Imagine, if you will, a CBD/THC-yoga-massage retreat deep in the Colorado mountains. Thoughts of tie-dye, incense and Birkenstocks might fill your mind.
Replace the images of New Age vacationers with corporate executives and tech CEOs. Those are among the people flocking to Colorado to experience cannabis retreats, vacations and spa services.
It’s what one Colorado massage therapist, who has made CBD and THC cornerstones of his practice, calls “a gold rush.”
Marijuana sales have been a boon to Colorado, the first state (in 2014) to allow marijuana dispensaries to sell pot for recreational use. Sales in Denver’s dispensaries hit a record-breaking $587 million in 2017, according to the city’s annual marijuana-industry report released on Aug. 9.
Sales of CBD products have tripled in the state since 2014. And when the FDA approved a plant-based marijuana pharmaceutical to treat epileptic seizures, in June, the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill creating protections for the drug, Epidiolex, which will allow the state’s physicians to prescribe it.
The state’s early and continued embrace of medical marijuana, recreational marijuana and CBD products has also led it to be a cannabis-massage-and-spa vacation destination, with tourists booking trips with My 420 Tours and scheduling with LoDo Massage Studios for a Mile High Massage done with THC- and CBD-infused lotion.
The use of THC in a massage is filled with legal hoops to jump through. The client has to bring their own lubricant or supply a THC-infused lotion in their own home. Massage therapists can’t charge more for THC-infused massage. The vast majority of Colorado’s massage therapists don’t venture into using THC.
“A client could provide the [THC] product and bring that in with them,” explained Cameron Leibin, LMT, who works for cannabis company Native Roots, a business based in Longmont, Colorado, that operates medical and recreational marijuana stores throughout the state.
“However, the massage therapist would never be certain of the origins of the actual product they were administering, its ratio, strain or properties,” Leibin added. “Dosing would also be a challenge.”
Even in this type of private therapist situation, a THC massage could only take place in a state with adult-use cannabis legalization, according to Leibin.
“Medical-only states would be excluded because of the potential that the therapist could receive the product that is considered medication and not allowed to be shared with another adult in a private setting as with adult-use recreational states,” Leibin said.
CBD derived from hemp is a different story.
CBD products are growing in popularity throughout the U.S., with top-of-the-line massage-and-spa product manufacturers offering a growing roster of CBD salves, lotions, butters and creams.
Hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC and doesn’t get people high like marijuana does.
In some states, the cultivation and distribution of hemp-derived products is legal. In other states, it is not.
CBD is receiving increased attention for its relaxing and pain-relieving properties.
Despite the hype around THC and CBD, Colorado’s marijuana industry is settling in and growing up—and the state’s massage therapists are increasingly embracing the use of CBD lubricants and spot-treatments as a commonsense way to assist in clients’ relaxation and pain relief.
Glossary of Terms
- Cannabis: the genus of plant to which both marijuana and hemp belong.
- Cannibinoid: chemical compounds found in cannabis plants; there are more than 100 active cannabinoids in cannabis.
- THC: a cannabinoid that has psychotropic effects.
- Cannibidiol: a cannabinoid that has pain-relieving and other effects, minus the psychotropic effects of THC.
- Marijuana: a cannabis plant bred for a high THC content.
- Hemp: a cannabis plant containing less than 0.3 percent THC.
Marijuana & CBD Find Their Footing
Denver-based massage therapist and yoga instructor Darrin Zeer used to have to work hard to get just a few participants in his weekend retreats. With CBD and recreational marijuana booming in Colorado, that changed.
Fifty-one people from around the globe flew to his most recent retreat, seeking not only a new vacation experience, but also a way to relax and rejuvenate.
Participants—those CEOs and executives mentioned earlier—travel to the 420-friendly Aspen Canyon Ranch, 90 minutes outside of Denver, where they do yoga and receive massage with CBD or THC. But they’re not looking for a weird experience or to just get high.
“It’s mostly about relaxation,” said Zeer. “They are seeking a digital detox; everybody is really wired.”
At his most recent retreat, Zeer said, he found out something new. “It’s anxiety. People are experiencing anxiety and seeking relief from that.”
So, why don’t people just get a massage, which has been shown through research to provide relaxation and pain relief? According to the massage therapists and spa professionals who spoke to MASSAGE Magazine for this article, CBD topicals provide a level of relief from pain and anxiety that other topicals might not.
The public is increasingly aware of CBD and they want to experience it in massage sessions.
In a way, you can say that the public’s attitude about marijuana, cannabinoids and CBD is growing up—especially in early-adopting states like Colorado.
“Us Coloradans are pretty sophisticated now,” said Zeer. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my god! A dispensary!’ You know when something’s been around for a while, it matures. Coloradans aren’t looking at the bright lights anymore; we’re just enjoying the benefits of it.”
Benefits to the Body
At Fahrenheit Body Spas, in Basalt, Colorado, CBD is offered as a spot treatment for a $10 add-on fee, or a client can receive a full-body massage with CBD-infused oil for $30 on top of the regular massage-session fee.
The spa’s co-owner, Brian Frisselle, said using CBD is “almost giving a little bit of a cheat to a massage therapist.”
He said although his spa employs talented massage therapists, “you’re giving an additional benefit of pain relief and relaxation, and the enjoyment of the massage goes up even higher when CBD is present.”
According to Native Roots’ Leibin, CBD helps reduce inflammation and boosts massage clients’ relaxation.
“The anti-inflammatory properties of a hemp-based CBD lotion or salve can help increase the benefits of massage for pain management and injury recovery for muscles and ligaments,” Leibin said. “This can also promote enhanced sleep for further benefits.”
But what about the massage therapists who are rubbing CBD or THC into a client with their hands? What effects do they feel?
Zeer said he’s given hundreds of such massages and hasn’t experienced any negative or surprising effects.
“I have never experienced getting high or a negative reaction on my hands,” he said. “I have felt some relaxation—and my aches and pains in the thumbs, wrists and fingers, I feel less pain. I feel more relaxed.”
At Fahrenheit Spa, Frisselle said, massage therapists are in charge of saying “no more” CBD massage sessions on any given day.
“We’ve made rule at our spa that if a therapist is feeling too groggy or tired, they can put their foot down and say, ‘I’m not doing that add-on anymore today.’ It is a high amount of CBD they’re being exposed to.”
With so many CBD topicals flooding the market, how can a massage therapist know what to use?
Zeer said he has tried virtually every CBD topical in order to find just a couple that he feels confidence in.
“It’s a Wild West as far as product quality,” he said. “I’m finding a broad range of products. Heavy research and due diligence is a gift [to clients].” Then, he added, massage therapists can also make more money by selling trusted CBD products to clients for self-care.
“I think the key is to be very up-front and tell clients what product you have available,” Zeer said “I think just communication is the key. If people don’t want [CBD], great. Massage is fabulous. But if people are open to try it, that’s great too.”
Frisselle said adding CBD to massage is an obvious choice.
“It increases your revenue, and from a therapist standpoint they want their client walking away as happy as possible with what they’ve experienced—and CBD is going to increase the chances of that.”
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. She also wrote “The MT’s Guide to Marijuana and Massage.”