Folio Weed: Worst-Case Scenarios

Last month’s column was all about my recommendations for people to vote for in the Aug. 23 Florida primaries with an eye toward our shared goal of continuing to build the state’s medical marijuana industry, hopefully even allowing for full recreational use, eventually. Well, let’s just say that pretty much all those people lost, meaning any ambitions we had along those lines are officially out the door, maybe forever. We had 29% turnout in Duval County, and mostly Republican, in a majority Democratic county, where Dems had much more on the line—utterly disgraceful, but we are pathologically incapable of shame.

DeSantis was, in my opinion, basically gifted reelection when state Dems conspired to freeze out Nikki Fried, allowing their personal issues with her to overshadow their supposed actual objective, which was to keep “that guy” out of the White House. With Fried out and Wilton Simpson presumably a lock to replace her as agriculture commissioner, we’ll be lucky if DeSantis allows the status quo to prevail in 2023 and beyond, or whether he acts quickly to put a check on an industry that really does him no favors, but which can’t be bothered to do themselves any favors, either. Maybe he’ll opt against being petty and retaliatory, for the first time in his life, but optimism has no place in Florida politics.

Within days of Fried’s defeat, DeSantis began making noise about increased fees for marijuana companies to do business in Florida when most of us were hoping for the opposite. “I would charge them an arm and a leg,” he said, and he probably will. This will certainly tamp down the entrepreneurial spirit and bring a dead stop to any dreams of a vastly expanded industry, but it’s a fitting punishment for the major dispensary chains. Like any good cartel, they have moved heaven and earth to ensure that Florida’s cannabis industry has remained under the control of a handful of large corporations, which have actively colluded to block any and all efforts toward full decriminalization of the plant.

This basically puts our state’s nearly 500 dispensaries in league with DeSantis. Of course, they won’t say this publicly, any more than Florida Dems would admit female candidates are better off not even bothering to run for governor. Sometimes they’re just playing dumb, but then sometimes they’re actually dumb. The difference is immaterial, as relates to this subject. The dispensary chains failed to properly support his biggest challenger, Fried, who is also the woman who made them all rich. And then, as soon as they had served their purpose (which was specifically <not> to serve hers), the governor immediately declared his plans to screw them blue—bluer than the famous Blue Wave, which officially no longer exists.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health just imposed a strict 24,500 mg limit on the total THC content of smokable marijuana (which does not include vapes) that can be purchased by patients or prescribed by doctors every 70 days. They also imposed a limit of 2.5 ounces of flower, every 35 days, which would be like saying you’re only allowed to drink one case of beer per month. Why did they do this? Because they can, and what of it? We have no power to stop them, and any leverage we had was just given away.

So, since cannabisseurs in Florida are clearly not interested in being serious, let’s spend the rest of this column on fun and games, while such things are still available. Let’s start in St. Augustine, where you can always find interesting Back to School deals, especially this year, thanks to their local Cheba Hut. Have you heard of them before? Nor had I, until Kerry Speckman (who of course would know) told me. Cheba Hut is a cannabis-themed sandwich shop founded in Tempe, Arizona in 1998. Much like Jimmy Johns, Cheba Hut was born as a gimmick to appeal to college kids—specifically, the kids at Arizona State.

Fast-forward about 24 years, and Cheba Hut has over 1,200 employees working at nearly 50 locations across the country, two of which are in Florida–one in East Orlando and the other on Anastasia Boulevard. Aesthetics always matter in the restaurant business, especially when a particular aesthetic is central to its branding. And when it comes to branding, these folks have it down to a science. Each sandwich is named after a different, classic strain of marijuana, some of which haven’t been heard from in years: Thai Stick, Kali Mist, Jamaican Red, Acapulco Gold, White Widow, AK-47, G-13, Pakalolo. (They also sell Kool-Aid!)

How’s the food? I have no idea. The bread is housemade, but the ingredients seem like pretty standard sub shop fare, although the veggie sub menu does show some serious creativity. One would naturally assume that sandwiches made for stoners, by stoners, are a gimmick that is almost impossible to screw up. But, of course, this is Florida, and we are very good at screwing up things that are seemingly impossible to screw up: the 2022 election, for example, which we will thankfully never have to talk about again.

About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at [email protected].