The first store of its kind in McDowell County, High Country Hemp provides CBD products geared toward health and wellness.

CBD is a cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component in marijuana, used to treat symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain relief, to name a few. It is non-addictive and neuro protective, which means that over a long period of time, it can help fight against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia and ALS-related issues, among others.

The biggest difference between CBD and marijuana is the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis. CBD products at High Country Hemp contain .3 percent Delta 9 THC, which won’t get you high like marijuana will.

“We offer CBD, Kratom and vape products,” said Nikki Slade, manager of the company’s pilot store in Foscoe. “We offer CBD in a variety of formats including ingestible, edible, topical, smokable and vapable. There are many different ways to take this product in just depending on a person’s wants, needs and preferences.”

Doors opened Monday, Feb. 25 for the Marion location managed by local resident Chris Corbett. Slade was on hand opening day at the Marion store to explain exactly what they will be offering to the community.

“The wonderful thing about these products is that there are far less side effects,” said Slade.“With CBD if you take too much, for your personal threshold, you might find that you are sleepy or jittery. It really depends on how you metabolize it and how much you have taken.”

Kratom acts like an opiate without being an opiate, Slade said, made from a plant in the coffee family.

“It will fulfill the opioid receptors in your brain and body without actually being an opiate,” said Slade. “You don’t get the high. There are a million different things that can come from taking a chemical opiate.”

An alternative to opioids without the addiction is a much-needed treatment to combat the ‘opioid epidemic,’ Corbett and Slade both agreed.

“People frequently call it transferring the addiction,” said Slade. “Kratom can only be addictive in high doses and long periods of time. There are fatalities involved with opioid comedown, but not with Kratom comedown. You might get a headache.”

But, Slade said, she wants to reiterate that any of the products they sell are not considered any kind of cure-all treatment, but as a natural way to combat symptoms within a multitude of ailments. She advises talking to your doctor before starting any new treatment, and to never stop taking any medications in lieu of a natural remedy.

“We in the industry have to be very weary of the way we talk about this product in a regard that it will cure anything, because that not only would be unethical, but a potential lie,” she said. “Everybody is different, and it’s meant as a symptom treatment. So say you take it for migraines and it helps your migraines for a couple of weeks, and you stop it, those migraines are likely to come back. So we don’t promote the cure of anything, but we do promote treatment and wellness.”

The store offers a consultation area for folks who come in and aren’t sure what kind of product would suit their needs. Slade said it’s important to learn the customer’s needs before suggesting any sort of product. She said for folks to really learn how CBD can help them, is by diving in and not being afraid of trying the product.

“Some people don’t know how I can help them, so then I need to figure out what they need help with,” she said. “We get a lot of diabetics so oils are safer for them. The gummies are a great way to start if you have no particular preference.”

High Country Hemp offers CBD- and hemp-based products in the form of gummies, suckers, honey, lip balm, lotion, eye cream, capsules, hemp flower and oil, to name a few.

“We have a lot to choose from. We try to keep what everybody would need for whatever products they purchase. If you buy something you want to smoke, we have the glass products, rolling papers and tips to utilize our products when you walk about the door,” said Slade. “We have vape oils for vaporizers, gummies, lighters, bath bombs, CBD lip balm, hemp seed lotion.”

After opening their first store in Foscoe, situated between Boone and Banner Elk, Slade said the community has really embraced their business venture.

“We get a wide range of customers,” she said. “People will stop by and want to learn more about it because they are sick to death of taking medications.”

And now, High Country Hemp wants to put Marion on the map as a CBD market.

“When the owner was looking for a new location, he was just driving around and asking himself, ‘Where would people want to see something like this?’” said Slade. “He started going into little towns. And he came through here and saw the location was accessible to people in need of alternatives to medication and products that will help them feel better. He said this is where we have to be.”

Selling these products is perfectly legal in North Carolina thanks to the Farm Bill signed in 2014, and recent legislation that has relaxed the rules on growing and processing hemp products. Most of the products in the Marion store come from Oregon and New York, and a distribution site in Florida. Several stores around McDowell do sell CBD products such as gas stations, health stores and even West Court Food Center, but High Country Hemp is solely focused on CBD.

“We just want people to be safe,” said Slade. “We have had people from all walks of life embracing it, but nervous about because they grew up during reefer-madness era. We want people to feel good, and not have to rely on something that could potentially damage your other organs.”

You must be 18 or older to purchase CBD products. Right now, the store is operating from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. but hours could change depending on traffic. To find out more, call the store at 559-2226 or visit High Country Hemp on Facebook. The owner of the High Country Hemp chose not to be identified.

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