Sat., Dec. 15, a cannabidiol (CBD)-infused “Pharm to Table” brunch is being served at 15th Street Market in Charlotte, N.C. We’d invite you, but the organizers say the event is sold out — besides, they stopped taking reservations days ago for the $30 per person event.

But don’t worry.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be a regular thing,” says Matt Houser of Tar Heal Pharms, the Matthews-based company providing CBD for the event.

“With the flood gates getting ready to be opened by the farm bill we decided it’s time to try and break the stigma of cannabis in general, to educate the public about this plant,” he says.

The 2018 farm bill was passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress this month and, as of this writing, is awaiting the president’s signature.

The bill will become law on Jan. 1, 2019, and is expected to dramatically broaden the market for hemp- and CBD products in addition to making life easier on hemp farmers, via the availability of crop insurance, and on companies throughout the hemp industry, via less hassle when it comes to banking and advertising.

CBD is derived from cannabis but does not have the psychoactive compounds that get people high. In North Carolina, CBD is legally extracted from industrial hemp plants grown by licensed farmers.

Both anecdotal and scientific evidence suggest CBD is a beneficial health supplement but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is touchy about how companies connect the dots between health, cannabis products and ingestible food and drink.

[Read: Rapidly evolving legal status of CBD]

What to expect at brunch

Chef Brandon Belfer is preparing Saturday’s CBD-infused brunch. He says he’s expecting 70 patrons and that he wanted to keep the crowd small so anyone with questions about their meal will receive the attention he feels they deserve.

“We want to see how this one does and go from there,” says Belfer, adding that his crew would like to host bi-monthly or monthly CBD brunch events and that they’re interested in partnering with other Charlotte-area restaurants, too.

Asked if he was surprised their first event sold out, Belfer says, “Yes and no. It’s really cool to have a sell-out crowd in North Carolina.”

But don’t expect your food to taste like cannabis, Belfer says, as many cannabis edibles do.

“That’s why they brought me on for this,” says Belfer. “Me, personally, I hate the taste of cannabis. With my food, you’re not going to taste it, and if you do it’s because it brings a depth of flavor to the dish. I want to let the food shine. In most of the dishes, I’m cooking with isolate where the CBD molecule is isolated in its purest form, leaving it essentially tasteless.”

“We want to give people a taste without overdoing it,” says Houser, adding, “I feel like this is a way to let people see that we’re all about health and wellness.”

Charlotte’s Empanada Queen, Sara-Rose, will also be on hand with CBD-infused handmade empanadas.

 Motivated by personal experience

“I’m getting into CBD to help people with conditions and ailments that they’re taking multiple medications for,” says Cozzolino, owner of 15th Street Market. “I personally have anxiety and use CBD oil for anxiety,” he explained, “Just knowing that there are so many benefits, and people don’t know about it, really pushes me to help people in this way.”

Cozzolino says he grew up in a military family and witnessed how CBD has benefited those he knows with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Chef Belfer also uses CBD. “As a chef I work with my hands a lot, and I’m hunched over a table for at least six hours a day,” he says, “so my hands and lower back are really tight when I get home from work. (CBD) really does help. The great thing about it is that you don’t have to smoke it, you can eat it. And it only takes little.”

Houser, who owns Tar Heal Pharms, says his philosophy is “all pure, all natural; we’re trying to keep things in the same molecular structure as nature intended.

[Image: Matt Houser of Tar Heal Pharms.]

Tar Heal Pharms’ full-spectrum CBD products are sourced from USDA organic hemp farms and processing facilities in Bend, Ore., where his brother lives and Houser visits often. He says his Tar Heal Pharms’ extraction process involves cold pressing the plants. “We don’t use any heat or solvents or CO2 in our extraction process,” he says.

His products, which include extracted oils, bath and body products and even a flour — yup, you read that right: flour, not flower — are sold at 22 retailers in multiple states, including stores in Charlotte and Wilmington.

Houser and Cozzolino plan to open a CBD dispensary, Lifted CBD, in the 15th Street Market in early January.

“There are so many opportunities on the horizon,” says Houser, “This is only the beginning.”

BY Rhiannon Fionn

BY Rhiannon Fionn

Editor & Publisher

Rhiannon Fionn is an award-winning journalist based in Charlotte, N.C.