It's not often that a product comes along, captures the public imagination, and becomes a multi-billion-dollar worldwide market. One such rarity is cannabidiol, or CBD. 

CBD isn't new. Discovered in 1940, it is one of the major cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds found in cannabis plants, including hemp. However, in recent years, the hemp-derived CBD market has been growing exponentially as it gets more attention. In September 2018, market research firm The Brightfield Group projected that the hemp CBD market would reach $22 billion by 2022, outpacing all other cannabis markets combined. 

For any product to see such explosive growth would be remarkable, but given how widely misunderstood CBD is, the trajectory is even more so. Fortunately, in December 2018, the Farm Bill was signed into law in the U.S., making hemp and hemp-derived CBD containing less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) legal. THC is the compound associated with a person getting high. With the legality question settled, CBD applications and sales continue to skyrocket.

A history in hemp 

It's a different world than when Paul Benhaim, co-founder of CBD products company Elixinol, first learned about hemp's nutritional value--it's rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids--and developed a popular hemp-based snack bar in Europe. Today, Elixinol's CBD is produced from organic industrial hemp and extracted with a CO2 process, an extraction technique that is safe, nontoxic, and efficient, and which results in a superior final product.

Over the years, CBD research has evolved, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first cannabis-derived medicine to treat a form of childhood epilepsy. European studies have indicated that CBD might help with various types of pain. It is also popular among users who use it as a sleep aid and for a variety of other purposes.

Chris Husong, Elixinol's vice president of marketing and communications, says his founders' two-decade-long history in the CBD business and its commitment to high quality set the company apart. "We know the value of transparency. Understanding where your CBD comes from, and understanding the certificate of analysis, which we keep on our website, should be a priority for both consumers and businesses selling CBD products," he says. 

CBD: The business opportunity

CBD's versatility is part of its appeal. From oil and tinctures to powders and edibles, the compound can be produced in a variety of forms. Elixinol offers CBD-infused products that include skin care solutions, water-soluble CBD powder that can be dissolved in beverages, and even dog treats.

Husong says the company is focused on creating products that work most effectively. For example, the company's liposome product binds CBD molecules to lipids, making them small and easily absorbed by the body. Its new CBD powder is a micro-encapsulated full-spectrum CBD that can be added to drinks and food.

For small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that want to cash in on the CBD craze, the opportunities are abundant. Husong sees more businesses opting to sell the products as part of their retail operations. And they're in good company--Walgreen's and CVS have announced that they will soon begin carrying CBD-infused products. 

In addition, the products complement many service businesses, too. Practitioners like nutritionists, chiropractors, fitness centers and trainers, skin care professionals, and others in the health, wellness, or related fields may find CBD and CBD-infused products complement the services they provide. And selling CBD as an independent distributor can also be a lucrative business opportunity. "I think cannabis lends itself to creativity, and I think that CBD has so many different applications, because it feeds your endocannabinoid system, which is the massive control system for everything else in your body," he says. The only limit is your imagination.