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I was 19 the first time I smoked weed. It was in 1997 at a party at “The Hole,” a rental house about a block north of University Christian Church near TCU. I didn’t know why it was called that, only that it was occupied by some dudes in the Ultimate Frisbee Club on campus. I think one of them was pre-med, and the others were all Advertising/PR majors. As you may imagine from that Frisbee detail, Phish was playing in the background, Dead posters were everywhere I looked, and there was a line in the kitchen leading to a grimy glass bong stationed on the stove. I got in line, which was long enough to take a couple pulls from a bottle of Taaka getting passed around. Hitting the bong — which I was surprised to find smelled like a diaper burning above some old, wet potatoes — took some coaching. A guy in cargo pants who sang along to Trey Anastasio’s guitar solos lit the bowl for me while I huffed, but after a couple tries, I cough-laughed a comically large cloud.

I threw up in a flower bed not too long after that, but in between getting fogged and barfing up cheap vodka, I sank into a couch, where my buddy Myles and I laughed hysterically about the theme song to Gremlins 2 for what seemed like an hour but was probably more like 50 seconds. For a college “first,” smoking weed turned out to be a pretty good time, even with the jam band soundtrack noodling into my shwag-addled brain.

A lot has changed in the intervening 27 years. For one thing, no freelance pharmaceutical salesperson I know has any shwag weed, and while that doesn’t sound like a problem, sometimes I have a hankering for that icky, sticky, baffle-brained, rebellious eighth-grader high, the one that makes your eyeballs look like maraschino cherries, gives you the weirdest headache, and can only be had from weed that looks like shrubbery from a model train display, if said shrubbery were somehow pressed into a brick in a brownie pan. Shitty weed is almost an endangered species, even in Texas, a place that will probably legalize cannabis only after the federal government has forced it to. Which leads me to another thing that has changed in the 27 years since I started smoking: While you can’t legally purchase cannabis products at a store in Texas, you can legally buy products made from hemp. And, well, they work exactly the same as their marijuana counterparts.

Cowtown Canna’s Wedding Crasher is derived from a strain of totally legal hemp-derived THCa flower.
Photo by Steve Steward.
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A few weeks ago, amid a break during our weekly D&D game, a friend of mine whom I’ll call Claxton asked, “You tried that loophole weed yet?” I replied that I had and that, in fact, it was indistinguishable, both in form and feel, from the weed in the pipe getting passed around our group.

“Loophole weed,” which is legal per the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized the sale of hemp and hemp products containing less than .03% THC by dry weight, contains the molecule THCa. When heated, THCa turns into THC, producing essentially the same exact effects — the euphoria, the scattered, lateral thought processes, the munchies — as marijuana.

I’d also tried a “loophole gummy,” a 10mg edible purchased at Roy Pope Grocery, of all places. Both of them hit the spot in the same way a few pints of the nonalcoholic THCa seltzer Lil’ Bit does, just like a few cans of the similar, locally made seltzer Power House.

A collaboration between Fort Worth’s Martin House Brewing Co. and Power Biopharms, Power House is a seltzer made by the former with the hemp-derived THCa produced by the latter. Though Martin House makes the beverage, they do not sell it. That’s the job of Kim Flores.

If that name sounds familiar, then I assume you know of her social media alter-ego, the Hemp Housewife, and her pre-rolled joint brand, Mamma Needs a Minute. For the uninitiated, the fortysomething Flores, a mom of four kids ranging in age from 9 to 19, redefined her relationship with cannabis in the wake of the pandemic before taking to social media as an advocate for the medical benefits of marijuana.

“During the pandemic,” she said at Power Biopharms recently, “I think everyone was going through a mental health crisis. I was certainly myself.  [I was] abusing alcohol. I was on a bunch of different prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, all that fun stuff. I used cannabis for fun, but I didn’t respect it. I went to a real, legal cannabis dispensary for the first time — it was in Las Vegas — and the guy there was like, ‘What do you want cannabis for?’ And I said, ‘I’m trying to get fucked up,’ y’know, trying to be funny, and he was like, ‘Well, [cannabis] can help with anxiety. It can help you sleep better.’ … He told me all these things that it could help with.

“I felt like I was doing a therapy session, and I remember leaving there and thinking, ‘Damn, I take medicine for all that stuff,’ and I knew that cannabis could help with those things. … I would say I was maybe even abusing cannabis [during the pandemic]. I wasn’t using it in a healthy way, and, now, I’m like, ‘This is how I’m going to use it, for medicinal purposes.’ After that dispensary experience, I came home and really dove into how I can use [cannabis] to benefit my health. … I am no longer on those medications. The last time I drank was in the middle of December, and it was just a reminder of like, ugh, why I don’t. … I remembered quickly that I can’t just have one drink, and it reminded me of how I was abusing alcohol during the pandemic, and I didn’t want to fall back into that habit.”

The Hemp Housewife Kim Flores, a working mother of four, aims her brand Mamma Needs a Minute chiefly at folks like her.
Photo by Steve Steward.

Flores took to social media to share her thoughts. “I was like, ‘Why are we afraid to talk about this?’ So, I went on the internet and started calling myself the Hemp Housewife. I wasn’t trying to ‘be’ anything at that time. I realized there was a real lack of education about cannabis, particularly with women my age. … On my 40th birthday was when I launched my brand, when I had products under my line.”

Her brand and tagline, Mamma Needs a Minute, came to be from regular posts in which she’d explain why a break is necessary.

“I would always imply that I was smoking a jay or something,” she said, “and I’d say something with the hashtag #mammaneedsaminute, and then I would start talking about products. Well, a guy in Washington State was like, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you about Mamma Needs a Minute, and, fast forward, I have a brand and licensing deal in Washington State” with wellness company Greenlink International and a cannabis retailer called the Herbery.

“That all happened within 10 months of me going on the internet,” she continued, “and that has been a huge learning experience, especially when I’m in Texas trying to work these deals. I have proof of concept, and people have been in my DMs asking how to get my products from Washington here, which you can’t, because those are in an adult-rec state, and you can’t ship those products here, but I can partner with a hemp grow and produce a THCa version, which is what we’ve done here at Power, and we launched my THCa rolls with them on December 1. … My whole thing was for the moms. My packaging has positive affirmations on all my pre-rolls — ‘You’re a bad bitch,’ ‘You’re loved,’ ‘You’re enough,’ ‘You’re resilient’ — and it’s all just to remind women everywhere that it’s OK to take a minute for themselves and that we’re not going to accept the negative stigma any longer for using hemp products and cannabis products.”

Anecdotally, I can say that one of the Hemp Housewife’s THCa pre-roll joints is pretty much like any pre-roll you’d buy in a legal state. It’s a very nice smoke, and it’s available in places like Thrive Apothecary. It’s also one of many brands, available in many stores across town — on West Magnolia Avenue alone, you can find THCa and CBD stuff at Panther Canna CBD, Modern Smoke, and VapeDZ. If you’re in North Fort Worth, there’s Emerald Organics in Keller, and, of course, I can’t say enough about those Roy Pope gummies, including that you might want to be in for the night before you eat one. These stores offer a legally purchasable hemp high, but whether or not that remains the case is not set in stone. Or even set in stoners, for that matter.

Full of legal hemp and CBD products, Thrive Apothecary is one of dozens of retailers that have opened across Fort Worth since around 2018.
Photo by Steve Steward.

*****

 

The City of Austin decriminalized weed first, and in 2022, the cohesive efforts of separate nonprofits Texas Cannabis Collective, Mano Amigo, and Ground Game won the hearts and minds of people in Denton, Killeen, and San Marcos and successfully got those cities to pass ordinances decriminalizing marijuana — until Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stepped in and overruled those municipalities, insisting that decriminalization conflicted with state laws, despite the obvious will of those cities’ voters.

Austin Zamhariri, who runs the Thrive location on South Main Street and started Texas Cannabis Collective as a Facebook page, said his org and others are working hard to get cannabis decriminalized in Dallas, though the heavy hands of the state’s well-funded conservative overlords will likely fall as they did in those other cities.

While Patrick does not seem to issue idle threats, these THCa and CBD businesses remain legal, just as cannabis continues to waft through mainstream American culture like a burning, overstuffed doob at a music festival. And on 4/20, in celebration of the universal weed holiday, Near Southside burger and craft beer emporium Pouring Glory will host a huge party starring weed-friendly performers Smokey Lewis & Brewed Up J/O/E, Pablo & The Hemphill 7, and Sally Majestic, among others. More than 40 “cannabis culture” vendors will be on hand, and there will be a drive to raise funds for statewide decriminalization efforts and register voters.

The paranoia that this could all come crashing down is real. Patrick’s agenda does not favor freedom, so if you partake of THCa and enjoy its intoxicating, decarboxylated form, a.k.a. what happens when you apply a flame to it, and would like to continue to buy it at upscale Westside grocery stores, the best thing you can do — aside from supporting these retailers — is vote for the politicians committed to bringing Texas’ marijuana policy into the 21st century with the other 28 states that have sensible cannabis policies.

Also, not to be cynical, but Dan Patrick is keeping a lot of hardworking, tax-paying entrepreneurs from making a living, providing jobs, and offering relief from a host of physical and mental maladies to Texans of all walks of life. If you don’t want your mellow harshed, you need to show up at the polls and vote these prohibitionists out. The sooner Texas legalizes cannabis, the sooner I can buy a bag of brick weed at a store — though a return trip to The Hole is never out of the question.

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