WATCH | "Cannabis needs to be positioned as a wellness experience. It's not an abusive experience," Lou Sagar told me in his SoHo loft. Sagar is the founder of Bowery Cannabis Club, a social group for New Yorkers with an interest in learning more about cannabis and connecting with other users.
A lack of psychoactivity
When people talk about cannabis, they're usually referring to THC, the main psychoactive component of the plant. But when it comes to discussions about weed and wellness, CBD is the current hot topic.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the plant. It's said to offer the medicinal effects without any of the psychoactivity. "You just will not get high from that part of the plant," said Sagar. And also unlike THC, you can legally buy CBD hemp products in all 50 states.
CBD can be taken in a variety of forms, like with this oil shot or by vaping.
Primary use cases of CBD
Sagar points to pain and anxiety as the two great focuses of CBD. "An awful lot of people are struggling with how to manage stress, and it very often falls into anxiety," he said. "CBD, properly used, is an amazing remedy for anxiety."
In the case of pain, he believes that CBD has the potential to provide relief to the country's opiate epidemic. "If we can give people a little bit of help in mitigating that dependency on painkillers, we are doing an amazing service to our community," said Sagar.
Some companies are also making CBD products for pets dealing with pain.
A diverse audience
At Bowery Cannabis Club events, Sagar is seeing a multi-generational interest in CBD, as well as support from different political ideologies. "You have baby boomers who proudly say they were hippies at one time, or maybe they still are. But you also have fairly conservative people who are becoming just shocked at the benefits of the non-psychoactive elements of the plant," he said.
According to Sagar, it's important to educate all generations about cannabis, even the very youngest.
"There's a lot of confusion about what's legal, what's safe," explained Sagar. He intends for the Bowery Cannabis Club to be a "first-class destination" for information on the state of the cannabis industry.
The importance of community
In today's world, Sagar is acutely aware of the focus on online engagement and social media, but he acknowledges the immense need for in-person interactions.
"The fact is, physical connectivity is so important. People want to connect. People of shared values want to be with others of the same values," he said. He compared the Bowery Cannabis Club to those who meet over a shared interest in spirits or alcohol, citing the camaraderie around the marijuana industry.
At events, attendees are encouraged to share personal stories about cannabis.
The future of cannabis
Just this week, lawmakers launched a cannabis caucus, highlighting the mainstream significance of the fight for legalization in our country's politics.
And when it comes to legalization, Sagar is optimistic about the future of the plant. "I think five years from now, cannabis will be a very well-regulated industry in all states," he said. "The government is releasing more money for research, and I think the research is going to be pretty profound."