DULUTH — The big lake has a way of inspiring folks in unpredictable ways.
As Jeff Brinkman drove across the harbor from Wisconsin to Duluth last summer, he leaned over to his wife and said: “Honey, I’d like to grow cannabis.”
So he did, and now it’s being sold in Canal Park under the banner Superior Cannabis, which opened Monday at 339 Canal Park Drive.
Last year Brinkman teamed up with two partners in Austin, Minn. — Marty Tebay and Tom Cotter — to start growing hemp and producing products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, the much-buzzed-about remedy said to help with afflictions like anxiety and chronic pain. The three had all been taking CBD for different ailments and hadn’t realized it until teaming up.
“Most people have this idea with CBD, oh you’re going to get high — no, you’re getting relaxed,” said Tebay, who hopes the shop can help address the “stigma” surrounding cannabis products. “Especially right now, with COVID-19, anxiety is through the roof. This is calming.”
The first Superior Cannabis store opened on Main Street in Austin last year. Already their southern Minnesota fields of organic hemp have grown to keep up with demand — the company now has 6,000 plants on about eight acres.
“You hear a lot about farm-to-table: That’s us,” said Cotter, a fourth-generation Mower County farmer. “Healthy plants make a healthy person.”
Inside the Canal Park shop, products like tinctures and edibles line shelves behind the counter, with the emphasis on trained staff giving recommendations on dosage and use before buying. A container of pre-rolled joints, such as they are, also sits on the counter — smoking and vaping hemp buds has become a popular alternative to extracts.
CBD products by law must contain less than 0.3% of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high. The 2018 federal farm bill legalized the production of hemp and differentiated it from other cannabis plants grown for a high THC content.
Though the FDA has not endorsed most of CBD’s promises, the industry has exploded in recent years and is expected to grow into a multibillion-dollar market. Last year Sutherland CBD opened in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood after opening a store across the border in Superior.
It’s rare to see an empty storefront in Canal Park, and Superior Cannabis said timing and chance worked in their favor to open up in the tourist-heavy district.
Should recreational marijuana become legal in Minnesota in the next several years, Superior Cannabis also has plans to bring that kind of cannabis to the corner of the lake the company is named for.
“That’s absolutely step two for us,” Brinkman said.