SNOHOMISH — Decked out in an apron and hairnet, Ron Gordon hovers over a double boiler at the senior center kitchen.
He cooks up a mixture of beeswax, shea butter, argan oil — and CBD.
That’s right, CBD, short for cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis.
What’s up with that?
Ron’s Balms & Botanicals.
It’s like a Hallmark Channel version of “Breaking Bad,” starring Gordon, a 63-year-old retired carpenter. But what he’s cooking up is not illegal.
CBD products are making headlines as a multi-purpose remedy that doesn’t contain the THC that gets users high. The new “it” drug,” according to The Washington Post.
People don’t have to visit their local pot shop for CBD potions. Bartell Drugs recently started selling CBD capsules, oils and lotions for skin care, stress relief and pain. Those products are kept in a locked glass case near the front of the store. Goods include two softgels for $2.99, $29.99 roll-on for headaches and a $74.99 bottle of mint-chocolate flavored oil.
Gordon sells the ointments online under his own Ron’s Balms label.
His son-in-law drew a caricature on the logo that makes him look a bit like the Colonel Sanders of CBD.
Gordon rents the commercial kitchen at the Snohomish Senior Center one afternoon a week, whipping up four batches at a time that he pours in glass jars and tiny tins. Prices are $15 to $130, based on size and strength.
He buys the CBD powder from a supplier in Colorado.
“It looks like cocaine,” he said. “But it’s odorless and tasteless. I have it tested by a third-party lab. It usually tests out somewhere in the 99 percent range of pure CBD.”
The balm biz began with his aches.
“I was a carpenter and did construction work my whole life, and it has beaten my body up,” he said. “I’ve had two back surgeries, surgical fusion on four levels in my neck, four rotator cuff surgeries. I’m in a fair amount of pain.”
His naturopath gave him CBD creams that helped.
“He also taught me how to make it,” he said. “I started researching different formulas.”
That was about a year ago. It was more of a hobby than anything else.
“I started making it for myself. I didn’t intend to sell it,” he said. “Once I started going, my graphic designer said, ‘You’ve got a brand, you need a website.’”
In some batches he adds kratom, an herb from the leaves of a tree found in Asia that some marketers tout as having healing properties. Kratom is not approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to what it says are safety risks and is banned in some states.
He said he ships the CBD balms to all states, but not the mixtures with kratom.
“We have a CBD attorney and a THC attorney,” Gordon said.
Karen Gahm, his partner of 15 years, is the CEO of Ron’s Balms.
“He started making it and the house was smelling like rosemary and lavender,” said Gahm, who retired as a financial manager at Snohomish County Superior Court.
He quit smelling up the house when he went commercial. “I can’t do it at home for insurance reasons,” he said.
At his home office, he puts on labels and ships products, working under the watchful eyes of Daisy, his 5-year-old goldendoodle.
“I’m having fun with it. I have my different colored inks and stamps,” Gordon said.
As for whether the balms do the trick: “I get all kinds of claims, but I can’t make any.”
Except his own.
“It helps me take less pain meds,” he said.
Gordon doesn’t experiment on Daisy the dog, but he could.
Paddywack pet store in Mill Creek has CBD tinctures and salves for skin irritations of the canine-feline kind.
Also available are CBD pet treats in peanut butter-banana and blueberry-cranberry flavors. A bag of such edibites go for $21.99 to $27.99.
“It’s used for anxiety management,” said Rylee Godfrey, Paddywack sales associate. “There’s been a huge uptick. Mostly dogs and cats. I have a rat and a bird. I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving it to them.”
The store sells a hemp honey that jittery pets can share with their people.
Does research back up all this CBD stuff?
That is uncertain, and still in its infancy. Federal restrictions have limited clinical studies of cannabis-derived products.
On Monday, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board issued the state’s first license to produce, process and possess marijuana for research purposes to Seattle’s Verda Bio Research to study cannabinoid-based therapeutics.
CBD was the topic of a University of Washington Medicine news release this month.
“It is a potent analgesic. Also works as anti-seizure medication, anti-inflammatory, among other properties,” UW Alcohol and Drug Institute research scientist and professor Beatriz Carlini said in a recent video about CBD.
“It’s not a magic solution for everything. Some people adjust well. Some people won’t adjust as well … It’s very important that people are educated and health care providers are educated. It is a very novel approach. … It is legally OK.”
Still, she suggested you might want to ask your doctor (or vet) for a second opinion before slathering it on.