DENVER — Although convenience retailers on a whole have limited to no experience with selling cannabidiols, or CBDs, three of them—one with a year under his belt, another with four months and a third having yet to take the leap—spoke at the recent CSP-hosted CBD conference, relating a range of reactions from frustration to elation.
Much of the frustration came from issues of supply and local law enforcement, because the overwhelming story was one of hope and optimism.
“We’ve had a lot of headwinds with categories like tobacco and sugary drinks,” said Leo Vercollone, owner and president of VERC Enterprises, Duxbury, Mass., who has had CBDs in his 30 stores for about four months. “And out of the 16 categories we sell, [health and beauty] is No. 14. What I can share is that in the month of March, our CBDs outsold gum and mints [in dollar] sales.”
Ken Nill, director of warehouse for St. Louis-based Midwest Petroleum, said they have had CBD products in its more than 50 stores for over a year. He said the surprising thing to him was how much customers and store employees knew about CBDs from the start. He said they also learned a lesson in supply when a vendor they partnered with early on was unable to provide product just six months into their relationship.
Midwest Petroleum still remains cautious, keeping the product on the counter and back bar of the store and not necessarily heavily promoting the options to consumers.
Nill’s caution is probably warranted because CBDs can come from source material such as marijuana plants—which are not legal in every state and something the federal government still considers an illegal, controlled substance—or a relative plant called hemp. One of the distinctions between either the source materials or end product is the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an element of cannabis that can produce a “high,” that the product contains. Manufacturers can produce CBDs that have little or technically no THC.
At the same time, new law stemming from the Farm Bill that President Trump signed into law at the end of 2018 has made the use of hemp (which has a THC level of 0.3% or less) a legal commodity here in the United States.
The third panelist, Bill Ripley, director of marketing for Stop-N-Go of Madison, a 35-store chain based in Madison, Wis., said he did not currently sell CBDs but was eager to do so. “The education process is being done by the health and wellness stores [in my market], with TV commercials,” Ripley said. “They’re educating the customer.”
Photo caption: (Left to right) Bill Ripley, Leo Vercollone and Ken Nill