Sure, there’s a coffee house set to open on Race Street soon, but it’s what’s open next to it that’s the real eye opener.
The place is called Rawsome, and it’s a retailer of Cannabidiol (CBD), a controversial but in-demand hemp extract that’s related to marijuana but won’t get you high. Only healed.
Or at least that’s what the two cofounders believe.
Lori Thomson said she became interested in CBD recently after visiting her son, Andrew Clarkson, in California. That’s where the 27-year-old native Fort Worthian ran a vegan, CBD-infused chocolate truffle business for several years.
A self-described tech entrepreneur/programmer and business developer, Clarkson said he started making and giving away the chocolates in his spare time to get away from his computer. He said he was eventually able to “help older people that had been dealing with pain and sleep problems.”
Thomson, a former teacher, knew her son was pretty well versed on multiple issues in the medical marijuana community. She was disappointed, however, that she and Clarkson couldn’t open a CBD business in Texas.
But they were wrong.
CBD is legal here.
Rawsome has been open since June.
By doing most of the work themselves, Clarkson said they were able to keep costs low and open with little investment and small loans. Race Street has a lot to offer, he said, and a lot of development is happening in the area, which is why he chose the location for his business.
“It’s more about the education than anything else,” Thomson said, explaining that 70 percent of Rawsome’s sales take place in person rather than online and that she often attends pop-up events to be able to talk with people about the store’s products (oils that can be consumed, vaped, or applied to the skin).
While CBD products are available online and while Rawsome has an online presence through Getrawsome.com, Clarkson said his startup is happy to provide a neighborhood brick-and-mortar option. Some customers, he said, are uncomfortable with conducting business online because they do not want to deal with some “shady, behind-the-scenes business.”
He believes that his and similar establishments will eventually “get over that hump.”
Clarkson also feels that other local CBD stores will open once more information becomes available about the product’s benefits. However, last year the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted several CBD product-confiscating raids in Austin – apparently, even the cops were confused about what’s legal and what isn’t.
Plants that contain below 0.3 percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, a.k.a. the stuff that gets you high, are considered industrial hemp and legal, according to the Texas Hemp Industries Association. Because hemp is such a strong material, it has long been used to make fabric, rope, and other industrial items.
A market research firm just predicted that sales of hemp products would top $1 billion over the next three years, despite the raids and despite the hemp industry’s ongoing court battle against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency over the legal status of hemp-based products.
Clarkson said Rawsome is working with one of the largest hemp extractors in the nation, based in Kentucky.
Clarkson said Rawsome’s oils are infused with high amounts of CBD. However, Rawsome.com offers a disclaimer saying that CBD (which has yet to be evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration) is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Potential customers are also instructed to see a doctor before using the supplements.
Rawsome has a couple of other bosses, too: Courtney and Chris Miller, Clarkson’s sister and brother-in-law. All four bosses have quit their day jobs to focus on Rawsome full time.
Chris previously suffered from migraines and anxiety, saying he would worry about everything, including what he was going to eat for dinner, but now after taking CBD oil regularly, he’s been calmer. He’s also been sleeping a lot better, he said.
“It’s not something that’s going to knock you out or impair you in any way,” he said. “When you wake up, you’re just instantly fully recovered from the amount of sleep you got. It really does naturally balance you out.”
Clarkson said Rawsome’s best seller is a performance-strength variety. Rawsome’s products are custom-created in 15-to-30-day supplies. The cheapest item in the store is a 15-day supply of everyday oil for $23.
“We have all been sold on lotions, notions, and oils over time,” Thomson said, adding that she would point any skeptics toward medical studies that discuss CBD on a cellular level. Thomson also said the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has done a lot to change local marijuana laws.
Worried about failing a drug test? Clarkson said that Rawsome uses a raw CBD containing 99.5 to 98 percent pure CBD. “There is almost zero room for trace amounts of anything,” he said, unless a customer takes more than the recommended amount.
Located at 2907 Race Street, Rawsome is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue-Sat.