By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Far too many times, car accidents change people’s lives for the worse, but for April Elias, a motor vehicle crash two years ago actually led her to a new business opportunity.
Elias — who spent most of her adult life as a yoga instructor — was suffering a lot of pain following the accident and over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or Motrin just weren’t doing the trick. She needed something that would provide more consistent relief without the threat of opioid addiction. She turned to CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is derived from the hemp plant, a cousin to the marijuana plant, to put it in layman’s terms. According to health.com, CBD is a naturally occurring substance used in things such as oils and edibles to help promote feelings of relaxation and calm. Unlike marijuana, which contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not have any psychoactive properties.
Elias found so much relief and was so impressed with CBD oil that she opened Your CBD Store in Absecon. She got in on the ground floor, and now there are more than 500 stores in 41 states.
“Two years ago I was in a car accident, and I was taking a lot of Tylenol and Motrin to deal with the pain. I thought, ‘I think I want to try CBD.’ I don’t smoke weed — with all the pain I had, I didn’t even care if the stuff got me high or whatever. I had had herniated discs in my neck and back, but before the accident I was completely healthy,” Elias said. “I thought, let me try CBD and see if it will help. I went to a couple different places, I tried one and it tasted awful. It might have helped a little but I don’t know because I got no direction as to how much I should take and what I should expect. I got no guidance, so I just picked the middle costing one. It tasted good, but it didn’t work at all.
“At the same time that I was trying to figure that stuff out, my brother had the opportunity to go to a SunMed conference in Florida and they were introducing people to CBD. He wanted to open a CBD store so I got some from him and it worked, and it was consistently working,” she continued. “I was trying different ways of taking it — like the water soluble, the oil, the topical pain relief cream, and then I found the one that worked for me and the right dose. Eventually, I got so much better. I don’t even need the topical pain relief cream anymore. Every now and then I’ll have a little tweak in my back and go back to the pain cream, inflammation happens.”
Elias said she believes there is a lot of misconception among the general public about what CBD is and that some people may just think she runs “a weed store” which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“People think this gets you high. A mom will call me up and say something like, ‘I’m the last person who would be using drugs, but I’m so stressed about life.’ We’ve been programmed to think this stuff is bad for you,” she said, “and conditioned to think about all the negative things, but once people know this isn’t making you high or making you out of your head — this is offering mental clarity, a better mood, a better sleep — and all those things lead to a better immune system.
“Sleep is a big thing, and stress, anxiety, depression — we naturally produce our own cannabinoids. They used to be called endorphins, but scientists discovered that endorphins don’t cross the blood/brain barrier, and they were like, ‘what is it?’ You’ve heard of a ‘runner’s high’, that’s your own cannabinoids being released. When a mother nurses a baby, it’s cannabinioids being released. The hemp plant has evolved on this planet just like we have, it’s been through all the environmental stressors that we have, and in my view it’s great to use medicinally without the psychoactive effects. I feel like the marijuana plant was put here for us to use medicinally,” Elias explained. “Marijuana and hemp are both cannabis, which is why we were essential during the lockdown. People use this as medicine and I was making deliveries all the time. With the broad spectrum line, they remove the THC, which allows for the psychoactive effects. So, they removed that from the broad spectrum line. The full spectrum line has .3 percent, which is what is considered legal here now in New Jersey. When that little bit of THC is present with so much CBD, there are still no psychoactive effects, you’re just getting all the medicinal benefits.”
Being relatively new in business, and having a brick-and-mortar shop in Absecon, Elias — a Pittsburgh native who has been living in Brigantine since 1995 — said she wondered if she would even be able to survive the coronavirus pandemic as a business owner. But what she quickly realized is that demand for her products would grow even more in the last seven or eight months of 2020.
“There were really good months and then some months where it was like, ‘where is everyone?’ Then, around March 15, all hell broke loose. Two weeks later, all the stores in the plaza closed and I thought I’d be closing. I put a big sign up that said ‘Free Delivery’, locked the doors and went home, and I was really sad because I wanted this business to be successful. And the first two weeks of March were our best two weeks ever — I thought, ‘we are rolling.’ I didn’t have to close my doors, but I chose to because nobody was out. From a service we use I had customers’ cell phone numbers and I started calling them to see how they were doing, listening to their stories. People were a wreck, but if I gave them 10 or 15 minutes of my time it meant a lot to them, and some of my best customers are a result of that. I told people I would deliver their product, drop it off on their doorstep. I would be taking walks with my dog and make a sale, put it into my cell phone and then go drop it off an hour later. And what better service can you get than that? So, people were very grateful for that,” she said. “I think like every other person on the planet, with the curveball of COVID, I just had to keep swimming, stay afloat. That’s what I had to stick with. I’m here at the store more than I thought I would be. In March, when things were going well, I had an employee here and I would pop in, do what I had to do and go about my day, but that’s all different now. In March, things were going well and exactly as I planned. Our sales dropped a lot during the pandemic, by about two-thirds, but you just have to roll with the punches and try to get creative.
“I think the business will come back really strong though.”
What makes CBD so attractive to so many people is the relative affordability when it comes to potential pain relief. It costs about as much as a daily cup of coffee and a donut to enjoy the benefits of CBD.
“For an average adult strength one-month supply bottle, the price ranges from $90 to $110. Some people think that’s a lot, but if you break it down to how much it’s going to cost you daily, it’s $3 or $4 to feel healthy,” Elias said. “And you have to be patient. The founder of the company, it took her seven weeks (to feel positive effects). Some people, after two weeks, think the stuff isn’t working. That’s when we have to be like, ‘are you taking it consistently?’ If people take it consistently they start to see results.”
“The oil is what everybody knows about, you put a half drop on your tongue and let it sit there to let it absorb, and that can last as long as eight hours. That’s for somebody who is dealing with stress or PTSD,” Elias added. “Because it lasts for eight hours, that’s why we love it. But it does take about an hour to metabolize. When people take the water soluble they notice a difference right away. The oil is a little less dramatic, but longer lasting. We also have time release capsules and the smokable raw hemp. There are also hard candies and the topical pain relief cream.”
Elias said she knows there are plenty of people who may be skeptical about the potential benefits of CBD, but she encourages anyone to give it a try before they pass judgment.
“Everybody is under this layer of stress right now — even if it’s not in your face, if your career is going well and stuff — just in the collective consciousness, there’s this layer of stress out there that is affecting everyone,” she said. “So, everyone can benefit from this.”