SAN ANTONIO – Two entrepreneurs say the age-old cannabis plant is giving relief to many people in the Alamo City and across the nation, and they’re hoping to change its image with the intention of providing legal, holistic remedies to those who seek natural treatment for their illnesses.
Rick Martinez and Charles Rodkey have built a name for themselves in the short time cannabidiol, or CBD, has risen in popularity in San Antonio and across the nation.
Martinez, founder of Wellness Project RX, runs his online business from home and on-the-go. However, being an entrepreneur wasn’t his first calling.
“I became a nurse, and I was able to literally help people through their best and their worst,” Martinez said.
Having worked in the Army as nurse, Martinez has seen it all -- although he hasn’t practiced nursing in over a decade in order to pursue his entrepreneurial career.
“I started a business in early 2001, and we scaled and grew that company,” Martinez said. “We had several hundred employees. We were a federal contracting company and sold that several years ago.”
But it was cannabis that sparked Martinez’s real passion.
"I was really bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. The way I discovered cannabis – not only for the plant and its wellness properties but as a business – was I became a mentor,” he said.
Martinez’s friend, who served in the Marines in Iraq, came to him for guidance to start a CBD business.
"I became fascinated by this whole CBD (thing). ‘What is it?’ And of course, I’m one of those people who dig. And then it was cannabis and then it was marijuana and then it was like, ‘This is a fascinating world, a fascinating business, a fascinating plant,” Martinez said. “There was just so much to it that I felt compelled, not only to learn more about the business and the opportunities around cannabis but also the real, human properties of the plant itself.”
CBD below the 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, threshold is legal federally. Many users claim they benefit from CBD’s properties without getting the psychoactive effects.
Entrepreneurs must be careful when promoting their product. They can’t make any medical claims, as CBD is considered a supplement and not a pharmaceutical.
“There’s a lot of good that this plant does, and that’s the keyword -- it’s a plant. This is from the Earth,” Martinez said. "This is something that was here long before we were, and if one really breaks it down, a lot of medicines came from plants. So what’s so different about this one?"
Martinez and Rodkey both say they take CBD to relieve some of the symptoms of their own anxiety.
“I take it personally for social anxiety and ADHD. If I had this when I was in school, it would have helped me a lot, just with focus. It’s huge for focus,” Rodkey said.
Rodkey started his brick-and-mortar business, Alamo Botanicals, seven months ago in Stone Oak. He has already expanded to a second location in New Braunfels, as the supplement has grown in popularity.
"Alamo Botanicals is one of the first hemp-based CBD dispensaries in the United States,” Rodkey said. "We offer a professional environment for anyone to come in and tell us what’s going on with them. And we can direct them by our experience or anecdotal evidence, the best product/solution to go with to get them to the best point to where they’re actually getting the benefit of the product.”
Rodkey said he wanted to change the script on how many people view CBD.
"We didn’t think that CBD was presented in the right context at some of the stores that carried it,” he said. "We wanted somewhere where … you can send your parents, where they can come in, feel comfortable and we can direct them to the right product. They can try samples and leave and have a benefit from it."
Rodkey and Martinez share the same goal: Educating people about the benefits of CBD and giving customers relief.
“What we do is we’re offering humanity, a new prescription for super wellness, not just wellness,” Martinez said. "I inform people. I educate people. And I don’t have all the answers, but gosh darn it, I will go out there and try to find them."
"There’s really a tide change. A lot of people are realizing that there’s no toxicity to this. They’re find that, ‘Hey, this is really good. It’s helping me sleep,’” Rodkey said. "It’s really a lifestyle type of thing. You do utilize it in a lot of different ways. You don’t necessarily have to use all the products, but a lot of people will find that, ‘This is something I can incorporate in. I’m already buying a lot of these products.'"
Putting CBD to use
As far as CBD products go, people can find many ways of using them.
“There are all types of delivery systems. It’s really whatever way you would like to take it. There’s a product for them,” Rodkey said.
“What I usually tell folks is ‘Let’s start kind of low.’ There are patches. There are edibles,” Martinez said.
CBD can be used in a variety of ways, from topical products to tinctures and you can even vape it.
While Rodkey and Martinez are both based in the Alamo City, their business approaches are somewhat different.
Martinez spends his time promoting his online CBD businesses, mentoring other businesses in the cannabis industry and gives informative presentations nationwide, as well as freelance writing about the industry.
“Second thing is, we launch craft CBD brands. And that stems from my first day as an entrepreneur when we were the small guy. We were the no one paid attention to. And there’s a lot of people in this space that, they deserve more attention,” Martinez said. “These are local creators and they want to take their craft, their infused craft or whatever it is, to market.”
Rodkey focuses on growing his business in the San Antonio-New Braunfels area. He said he’s seen clients from many different demographics in his stores, from middle-age women to those with sports injuries and arthritis. He said he mostly sees people who just don’t want to be in pain and are looking for natural alternatives.
CBD “doesn’t have a lot of the side effects that are associated with most of the drugs that a lot of people are getting off of. Those are just reports we’re getting,” Rodkey said. “This is something that you can use throughout the day and it takes that edge of the anxiety off.”
The future of the CBD business is up in the air, as some lawmakers and departments that run the U.S. may want to change some of the rules regarding the legality of CBD.
“I think a lot of them are overstepping their authority. There wasn’t somebody who died from it. There isn’t someone that took it and had a negative reaction. It’s just somebody who wants to come and mess with it. They see it’s helping people,” Rodkey said. “Anytime you have something new, you need to educate and let them know that, ‘Hey, this isn’t something bad.’”
“It’s these two stubborn forces. And who gets caught in the middle? These entrepreneurs that are really trying to make a difference, who are really trying to help people. They are trying to offer people an alternative real wellness,” Martinez said. “I say shame on both parties. If one really cares, let’s focus on the person who is right there on their knees, waiting for something like this. It can help them.”
Martinez said people who want change in the cannabis space should talk to their lawmakers.
“There’s a lot of fantastic people leading the fight, and I fully support them. But here’s what I tell people, ‘It’s a good fight. It’s worth taking up. Talk to your senator. Talk to your local city council. Talk to your mayors. Talk to your Congress people,’” Martinez said.
Rodkey agrees that it’s the public who has to make it known what it wants.
“Even in Texas, you have people who are for legalization. Let the people make their own decision on how they want to deal with their health,” he said.
For now, CBD remains legal in all 50 states as long as it meets the threshold requirements of THC.
Rodkey and Martinez will continue to serve their community and help those who seek it as long as it’s legal.
For more information on Wellness Project RX, tap or click here.
For more information on Alamo Botanicals, tap or click here.
To learn more about CBD products in the Alamo City, watch KSAT's special report below: