Most nights, I cannot get my brain to shut off and go to sleep. I wake up numerous times, usually in mid-thought. This has been going on for about 40 years — but for the last few weeks, I’ve been achieving the sort of deep rest I’ve only heard about from other people. As far as I can tell, it’s all thanks to CBD.

If you haven’t tried it, here’s a quick primer: Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant that does not contain the psychoactive chemicals that get you stoned. Instead, it works on certain receptors found throughout the body. According to its proponents, CBD can address everything from chronic pain and inflammation to cancer. It’s legal in New Mexico and is available in many forms. While I wouldn’t personally rely on CBD by itself to fight serious disease, I’m sleeping soundly through the night, my daily headaches have disappeared, and my upper back doesn’t hurt like it used to.

There are many CBD stores in Santa Fe. I visited a few to check out products and prices and get a sense of customer service. I also attended Hemp Fest on Oct. 20 in Railyard Park, where sellers from New Mexico and Colorado hawked their wares, and CBD experts held education sessions. Many, though not all, CBD stores in Santa Fe are affiliated with medical cannabis dispensaries but are run separately because the state’s medical cannabis law, called the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, forbids licensed dispensaries from bringing cannabis or cannabis-derived products into New Mexico from elsewhere — a category into which CBD generally falls. (CBD will likely work its way back into dispensaries as the brand-new hemp industry grows in New Mexico.) 

As I learned more about what is available in town, I kept circling back to one question: Is this really about health for every store and seller, or is this a trend for those looking to turn a profit? What I found was that most local shops are focused primarily on health, but some also sell expensive CBD beauty products like eye serum and brown sugar body scrub. At Hemp Fest, there were a number of booths dedicated to the entrepreneurial angle of the industry, which is important, yet their presence among vendors who were talking to people struggling with their health felt somewhat mercenary. The general array of products at each store includes CBD isolate and full-spectrum oils of different potencies; tinctures and salves specially blended with herbs or essential oils to address various health issues; vaping options; and edibles like honey and chocolate. Most stores have house-brand products as well as goods from other vendors — everything from muscle-freeze sprays to “shatter,” a concentrated cannabis extract that is inhaled. Gummy candy and chocolate are popular methods of ingestion, as are tea and other beverages. I also found bath bombs, pet treats, and even candles.

Products vary far less, place to place, than the overall design and tone of each store. For instance, Fruit of the Earth Natural Health CBD and More Store (901 Early St.) feels like a New Age bookstore from the 1970s without seeming at all like a grimy headshop — a fine and delicate balance. I spoke to a gentle clerk named Micah Helman about how often I wake up at night. She explained CBD dosing and even gave me a handout to take with me. She seemed to really understand chronic pain and was a very calming and empathetic presence.

Kure (220 N. Guadalupe St.) feels much more like a doctor’s office without being overly sterile. The owner, Minka Ingersoll, opened the CBD store and associated dispensary because she wanted a clean, inviting environment with a staff that is educated in the benefits of CBD and where people from all walks of life feel welcome.  

Sacred Wellness (1300 Luisa St. #4) falls somewhere in between Kure and Fruit of the Earth in that the design of the store is clean and modern yet retains a sense of alternative health care, what with all the crystals and essential oils for sale. They have an especially large assortment of house-made salves. The enthusiastic clerk was warm and welcoming, if perhaps less seasoned in talking about health conditions than some of the other clerks I spoke to.

Hemp Apotheke (1330 Rufina Circle), located in the fast-blooming Rufina Arts District, is the only CBD store I visited that is not affiliated with a cannabis dispensary. It is an off-shoot of Aromaland, an aromatherapy and body-care store. It smells very good at Hemp Apotheke and they have an enormous selection of CBD products, though the prices for oils are somewhat higher than at the other stores I visited. The price for 400 milligrams of CBD oil seems to range between $40 and $50. There are many concentrations available, up to 1,000- and 2,000-milligram bottles, and the selection varies from store to store. Some businesses offer discounts to veterans and cancer patients.

The owner of Hemp Apotheke, Gyana Basse, told me she started using CBD after a car accident a few years ago and was amazed at the effect it had on her pain. She is not alone. I spoke to several people who have come to rely on the healing properties of CBD. Among them is a colleague who took a combination of CBD oil and ibuprofen to get through post-operative pain after a full hysterectomy because the oxycodone she was prescribed made her feel terrible. The CBD helped with the overwhelming anxiety that surgical pain can cause, allowing her to breathe deeply and stay present in her mind and body. A man I know who struggles with diffuse overall pain as a result of diabetes uses CBD salves to help manage his discomfort, and a woman who deals with debilitating menstrual cramps said that, for her, taking a CBD gummy is similar in effect to taking a muscle relaxer. CBD, as a nonaddictive remedy for pain, shows promise in the fight against opioid addiction, a problem that has ravaged the country and was declared a public health emergency in 2017 by the president. 

If CBD provides aid and comfort to people looking for relief, then choosing a store comes down to where you feel the most supported — and where you want to spend your money. You can experiment with products while getting to know the staff. If any place feels creepy or off-putting to you, then you can turn around and go somewhere else without spending a cent. CBD is part of the free market now, so let the market speak. Cannabidiol might make a profound difference in your health. At the very least, you might finally get a decent night’s sleep. ◀