Disabled Army veteran opens cannabis products store in the Vista

Five months ago, Nichole Tavares-Gibbs was taking 23 pills a day — opioids for pain, pills on top of pills to combat the side effects of other pills.

She was medically retired from a 25-year Army career, and she awoke each day after only two or three hours of sleep, plagued by unbearable headaches and pain in her spine.

Now, her medicinal regimen is down to seven pills a day, along with two drops a day of cannabidiol oil under her tongue.

“It’s not what you think it is. That’s the problem we have; there’s a lot of people that say it’s marijuana,” Tavares-Gibbs said. “Just the idea of being high is what I run away from. That’s exactly what the opioids did to me. I didn’t like not being in control of myself.”

She still walks with a cane but says her pain has been cut in half since she began using cannabidiol oil last fall.

Last month, Tavares-Gibbs and her best friend, Latrice Belton, opened the Infusion 420 store on Gervais Street in the Vista. With it, downtown Columbia joins the growing trend of local and national businesses selling legal cannabis products.

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is derived from hemp plants. Hemp is a cousin of marijuana in the cannabis family.

CBD and products infused with it are legal. They do not contain significant amounts of THC, which is the psychoactive element of marijuana.

So, no, you can’t get high from CBD.

What you get instead is a calming physical and mental effect, Tavares-Gibbs said. CBD can’t cure your ailments, but it can lessen the pain, she said.

“It’s healing, not the high,” she said.

CBD can be consumed in a variety of ways, including topically, in products such as oils and creams (helpful for pains such as arthritis, Tavares-Gibbs said) or shampoos (helpful for combating hair loss, she said). It can be consumed orally, in straight up oil form or infused in any sort of food or drink, from cake pops and gummy candies to coffee and water. It can be smoked in a vape pen or inserted via suppository.

Infusion 420 sells a variety of these products, including pet treats.

Most CBD products have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has, however, signed off on at least one CBD product for the treatment of seizures.

Tavares-Gibbs and Belton have tried all the products they carry in their store, and “if it’s not going to provide any help, if it’s just something that’s a fad out there, it’s not necessary,” Tavares-Gibbs said. “I’m looking to help people that are suffering and not just to provide a product because it has the name ‘CBD’ on it.”

CBD products are taking off nationwide, partially thanks to the U.S. farm bill passed in December, which fully legalized hemp and is likely to increase the plant’s growth across the country, national media have reported.

In recent months, stores selling CBD-infused products have sprouted in increasing numbers nationally and locally.

In addition to Infusion 420, two other stores specializing in CBD products opened recently in the Midlands: The CBD Store located on Sunset Boulevard in Lexington and on Fashion Drive in Columbia.

CBD products also are being sold in non-specialty stores in the area, such as Rosewood Market and Infusion 420’s Gervais Street neighbor, Kure Vaporium vape shop.

“It’s a very popular thing right now, and we’re excited to fulfill those needs in the Vista,” said Meredith Atkinson, director of the Vista Guild business association. “I’m excited about Infusion 420 meeting the need of the CBD world that we are learning about together. This is new for Columbia.”

Infusion 420 is located at 620 Gervais St. Suite D and is open Tuesdays through Sundays. It will host a grand opening event this Thursday at 4 p.m.

Sarah Ellis has reported on Columbia and Richland County since 2014. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in journalism.