Cajun Cannabis opened its doors Saturday to dozens of customers interested in its products, defying what the owners say were pressures from state agencies to keep them from opening and doing business.
The products the store offers include CBD oils, which is short for cannabidiol and comes from the hemp plant, as well as CBD-infused candles, lotions, bath products and drinks.
Hemp is a plant that is genetically distinct from marijuana according to the Congressional Research Service, and has no more than 0.3% THC, the chemical in cannabis that gets users high.
But in offering such products for sale, Cajun Cannabis, 3802 Johnston St., is operating in something of a legal gray area. Federal law now distinguishes between marijuana and hemp, which are both species of the Cannabis sativa plant.
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State regulatory authorities, though, contend that the sale of products containing CBD is illegal.
As reported by KATC on Tuesday, Lafayette's city permit manager said in an email that they'd been asked by the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control that an occupancy permit not be issued for Cajun Cannabis to open.
The agency contends CBD is illegal regardless of THC content and said that conversations are on going between several levels of government about the legality of the business. Lafayette Consolidated Government gave the store its certificate of occupancy on Wednesday.
The crowds of customers visiting Cajun Cannabis when it opened Saturday had it running low on the products it had on hand, like CBD oils and CBD-infused candles, lotions, bath products and drinks.
But owner Travis DeYoung said they will be ordering more product and a greater variety of items like clothing, notebooks and greeting cards made from hemp before they launch their website later this week.
DeYoung, 31, said he's excited to see so many people coming out to not only buy his products but to also be educated on the history and benefits of cannabis.
He said one of the major reasons he wanted to open Cajun Cannabis — which is part store, part cafe — is to help break the stigma against the plant and products made from it.
"We've had a great turnout today," DeYoung said. "It's been steady. We've had a crowd pretty much every hour and a wide array of people. It's been very diverse from young people to old people, healthy people and those that are looking for alternative paths to wellness."
Customers were not only lined up to learn more and buy various CBD and hemp products but also took the time to relax with a CBD beverage in Cajun Cannabis' cafe area where they could read magazines and books on the subjects of cannabis and CBD production and uses from across the country.
"I think a lot of people don't know about products like this and I think having a store like this that is clean and open and inviting where they can come learn more about it and get educated. I think this'll be good for Lafayette," said Lafayette resident Claire Ellinger.
A recent survey conducted by LSU's Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs found that 55 percent of the 917 Louisiana adults interviewed over the months of February and March said they would back legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.
"People are interested in the laws, where it's going and what they can do to help and participate in getting the laws changed," DeYoung said.
He said cannabis is affordable compared to what people are paying for pharmaceuticals and without the side effects.
"This is a big step for Lafayette and Louisiana in general in the right direction," DeYoung said.
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