FORT WALTON BEACH — Walking along Miracle Strip Parkway in downtown Fort Walton Beach, it's difficult to miss the large green cross marking the spot for the area's newest cannabidiol (CBD) store.
Inside, shoppers are greeted by Katharine Olson, owner of Fort Walton Beach American Shaman, who is eager to educate the community about CBD and what, she said, it can do for your overall health.
"There are so many benefits of CBD," Olson said while pouring a liquid form of the product into tea. "Our bodies produce CBD naturally, just not enough of it. So, what this does is help your body act effectively in its natural state. It brings your body into homeostasis."
The product comes from the cannabis plant, but the items offered in cannabidiol stores like Olson's have little to no trace of the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC. Unlike medical marijuana regulated by the Florida Department of Health, cannabidiol is not.
Cannabidiol stores have gained much popularity in recent years for the reported health benefits such as easing pain and anxiety and reducing seizures. It also reportedly helps with post traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
Those types of business are sprouting up rapidly in Northwest Florida.
The Golden Almond Health Store, Boardwalk Vapes and KNOX Cannabis Dispensaries are located in Fort Walton Beach.
On Harbor Boulevard in Destin, Shirlie Phan hopes to get her new business, The CBD Store, up and running by the end of November.
The CBD Store, similar to Fort Walton Beach's American Shaman, will offer CBD in multiple forms: water solubles, gummies, vape fluids and more. There are also products for animals that are said to help ease pain, stress and anxiety.
Phan said because of her personal beliefs, all of the products in her store have no trace of THC.
"I decided to open this store to help others," Phan said. "Personally, it helped my husband with his back and arm pain. The pain lessened immediately. People are really open to the product here in Destin; they know about it already. It's growing so quickly."
Phan plans to open another shop at Sun Plaza in Fort Walton Beach in December.
Olson and Phan encourage peoples to visit their cozy, salon-style businesses to try the products for themselves.
"I recently had a customer come in who was suffering from chronic pain," Olson said. "She started crying after taking samples and said that was the best she'd felt in a while. It was helping her pain."
"This can change lives," Phan said.