Photo courtesy of Texas Original

In the United States, the public perception of cannabis use has come a long way. Throughout the 20th century, much of the cultural conversation has been defined by bluster — from the histrionics of ‘30s propaganda films like Reefer Madness to the lunatic PSAs of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Lost in that conversation was the growing number of people who turned to cannabis to manage chronic pain or severe nausea — uses that predate the plant’s popularity as an intoxicant. Thanks to the work of companies like Texas Original, relief is no longer a back-alley proposition.

The Austin-based company — the state’s first and largest medical cannabis provider — was founded in 2017 in the wake of the 2015 passage of Texas’ Compassionate Use Act. Since then, it has evangelized the myriad uses of the much-maligned plant.

“When the Compassionate Use Act passed in 2015, we saw a very important opportunity to bring life-changing cannabis medicine to Texas," CEO Nico Richardson tells CultureMap. “As the only medical cannabis provider headquartered in Texas, we take great pride in our commitment to making cannabis medicine more accessible to Texans.”

Texas Original has served more than 40,000 patients in its brief six years but doesn’t intend to rest on its laurels. To celebrate its sixth anniversary, it launched its first high-dosage edible, a blueberry lemonade gummy with 30 mg of THC, designed to alleviate pain, muscle spasms, and nausea. The gummy allows for sublingual absorption of THC, creating a faster onset of relief than a pill.

It is also uncommonly strong; Google searches turn up out-of-state products, and Texas Original says this is the first gummy containing its dosage in the state.

Texas Original is expanding its distribution network, too. Recently, it added pick-up locations in North Austin, Plano, Hurst, and The Woodlands. A new, state-of-the-art cultivation center is expected to be running in Bastrop by 2024.

Richardson says the mission of making medical cannabis safely available to all who need it is not yet complete. He notes that Texas is the largest state without a fully open medical cannabis system.

“The most important change we need to see in Texas is the expansion of the medical cannabis program,” Richardson continues. “Right now, thousands of Texans, including our veterans, are excluded from medical treatment because chronic pain is not a qualifying condition under the Compassionate Use Program. These patients are forced to choose between addictive, potentially lethal opioid medications, or unregulated hemp products for pain relief.”

Richardson says much of the hysteria around cannabis use has dissipated as families have seen the first-hand benefits in treating conditions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. Nonetheless, the stigma still exists among some policymakers. While medical cannabis still garners controversy, a loophole in the Farm Bill allows customers unfettered access to intoxicating products containing compounds like Delta-8.

“The stigma that remains surrounding medical cannabis in some corners has prevented patients who need a safe medicine from accessing it,” says Richardson, “but intoxicating hemp products are showing up in Texas schools, with virtually no product safety regulations, because lawmakers haven’t closed the loophole allowing minors to purchase them.”

Though that double standard is no doubt frustrating, Richardson does see the medical cannabis conversation heading in the right direction.

“At the federal level, there is a high probability that cannabis will be rescheduled from schedule I to schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act in the near future,” he says. “Rescheduling cannabis would be a recognition by the federal government that cannabis has important medical applications: a fact that has already been widely accepted by the vast majority of U.S. states.”

Photo courtesy of Texas Original

Top medical cannabis dispensary buds in Lakeline with new pickup store


Folks north of Austin can now find more relief closer to them with the opening of a new facility for cannabis prescription pickup.

Texas Original is now open in the Lakeline area at 10222 Pecan Park Blvd., continuing to expand the brand's services throughout Central Texas. While Austinites may be used to more recreational cannabis stores, Texas Original's main clientele are patients managing things like cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even dementia.

In Texas, patients can obtain medical cannabis prescriptions through online clinics or local physicians registered with the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas; In Texas Original's case, the dispensary connects candidates for medical cannabis with partnering clinics via an online form to close the loop between prescription and pickup.

Texas Original (formerly Compassionate Cultivation) opened the first public medical dispensary in the state (out of Manchaca) and started serving patients in 2018 with the motto “Grown for Texans by Texans.” The entire operation — from the cultivation of plants to the formulation of products — is based in the state. In 2023, Texas Original was named the best medical marijuana dispensary in the Austin American-Statesman's Community Choice Awards.

This is now Texas Original’s fourth location in Central Texas along with its headquarters and dispensary in South Austin, two other stores in Waco and San Antonio, and many others throughout the state.

“Opening a full-time pickup location that serves our growing community in North Austin and its surrounding suburbs is another step toward creating comprehensive medical cannabis access for all patients throughout Texas,” said CEO Nico Richardson in a release.

To celebrate the opening, Texas Original is partnering with a telehealth medicine clinic to offer free one-year prescriptions to 50 customers at the North Austin location on a first-come first-serve basis. Patients can visit the store this week to book an appointment with the telemedicine clinic’s registered physicians to receive a prescription for medical cannabis.

For more product information and hours of operation for all of Texas Original locations, visit texasoriginal.com. Hours of operation at Lakeline are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 am to 6 pm, with plans to expand to six days a week in the upcoming months.

Photo courtesy of Bayou City Hemp Company

2 budding Texas cannabis companies pop open new THC-infused seltzers soon to hit Austin shelves

make mine a thc

Since the rise of low THC and CBD products in Texas, we've nearly seen it all. Gummies, chocolate, candy, baked goods, and more. But now, two Houston companies have developed the next hottest (or should we say coolest?) product on the market: cannabis-infused seltzers. And now they'll be distributed all across the state.

Bayou City Hemp Company (BCHC) has teamed up with award-winning 8th Wonder Brewery, Distillery, and Cannabis to manufacture these nonalcoholic beverages for statewide distribution. They have previously worked together since 2021 to pioneer the first-ever hemp-infused seltzer in the state.

Their latest drinks will be shared throughout Texas by Flood Distribution, in a huge milestone for the beverage and cannabis industries. In a press release, Flood Distribution co-founder Kyle White stated "now" is the time to get into the ever-expanding industry.

"THC-infused beverages are safe, delicious, and offer clients the opportunity to be at the forefront of this industry and steer the direction it will head in the future," White said.

In addition to BCHC's THC-infused ranch water and paloma seltzers, a few of the beverages that will be available all throughout Texas include 8th Wonder's Trillionaire, Lil Bit, and Wonder Water. Other offerings include drinks that have been already established in other areas of the country, such as Happi, Good Feels, Drippy, and more.

“It’s a huge milestone for Happi to not only become the first national cannabis beverage brand with local distribution in Texas, but to also launch our unique functional seltzers Happi Glow and Happi Nightcap with this team,” said Lisa Hurwitz, Happi president and cofounder. “Collaborating with these partners to locally produce Happi really makes us feel at home in Texas.”

To ensure the beverages are compliant with Texas law, they have been formulated using BCHC's proprietary technology with hemp-derived Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC.

BCHC CIO Stephen Horton explained the innovations by the company's Houston-based research and development lab have "enabled [them] to to develop some of the most delicious and effective" beverages.

“At Bayou City Hemp Company, we have the expertise to formulate a wide range of functional and flavorful beverages that meet the needs and preferences of today’s discerning consumers,” said Horton.

Bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and many other marketplaces in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio will soon see these seltzers on their menus and store shelves in May.

Photo courtesy of Earlybird CBD

Get to know these Austin cannabis brands at their 420 celebrations

Blaze it, vape it, etc.

Lots of holidays come with cumbersome traditions, but there's one that encourages doing whatever you want to do — especially if it's fun. Although many cannabis lovers plan to stay home on April 20 — or 420 — some Austin organizers are putting on more intensively curated events.

The weird and youthful capital is already a growing destination for the cannabis industry including hemp products and cannabinoids (like CBD, CBG, and delta-9). Especially in communities like Austin with a strong wellness culture, brands have started taking a more thoughtful approach to something that used to be best advertised through irreverence and mystery.

There's no better time or place to get started on a cannabis journey, whether the goal is to get high or stay grounded. Here are four events by some of Austin's top cannabis brands this 420.

Earlybird CBD
This cannabis company partners often with local businesses, making it an easily recognizable cornerstone of the Austin market. There are tons of places to buy Earlybird CBD products, but the lineup itself is small, keeping things simple with full-spectrum CBD tinctures and gummies. These products contain all the natural compounds of the plant, including a very low level of THC (likely imperceptibly so, but worth noting for people who may take drug tests).

Earlybird has curated a big party and show at Fairweather Cider with KOOP, Austin's adventurous community radio station. Kind Keith and a special guest will play tunes live, alongside DJ Sets by Art Baker of Jamaican Gold and Honest John of Voyager. Spicy Boys Fried Chicken and Tastemaker Awards nominee Bad Larry Burger Club will offer indulgent snacks while Earlybird hands out treats from the "gummy ball machine" to guests age 21 and up.

The free show is open to the public without an RSVP. Check Instagram for more information. 4-10 pm.

Restart CBD
Perhaps the best-known CBD store in town, Restart CBD earns its great reputation with almost impossibly detailed advice both online and taped to in-store display cases. The huge selection offers lots of versatility from gummies, to oils, to pre-rolls, pet treats, baked goods, and more. A scroll through the website preps a CBD user with science, legislation, and more readable anecdotal tips. It even maintains a partnership with a CBD hotline.

Cannabis, pizza, and a movie are a timeless combination, so Restart and Salvation Pizza have teamed up to host "Dosed and Infused." The pizza party includes a showing of a famous Austin movie (Dazed and Confused) with $4.20 slices and a delta-8 infused ranch dipping sauce. (If you think dipping pizza in ranch is weird, consider that you'll be in an altered mental state.) The first 30 guests will receive a goodie bag with Restart products.

This showing is free and open to guests 21 and up. Reserve on Eventbrite. 6-8 pm.

The Happy Cactus Apothecary
This store is Austin to its core. The pink trailer is like a food truck for CBD products, and a new brick-and-mortar shops expands the good vibes in the same hue. The store is known for its high-quality selections that the founders have "researched and tested" across the country, as well as its welcoming atmosphere. The Happy Cactus makes its own gummies alongside the teas, salves, and more it carries from other brands.

This 420 celebration doubles as a birthday party for the shop. Starting at 4:20 pm, of course, there will be free beer, a live DJ, goodie bags, and more. A raffle will be available to any visitor who spends $50, and will be active both at the party at the trailer at 5700 Menchaca Rd. and at the brick-and-mortar at 3414 E. 7th St. Prizes are not listed, but they'll total $420 worth of products. That $50 should be easy to hit given the "dope deals" teased.

RSVP on Eventbrite. 4:20-6 pm.

Austinite Cannabis Co.
This smaller company is known for its knowledgeable and friendly staff, and a storefront that brings together a wide range of products by many brands, including non-CBD products like books, merch, and creative smoking accessories. It embraces more of the stoner culture that cannabis shops were known for before the legalization of CBD and whitewashing of hemp products. The team also hosts a round table podcast for stories from within the industry.

Austinite Cannabis Co. hosts a recurring event called Cannabis Combat Club that surely won't be anything like other brands' celebrations — not to mention, it celebrates two days late on April 22, so visitors can make this event in addition to their prior 420 commitments. The store will host an open mat jiu-jitsu spar in the back with "light refreshments" and standing and sitting room for spectators.

RSVPs (via Eventbrite) are not required, but requested for an estimated headcount. 11 am to 2 pm.

Readers should note that cannabis legislation and industry practices are evolving very quickly on a state-by-state basis. The FDA has not approved any cannabis products without a prescription. Lack of FDA approval does not mean that a substance is definitively unsafe — the agency simply has not conducted enough studies to make a recommendation.

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Texas and California traded nearly 150,000 residents last year, Census report says

texas transplants

Texans love to make digs about how many Californians are moving here, but a rising trend in Texas residents' relocation habits may have Californians saying the same thing about Texans soon.

A new U.S. Census report analyzing state-to-state migration has revealed new estimates regarding Texas' growing population in 2022. According to the report, more than 668,000 new residents relocated to Texas from out-of-state last year.

Not surprisingly, the highest number of new Texans hailed from California. More than 102,000 Californians made the move to the Lone Star State in 2022.

But in a fun population twist, California also received the most Texpats in 2022, the report showed, followed closely behind by Florida, then Oklahoma. Of the 494,077 people who left Texas last year, 42,279 went to California.

Why Californians move to Texas
Californians often seek out a lower cost of living by moving to the most "affordable" cities in the state. Dallas has shown to be at the top of the priority destination list after the city usurped Austin as the No. 1 city for California movers earlier this year. And when a California transplant can save more than $1 million by moving to either Texas city and buying a home, it's not hard to see the appeal.

Other reasons for the California-to-Texas exodus include Texas' lack of income tax and the flexibility of remote work opportunities, they say.

While California took the lead with the most new movers flocking to Texas, Floridians are also choosing to pack up and leave their Sunshine State for the Lone Star State, the report says.

The top 5 states with the most residents moving to Texas in 2022 were:

  • California – 102,442 new residents
  • Florida – 41,747 new residents
  • New York – 30,890 new residents
  • Illinois – 25,272 new residents
  • Louisiana – 25,192 new residents

Where Texans are moving
The Census report showed that less than half a million Texas residents relocated out-of-state last year, totaling 494,077 people.

"Texas had the country's lowest (11.7 percent) outmigration rate, with most of those who did move relocating to California (42,479) or Florida (38,207)," the report said.

The top 5 states where Texans moved in 2022 were:

  • California – 42,279 Texans
  • Florida – 38,207 Texans
  • Oklahoma – 26,440 Texans
  • Colorado – 25,466 Texans
  • Georgia – 23,754 Texans

New Texans from abroad
In addition to state-by-state migration data, the report also provided estimates for how many new Texans came from abroad. Out of 237,051 new residents, the majority – 233,751 people – relocated from outside the mainland last year.

About 2,441 people moved from Puerto Rico, and 859 arrived from unspecified U.S. island areas.

Texas has been a magnet for international homebuyers for several years. The state has held its position as the third hottest U.S. housing market for international homebuyers for the fourth consecutive year in 2023. A total of 9,900 Texas homes were purchased by buyers from outside the U.S last year, spending a gigantic sum of $4.3 billion.

Esquire's praise for top Austin Mexican restaurant leads this week's top 5 most-read headlines

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From our best chefs to our neighbors' strong tourist pulls, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin's new favorite Mexican restaurant scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants list. Este was the only Texas restaurant on the main list.

2. 'The twinkliest town in Texas' and 6 other Hill Country locales become Christmas wonderlands. Those warm fuzzies aren't always easy to find amongst Austin's seasonal glitz — they're a mall-town affair.

3. Austin sparkles and shines as the No. 1 most festive city in the U.S. for 2023. Thumbtack specifically focuses on home holiday projects, but Austinites can glean inspiration from the city's many festive displays.

4. Austin is among the 20 most 'house rich' cities in U.S., report says. The study found that 44.70 percent of all housing in Austin is owner-occupied. The median home value of a home in the city was $593,000.

5. This Texas city is among the 50 best places to travel in 2024, says Travel + Leisure. Fort Worth was the only Texas city to make Travel + Leisure's prestigious list, and one of just a handful of U.S. cities.

A new daiquiri bar and authentic spicy ramen top Austin's 11 tastiest bites of food news

News you can eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

Despite Austin's proximity to the Gulf Coast and the Louisiana Bayou, we don't have too many restaurants replicating the area's cuisine. A new bar and grill called Austin's Very Own Saltt is adding to the growing niche, highlighting seafood and daiquiris — popular in New Orleans for how easy they are to make and dispense to loaded, novelty-seeking tourists on a hot day. Along with seven or more variations on the sugary frozen drinks, expect classics like Cajun butterfly shrimp, fried catfish, and shrimp fried rice as a side. Surprisingly, this bar won't entertain downtown day drinkers, but a milder crowd up north (2525 W. Anderson Ln.). It opens December 2 at 5 pm.

Austinites likely need no introduction to Shake Shack, the fast food burger joint with surprisingly upscale culinary initiatives. A new location in Cedar Park (1905 E. Whitestone Blvd.) is the first in the area, and it's wooing new customers with several opening day offers. On December 5, guests will receive branded holiday ornaments, and Shake Shack will donate $1 for every sandwich sold to Texas Humane Heroes, a pet shelter with an adoption center in Leander. Hours are 11 am to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11 am to 11 pm Friday through Saturday.

ICYMI: One of the most famous barbecue joints near Austin, the Salt Lick BBQ, offered big news this week: It's opening its third full-scale location. This one will be in Fredericksburg, opening sometime in 2025 if everything goes according to plan. Another famous restaurant with more upscale international credentials, Quince, also shared photos of its beautiful plates and views after a very quiet soft opening of its Lake Austin location. If you've been reading for a while, you may recognize a few other restaurants that opened this week: Mutts Canine Cantina,El Alma Cafe y Cantina, and a Milk Bar pop-up.

Other news and notes

Many Austinites swear by Jinya Ramen, which originated in Tokyo and now commands a cult following here, in Austin. On December 1, it brings back its "fan-favorite" Red Garnet bowl, featuring "thick noodles," vegan broth, a spicy garlic sauce, pork chasu, green onion, kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), onion, and spinach. It'll be on menus until February 29, 2024. New to the United States locations is also the Curry Nikuman bun with pork soboro (ground pork) and a curry dipping sauce.

Speaking of local favorites, Home Slice is also bringing back a special menu item: a vodka pie (not sold by the slice), featuring a cream sauce made with Tito's Handmade Vodka and fresh mozzarella. The pies, two new natural wines, and a prize drawing will all raise funds for Southern Smoke in Houston, and Foundation Communities in Austin. One lucky winner will win free pizza for a year; Tickets ($10, or 3 for $25) are available for purchase in-store until December 24.

Widely recognized as one of Austin's best new-ish restaurants, Canje charms guests with Caribbean flavors — especially as Austinites crave a little tropical feeling during winter months. On December 3, the restaurant is inviting anyone to stop by for a free Trinidadian dance party with a DJ and Trinidadian street food. Details are sparse, but we don't need much else to be convinced it'll be worth a visit. The party goes from 5 pm to midnight. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Aspiring architects who don't have the budget to experiment on Austin land can try on gingerbread houses first, at beautiful South Lamar restaurant Eberly. Pastry chef Raven Breitfeller will guide visitors through the delicate process, but things won't be too serious as the seasonal cocktails and passed apps start rolling in. Tickets ($90) include all materials, one cocktail, and snacks, and are available via Resy.