On this episode of Mic Dispatch, correspondent Serena Daniari sits down with Christine Hallquist, the first transgender woman of a major political party to win a primary in the United States. Then, correspondent Jeff Ihaza sits down with various experts and enthusiasts to find out what’s influencing an increasingly popular trend across New York City and beyond: cannabidiol — better known as CBD.

Christine Hallquist, democratic gubernatorial candidate for governor of Vermont: It certainly is really helpful running for governor to be really in touch with your authentic self. It’s almost impossible for me to be inauthentic.

Natasha Del Toro, anchor, Mic Dispatch: While there’s still a lot of progress to be made, the trans community is gaining more visibility and acceptance than ever before. And now they’ve reached a new milestone in electoral politics. Christine Hallquist, a Democrat and former utility executive, was nominated in Vermont’s primary as the first out transgender gubernatorial candidate of a major party in the nation’s history. So what does her nomination mean for the trans community? Correspondent Serena Daniari talks to Hallquist about this historic moment.

Hallquist, to audience on primary night: I’m gonna tell you why we’re gonna win in November: because nothing is impossible when you’re on the side of justice.

Serena Daniari, correspondent: Christine Hallquist made political history in August when she became the first out transgender person nominated for governor by a major U.S. party. She won the Democratic primary in Vermont, but she faces an uphill battle in the fall.

[Daniari: Hi, Christine.]

[Hallquist: Hi, good morning.]

Daniari (voiceover): I met up with Hallquist in Morrisville leading up to the primary election.

Daniari: So how long have you been prepping this speech, Christine?

Hallquist: Not long.

Person working on Hallquist’s campaign: Depends on who you ask.

Hallquist: This is our victory speech for tonight. I’m not gonna practice the speech for losing. I don’t care if I give that horribly, I will read that.

Person working on Hallquist’s campaign: Today’s the day.

Hallquist: Yes it is. We are going to vote in my hometown. Hyde Park.

Daniari: Yas.

Hallquist: Or as we say in Vermont, “Hoyd Park.”

Daniari: Hoyd Park.

Hallquist: It certainly is really helpful running for governor to be really in touch with your authentic self. It’s almost impossible for me to be inauthentic.

Daniari (voiceover): Prior to running for governor, Hallquist was the CEO of a major company in Vermont.

[Hallquist, in the documentary Denial: I’m Dave Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, here to make your day.]

Daniari: There, she experienced a very public gender transition at the age of 57, which was documented in a film titled Denial.

[Hallquist, in Denial: I’ve, you know, I’m afraid that nobody’s gonna take me seriously as transgender. And I’ve worked so hard. You try to compartmentalize all this stuff. And then you start talking about it. And it is — it’s too hard. It is hard.]

Hallquist: I was the CEO of an electric utility, you know. It’s like the most macho business, you know, so I have this joke with God. It’s like, “God, why couldn’t I have been, like, a CEO of an arts colony? Why’d you have to make it so hard?”

Daniari: Yeah.

Hallquist: And it was — so the day I transitioned, Dec. 2, 2015, it was — it was challenging.

Daniari (voiceover): In the documentary, Hallquist’s son, Derek Hallquist, captured her first moments living as her authentic self.

[Christine Hallquist’s son, Derek Hallquist, in his documentary, Denial: You look beautiful.]

[Christine: Thank you. I feel beautiful.]

[Derek: You ready?]

[Christine: I’m ready.]

Daniari (voiceover): Hallquist is campaigning to revitalize rural Vermont, raise the minimum wage, institute a “Medicare-for-all” system and provide a tuition-free public college education.

[Hallquist: Good morning.]

[People working the polls: Good morning.]

[Hallquist: How are you?]

[Person working the polls: Wonderful.]

[Hallquist: Christine Hallquist.]

Daniari (voiceover): She faces a tough opponent in the general election. Her rival Phil Scott is a popular Republican governor in a blue state. And Vermont hasn’t voted out an incumbent in nearly half a century.

Daniari: What do you think you as a candidate will bring to the table to sort of challenge what Gov. Scott has established?

Hallquist: I have a plan how to grow Vermont’s rural economy by connecting every home and business with fiber-optic cable, so Vermonters can be connected at the same speed as New York and Tokyo. So, he doesn’t have any vision for how to put more food on the table. We’re just going to fight over the scraps under his leadership.

[Hallquist: I’m Christine Hallquist.]

[Person outside of polling location: Hi, nice to meet you.]

[Hallquist: Thanks for doing your democratic duty.]

[Another person outside of polling location: I really appreciate it. It’s really nice to have met you. Thanks.]

Daniari (voiceover): I went with Hallquist to get ready before her election night event at a trans-inclusive salon.

Hallquist: I do think there’s an incredible historic significance. But I also think it’s about: This is who we are in Vermont. We’re an accepting state; we’re a loving and accepting state. I like to talk about that Vermont, we can show the rest of the country how to do it right.

[Hallquist, as she gets her eyebrows waxed: Ow.]

[Person waxing Hallquist’s eyebrows: That’ll be good for the camera.]

[Hallquist: Ow.]

[Person waxing Hallquist’s eyebrows: You know haters are gonna be there. But it’s just...]

[Hallquist: Yeah we have — we now have the FBI involved. We’ve had death threats, so.]

[Person waxing Hallquist’s eyebrows: Oh my god.]

[Hallquist: Which I knew that was coming, it’s gonna get worse. The greater the threat you are, the more people feel threatened.]

Jackie Shaw, Vermont voter: Well I mean, for me personally, I identify as a transgender woman. So, you know, to see the visibility is the biggest thing for me. She is concerned about her issues. She is a transgender woman and embraces that, but she didn’t try and make the race about that.

[Hallquist, looking at polling numbers: That bar looks good.]

[Person next to Hallquist: Yeah.]

[Hallquist: I had to ask, I came up to Kirsten, I said, “Who’s the bar on the left.” She said “You.” I said, “Oh, OK, good.”]

[Person next to Hallquist: No, it’s amazing.]

[Hallquist: It’s kind of this funny feeling. You know, it’s like, I think at some point I’ll exhale, but right now, I’m inhaling.]

[Person speaking into microphone: She’s given us permission to read the letter here tonight. The subject is, “You inspire me.” “Dear Ms. Hallquist, I’m a black trans woman who lives just outside Washington, D.C., a long way from you up there in Vermont. I struggled hard and wished I could donate a few dollars to your campaign, but unfortunately right now I cannot. I pray you win and when, generations from now, transgender women have gained acceptance, they look back at the history of it all and say, “That woman right there, Christine Hallquist, during an era when trans women were persecuted, rose up and became a leader of her state. Tear it up, sister, I’m rooting for you.”]

[Person hugging Hallquist: Thank you for stepping up. Congratulations!]

[Hallquist: Thank you.]

[Person hugging Hallquist: What an amazing night.]

Hallquist: We made history, and now we’re gonna go on to make history in November.

Daniari: Yeah.

Hallquist: And that’s to beat Phil Scott.

Daniari (voiceover): If Hallquist wins in November, she will occupy one of the highest political offices ever held by a transgender person.

Del Toro: No matter what the outcome, it’s clear Hallquist will continue to inspire many people just like her. And it’s exciting to see more trans candidates running than ever before.

In our next story, we’re taking a look into CBD. It’s a component of marijuana that’s nonpsychoactive, meaning it’s not going to get you high. But it’s said to offer a lot of different health benefits, from relieving pain and anxiety to fighting inflammation. As the legalization of marijuana sweeps through the country, so [does] an interest in CBD oil. In New York, where weed is still illegal, restaurants are serving up CBD in food and beverages in an effort to make customers feel more relaxed. But does the science add up or is this just a passing trend?

Jeff Ihaza: So this right here is going to calm me down?

Person serving drink to Ihaza: It’ll calm you down.

Ihaza: All right. Well, let’s try it.

Ihaza (voiceover): This lemonade is infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in cannabis and hemp. CBD is legal in most states because it does not contain the psychoactive chemical [tetrahydrocannabinol]. Today, the United States is experiencing a CBD boom.

[Today clip: CBD.]

[CBS This Morning clip: CBD’s popularity has risen.]

[CBS Chicago clip: It is CBD.]

[KOCO 5 News clip: No doubt this is certainly a hot topic right now, CBD oil.]

Ihaza (voiceover): The hype comes from the fact that CBD is marketed as a natural remedy for symptoms such as chronic pain, epilepsy and anxiety. CBD has quickly made its way into edibles, drinks, lotions and even dog treats, creating what is estimated to be a $1 billion industry. But is CBD an actual remedy or is it just the latest health trend? I spoke with Ron Silver, the owner of the New York City restaurant, Bubby’s, who recently introduced CBD-infused cocktails onto his menu.

Silver: I think a lot of people are confused by CBD because, you know, this sort of idea is that it doesn’t get you high, which is why it’s legal, but it is a very powerful medicine.

Ihaza: Have you found that it’s been popular in your restaurant?

Silver: Very.

Ihaza: And you know, kind of the elephant in the room for everyone when they talk about CBD is like, “Well there’s not any conclusive scientific evidence that this stuff works.”

Silver: The reason that there’s no research or evidence is because it’s been illegal and the research has just been stomped on.

Ihaza (voiceover): Although many states have legalized the sale of marijuana, medical research on cannabis remains stagnant.

Jeff Chen, director of the Cannabis Research Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles: It’s as difficult to do research on CBD as it is with cannabis and that’s because, in the eyes of the federal government, they are both Schedule I drugs. At the end of the day, if you’re trying to study the medical use of a Schedule I drug, it’s really hard to get funding because, after all, these are defined as having no medical use.

Ihaza (voiceover): So with no clinical evidence pointing to concrete health benefits, why is CBD so popular now — and who’s taking it?

Aisa Shelley, owner of Oliver Coffee in New York City: The trend of CBD in New York went from 0 to 120 like that.

Kevin Davis, manager of Oliver Coffee: I’ll have, like, a younger, like, millennial person bringing their elderly parents.

Ihaza: Oh wow.

Davis: And kind of be like, “Yeah, you can try it, try this. There’s no THC. It’s like, it’ll make you feel better.” And then I kind of explained to them the benefits of it and what it is and the fact that I use it, it’s helped me with my chronic pain, my insomnia, anxiety, things like that.

Chen: In terms of misconceptions about CBD, I think there’s a lot. You’ve heard people say everything from CBD curing their cancer to CBD fixing their depression, all of these things. And just to remind us that the only FDA-approved versions of CBD are for use in pediatric epilepsy. So for all of these other conditions, we really can’t point to much and say we know definitively for a fact that it’s not just placebo, but that CBD does in fact help X, Y, Z, so.

Ihaza (voiceover): CBD is often promoted as a wellness product, but because it’s not FDA-regulated, there’s no guarantee that the product does what it claims.

Ihaza: Do you think everything that’s been commercially sold currently is CBD and is being marketed the right way?

Marta Freedman, co-founder of Nice Paper: No. Especially in New York. It’s kind of sketchy.

Charlotte Palermino, co-founder of Nice Paper: Yeah.

Freedman: The market is a little sketchy.

Palermino: There’s a lot of misinformation. It’s kind of being marketed like a panacea. But it doesn’t cure everything by any means, it’s just helpful with quite a few things. My problem is that when you take a product that’s not well sourced and put it into a pretty package, that’s dangerous because good packaging does create initial trust with the consumer because it looks legit.

Ihaza: So the industry around CBD is supposed to balloon to over $2 billion in the next few years. What do you think, you know, that explosion of popularity, where do you think that comes from?

Freedman: Wellness in general, right? Wellness is all I spend my money on, a lot of my friends spend their money on. When you’re grouping it into that wellness category, I think people are just going to allocate all of their dollars to weed and then to CBD.

Ihaza (voiceover): The full benefits of CBD have yet to be determined, but ongoing studies and privately funded research can more clearly measure the impact of CBD on our health.

Shelley: Whether or not it actually is helping or some sort of placebo, it’s working for me. But I do think it works. I feel a difference, and I know Kevin does as well.

Del Toro: So what do you think? Would you try a CBD lemonade? Or do you think this is just another gimmick? Let us know in the comments below. That’s all for this week. See you next time.

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Ingrid Ostby
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