I was strolling with my dog Ezra through the streets of Galway one day and a sign over a new café caught my eye with the name of Little Collins. Knowing this was a main street in central Melbourne, a city where I’d lived for years, I went inside and introduced myself to the owners, a young Irish and Australian couple. After chatting and swapping stories for a few minutes, my eyes wandered over the counter, only to widen at the sight of large glass jars full of what appeared to be solid, juicy marijuana buds.
It turns out Ezra and I had just randomly wandered into Ireland's only CBD hemp flower dispensary, which has just opened on Upper Abbeygate street in central Galway, off Quay street.
The couple very recently moved 17,000 kilometres - from Melbourne to Galway - to set up this business. They are intelligent young professionals who were looking for something new for themselves and their young son. Strong advocates of the importance of choice in society, Íde and JP also identified an opportunity in the CBD industry in Ireland.
They sell their products in the form of teas, coffee additives and in bud form over the counter. With an emphasis on the raw product, a real effort has been made by the couple to include CBD in edible food products and teas so that everyone can access it and try it and move away from the old clichés. Speaking off, there are no Rasta or weed leaf posters on the walls and the place feels light, warm, sophisticated and welcoming, like a modern urban café or small tapas bar. All the products are organic, natural and 100% plant-based. They can be delivered by post anywhere in Ireland or, when it's established, through a door-to-door Deliveroo-style app service (we’ve come a long way…).
OK, let me clear something up. CBD, or Cannabidiol, is weed. It comes from the same plant, but this is a different strain and the legal alternative. It’s the same stuff you smoked in college and behind the bike sheds, however, it is classified and sold as a herbal food product because it isn’t psychoactive like marijuana and contains 0.2% or less THC. THC is what gets you high, CBD certainly does not - it's the therapeutic component of the plant, it's a herbal chill-pill painkiller, grown straight from the earth.
Having tried one of their teas, I can attest to it's abilities. This is not some product that uses the reputation of the widespread popularity of cannabis with none of the effects, nor is it a placebo. Being an Australian traveller, surfer and biker type that’s been smoking on-and-off since I was fifteen, I can (ahem) attest to my own abilities to be a decent judge of this kind of thing. After having one CBD teabag, I felt relaxed and mildly euphoric, but could still operate and function in my normal day to day existence. If I was to create a scale, I would attest having one teabag to the equivalent of drinking a pint of Guinness or a glass of wine. I was slightly more relaxed than I was previously, but I wasn’t reaching for the lasers (or the Doritos) or thinking the walls were runny. It was a nice addition to my afternoon, and I enjoyed a mild buzz for an hour or so while going about my business.
So far, all of the tribes in the city of tribes seem to be getting behind this. The community is positive and excited about this already and supporting the concept. Within four days of opening, business was thriving as word-of-mouth spread. Galway, having always been a medieval town, is a giant melting pot of rumours and this is the latest news bouncing from barstool to café table to busker’s circle. As I was sticking this story together whist sitting in the café, people from all walks of life came by to purchase products. Young and old, men and women, professionals and liberal types came through, including one long-haired teen who seemed dubious that this was real but grateful he no longer needed to go to the alleyway behind the Tesco's to meet Steve.
It seems like the most natural thing in the world for a café, as well as selling your standard teas, coffees and cakes, to sell herbal additives. However, when that same herbal product is associated with something commonly seen as an illegal drug, the waters become murky and grey areas develop. Will we see a similar situation in Ireland as in the U.S.A where some legal authorities permit the controlled use of such substances and others do not, causing a never-ending cycle of uncertainty and legal bickering?
Every good idea begets imitators and in terms of Little Collins, word is they've already begun. Will this concept be accepted, like gay marriage and the abortion ruling, as just part of the way things are now? Or will old clichés and prejudices rise up to remove something that gives the people, or at least a large percentage of them, what they want? Because at the end of the day, something that's non-addictive, natural and helps alleviates pressure from the stresses of daily life can only be a positive thing. In terms of pain relief and it's anti-anxiety properties, the verdict for CBD is in - it's really working. When you add the health benefits and indeed treatment that CBD offers long-term sufferers of serious diseases, such as cancer, epilepsy and MS - then it’s a no-brainer.
What I will say is that we have always been guided and pushed by those who are willing to take a chance and break the mould. Often within a few years what they started becomes the new version of normal as the world turns and things subtly shift.
Will this be the case here in this new and modern Irish experiment? Time will tell.
Words and opinions are solely those of the author. Brontosaurus Dispensary Limited does not endorse, claim or accept ownership of this article.