through a Santa Rosa dispensary.

He wrote in an email that his company would like to pursue CVS as a client once he launches a line of hemp-derived products next year and added he expected the announcement to increase competition in the already crowded CBD market.

He added that many of his products contained a mix of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that produces a “high” when smoked or ingested, and CBD so he was not concerned about losing customers since CVS would only be carrying hemp products legal nationally.

“I see this announcement as a net positive for people looking for a healthier and safer alternative to opioids to manage their pain and inflammation,” Strom wrote.

Other local business owners agreed the announcement would not threaten their customer base, including Leonard Leinow, owner of San Rafael-based Synergy Wellness which makes a salve that is half CBD and half THC.

“I don’t anticipate that CVS is going to be interested in the kind of quality that we demand,” Linell said. He agreed with Strom and said he would not be surprised if the announcement caused other companies to rush in and begin making topical products for sale to CVS, especially in light of hemp’s recent legalization.

“In general a lot of people are jumping in because now its legal and they’ve been holding back because it wasn’t.”

Correction: This article previously stated Awakened Topicals uses hemp-derived CBD in its products. Hemp is not used in making any CBD products sold by the company.

Staff Writer Chase DiFeliciantonio covers technology, banking, law, accounting, and the cannabis industry. Reach him at or 707-521-4257.

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