A new organization at Coastal Carolina University aims to help students looking to enter the legal cannabis industry after graduating.
“We’re going to do that through seminars, presentations and having guest speakers here at the university,” said Anton Ferraro, president and founder of the Cannabis Business Organization. “We’re exploring all opportunities and doing research into every aspect of it to try to open doors for students.”
The organization held an event on the Coastal campus this week to introduce the group to students.
The CCU senior said he also wants to educate the public on cannabidiol (CBD).
“I’m a big believer in CBD,” Ferraro said. “I think it’s got amazing benefits and unfortunately there’s a big stigma associated with it.”
CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. Ferraro said that unlike THC, CBD does not produce a “high.”
Legal CBD products like oils and topical lines sold in shops can be used to treat things like pain and anxiety. By law, those items must not contain more than .3 percent of THC.
Those operating businesses that primarily sell CBD products are facing an uncertain future in Myrtle Beach. The city council asked the city planning commission to study vape shops and businesses that sell CBD products.
In January, Myrtle Beach City Council passed a year-long moratorium on any new shops selling CBD products, vape products or mainly nicotine products, though a bill could bring an end to the moratorium.
Last year, city leaders approved a ban on selling items including CBD products in an entertainment district that spans from 16th Avenue North to 6th Avenue South on Ocean Boulevard.
A group of business owners is suing the city, city council and the mayor over that ban. The lawsuit filed by the parent companies for the shops alleges the ban is unconstitutional and targets Jewish storeowners. An agreement reached between the city and business owners allows those businesses to continue operating normally without fear that the controversial merchandise will be seized while the court decides on the lawsuit.
Ferraro said there are misconceptions when it comes to CBD.
“People are unfamiliar as to what CBD actually is,” he said. “When they hear ‘CBD,’ it’s automatically associated with marijuana and that’s not the case at all.”
He said the stigma is tough to combat, particularly when it comes to those who have grown up seeing marijuana restrictions in place. He anticipates the “emerging industry” to see a lot of growth in the next decade or so.
Ferraro also believes the industry being young could also be to blame for the stigma.
The organization itself seeks to build a network of industry professionals that can assist students wanting to enter the industry by offering internships and real-world experience.
“I think there’s tons of opportunity,” Ferraro said.
A New Jersey native, Ferraro has lived in Myrtle Beach for roughly four years. In that time, he’s seen the proliferation of stores selling CBD products.
“That’s in a very short time frame,” he said. “I think that the industry is very young and there’s still a lot of room for growth.”
Jimmy Moree with Your CBD Store of Surfside Beach agreed. He said experts predict the legal cannabis industry could be a $22 billion industry by 2020.
“Our brand alone, we have more than 200 stores,” he said.
Ferraro said jobs in the legal cannabis industry include posts in fields like manufacturing and marketing.
“There’s just endless possibilities,” he said.
Whether to legalize medical marijuana in the state has also been a hot button issue in recent months.
Ferraro expects medical marijuana to eventually be legalized in South Carolina.
“I think there’s no doubt,” he said, adding he believes the state would reap both social and economic benefits.
“It’s just a matter of time," he said. I think it’s going to bring a lot of good.”
Visit coastal.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/cbo for more information.