Panel voting for South By Southwest 2021 just closed, with 64 proposed results relating to cannabis. Days ago, Travis County’s Judge Lora Livingston penned a letter declaring the smokable hemp ban in Texas unconstitutional. The cannabis landscape in Texas is changing, behind but not separately from the rest of the United States. Texans have questions.
This year, Austin Chronicle readers voted Restart CBD the city’s “Best CBD Purveyor.” The family-owned company, which just celebrated its third anniversary, is well-known for its approachability, especially for new CBD users. The North Austin storefront is bright and simple, without gimmicks.
“I come from cannabis culture. I love that experience,” says founder Shayda Torabi of the more traditional shopping aesthetics. “But I think when you’re presenting something to a new consumer, like here in Texas, we saw an opportunity to make it a little bit more accessible to people who were not familiar with that type of environment. I always highlight with my team and staff: There’s obviously no dumb question.”
It’s more than welcoming interior décor that draws people to Restart. Each of the company’s three sisters has a distinct role in running the store and keeping customers up to speed. Shayda is responsible for marketing, managing the brand’s reach both in the store and online. She founded the company after the traumatic experience of being hit by a car and looking for alternative pain solutions to opiates. Her advocacy for CBD comes from personal experience and a willingness to take her care into her own hands.
Similarly, Restart customers find relief for pain, anxiety, and poor sleep, among many other more individual needs. The store’s website guides their experience with extensive resources, references, and testimonials.
Sydney Torabi, a former college athlete, represents a very health-conscious user, guiding the sisters in choosing products based on ingredients and dosage. Her nutrition degree and background as a personal trainer reinforce the brand’s commitment to simplicity.
Bringing that expertise directly to the customer is Nika Torabi’s job as the store’s professional interpener (a position widely described as a “cannabis sommelier”). Nika picks up on consumer requests, making sure Restart stays ready as trends change.
Shayda sees the recently legal market and the consumers who fuel it pushing each other to new heights, bit by bit. Consumers getting more educated through popular media outside the industry are starting to ask for previously little-known products. Meanwhile, the growing ubiquity of CBD is drawing more curious shoppers in for the first time. Shifting state legislation further slows growth for the industry, but just because it’s less than explosive doesn’t mean it’s stuck.
“Yes, Texas is slower [than much of the U.S.], but we are up to some really great things. We lost some stuff and we’re winning in some areas, and that’s okay,” says Shayda. “How do you stay positive and keep moving forward in an industry that is very fast-paced but very slow ... to see changes being implemented?”
Right now what Texas has lost and gained is benchmarks. Its current maximum for trace amounts of Delta-9 THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) is 0.3 percent. It’s not enough to make users feel high, but athletes like Sydney could fail a drug test.
During the last legislative session in Texas, Shayda helped advocate on a proposition to raise medical marijuana from its 0.5 percent Delta-9 THC limit to 5 percent. It would also have opened up treatment options for those suffering with the likes of epilepsy, incurable diseases, cancer, PTSD, and chronic pain. The bill made partial progress, moving Delta-9 THC limits to 1 percent and adopting cancer and PTSD as acceptable ailments to treat with medical marijuana.
The compound in any amount over .3 percent Delta-9 THC is still illegal in Texas for those without a medical use card.
In June, plans in Texas to ban Delta-8 THC, a less potent chemical derived from hemp, fell through, and it remains legal.
According to Shayda, Austin’s unique position on the de facto legality of cannabis is simply that Travis County District Attorney José Garza does not wish to prosecute on minor possession charges. In turn, the Austin City Council declared to the Austin Police Department that its funding was contingent on easing up on this. The APD cemented this decriminalization in a memo in 2020. Small moves like this in progressive cities, Shayda hopes, will demonstrate to lawmakers that restrictions can be loosened with positive results.
“[Dropping the smokable ban] was a huge win for us and I think that being moved to the side now gives us a runway to continue to educate and advocate on behalf of cannabis,” Shayda says.
When asked about next steps, she says: “I wouldn’t say there’s a major goal because there’s not anything really major coming up that is going to move the needle further, faster.”
Texans can help by becoming part of that demonstration of success, getting educated through trusted retailers and incrementally trying what feels safe for them.
“[Restart] is a business for us to continue to educate consumers and make them feel as comfortable as they can with cannabis and advocating on behalf of Texas at a national level,” says Shayda, “which is really important to me as a born-and-raised Texan: reflecting in national conversation.”
Restart is eager to walk customers through their options in-store at the corner of Rutland Drive and Burnet Road. It also ships products, but be careful ordering in the heat; some of them might melt! Check out the catalog online at restartcbd.com.