by Rebecca Deely
The tiny strip mall that sits at the foot of the Marler Bridge is no longer completely vacant.
Its newest tenant, Haight Ashbury, is still in the works of filling its shelves and getting a sign, but for now the neon green “herbal incense” sign and the bright tie dye T-shirts bring plenty of life and attention to the new shop.
Haight Ashbury specializes in herbal synthetic blends that can be used as “respiratory relaxants.” When smoked, the herbs attach to the same receptors in the brain as THC does in cannabis sativa, more commonly known as marijuana.
“The biggest difference, everything here is 100 percent legal,” Malcolm Cartwright, manager of the shop, said.
Some cities and states, including Florida, are discussing bans on herbal blends that some critics call “legal weed.”
But Cartwright said the amount of different plants that can be blended together to reach mood-changing and relaxing effects is almost endless. The herbal blends they sell are synthetic cannabinoids, which means the chemistry has been altered to control the effects, thus making them legal for sale and consumption.
The herbs are handled within the same laws that govern tobacco products. Customers must be 18 or older to enter the shop.
Cartwright, aware that the tenants who have come before him have had a hard time in the tiny strip, is confident he and his shop will survive.
“There are a lot of people who really enjoy the benefits of cannabis but won’t touch it because it’s illegal. It’s just too risky,” he said. “These are legal options for them.”
Cartwright said another perk from having legal herbs to choose from — aside from jail-time, fines, and a hand cuffs — is the fact that the tiny packets come with labels explaining variety, potency and effects.
“One can choose a “floaty” blend or a “heavier” blend if they’d like,” he said.
Haight Ashbury is also a one-stop shop, selling locally blown glass smoking pipes and lighters, as well as tie-dyed T-shirts.
He said they will ultimately be selling tapestries, hemp jewelry, and other locally-made crafts.
He said the store has gotten a pretty good response from customers, especially dock workers, so far. He hopes to expand his customer base and stay open later to accommodate hospitality workers.