Coffee, tea or CBD? Shop opens to offer edibles, oils, vapes and java

OKEECHOBEE — One of the area’s newest businesses is selling a line of product that is new or unfamiliar to many people, so the owners are working to create a space where those who’d like to learn about and try CBD, or cannabidiol, for themselves in a safe environment can do so, even over coffee if they wish. If they’re of legal age for smoking (18), that is.

Sunshine Vape & Coffee Shop sells hemp-based CBD products and will be offering educational programs for people interested in learning more about cannabidiol and how it might be able to help them with any of a long list of common maladies. Photo by Chris Felker.

Sunshine Vape & Coffee Shop just opened on South Parrott Avenue within the past several weeks. Its owners, Stacy Silva, 34, and her fiance Daniel Meara, 48, say their goal is to assist people who might be helped by CBD to learn about the compound’s medicinal value and to try to benefit from it. They also offer weak nicotine vapes and vaping juices, plus CBD-infused smokeable herbs, for folks trying to avoid or quit smoking tobacco. And they have a number of flavored coffees available, plus will offer espressos in the near future.

At a shop like theirs, a customer doesn’t have to possess a state-issued medical marijuana (MMJ) user license to buy CBD-infused products, including edibles like gummies and candies, honeys, essential oils, vape juices, CBD-oil tincture and others, because the derivative they contain is taken from the hemp plant. It is a legally cultivated, non-psychoactive relative of the cannabis sativa and indica plants from which all medicinal THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is extracted.

In Florida, vendors of CBD products taken from hemp oil can and do legally sell the supplement in many places, including convenience stores, drugstores, essential-oils shops, online or even from a trailer they tow around town. All of those products are non-psychoactive, containing less than 0.3 percent THC. All the ones that contain any higher concentrations are available only from licensed MMJ dispensaries.

According to medical doctors, though, who are licensed to recommend patients for the state Medical Marijuana Use Registry maintained by the Florida Department of Health, the hemp-based CBD oils and products are not as medically beneficial to patients as cannabis-derived CBD.

Mr. Meara and Ms. Silva would beg to differ, to the extent that the stories people tell them about how they were aided by the substance — anecdotal evidence, that’s called — can be trusted as factual.

In other words, scientists haven’t really caught up with marketers. Researchers have been attempting to prove for years that marijuana, whether cannabis sativa (the weed smoked for getting “high”) or cannabis indica (a milder variety with lower THC but possibly more healthful effects), is medically beneficial. Marketers say that because people can cite real-life improvements in various medical conditions, it IS beneficial. That debate may take centuries to resolve.

When asked about it, Stacy and Danny will quickly provide customers with a list of 50 common and not-so-common maladies which “studies show that CBD oil helps with.” They run the gamut from skin conditions including acne to serious illnesses like ADD/ADHD, addiction, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, depression, diabetes, eating disorders, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, liver disease, mood disorders, obesity, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. CBD is also used by some to enhance general well-being, lessen symptoms of mental illnesses, relieve pain (especially neuropathy) and even quit smoking.

Asked whether CBD really works for that last affliction, Mr. Meara stated firmly, “I’m sure it does.” He contends that a lot of young people vape because it’s proven less harmful (as far as tar and nicotine absorption) and more socially acceptable these days than smoking cigarettes.

They’re actually also trying to start a new, more healthful, anti-pharmaceutical vibe rolling in the land and to give people an affordable alternative to prescription medications or surgery for persistent aches and pains, those aforementioned serious medical conditions that also include many others, or just the stress of everyday life.

While they’d also like to capitalize on CBD’s interesting possibilities that have enticed many open-minded experimenters across the nation who suffer from various conditions to try it, Mr. Meara and Ms. Silva are not in it for quick profit. He said they’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into Sunshine Vape & Coffee and its inventory, and have committed to establishing a coffee bar — they’re physically building one into the space.

“We want to make it like a little hangout, like a bar without beer,” he said. “People come in and they can smoke their vape and hang out and talk and have coffee.”

Said Ms. Silva: “We do hot coffee, iced coffees and frozen coffees, and we will get into doing the espressos because we’re excited about doing the coffee art. We want that to be, like, one of our ‘things’.” So far there are seven flavors, plus teas.

Vaping is legal inside businesses where smoking is banned, Mr. Meara said, because vape emissions contain no tar. On Nov. 6, though, voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution that bans indoor vaping in workplaces. It’s not yet clear how that would affect shops like Sunshine.

In fact, they sell vape kits at the shop for $20, but if you turn in a new, unopened pack of cigarettes, they’ll give you a kit for $10. All of them come with a free bottle of vape juice.

The proprietors are running several specials to entice new customers into their shop, which is located in the tan-colored plaza at 2303 S. Parrott, Suite B. Their business hours, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday, are likely to be extended.

They have a loyalty program, too, where when you earn 200 points, you get $5 off your next purchase. “On Wednesday, if you purchase something and sing me a song, I’ll double your points,” Stacy added.

But they don’t have to do much selling once people visit for the first time. Their customers, who range in age from 18 to 80-something, have shared “nothing but, like, good reports.

And we don’t even hit them with the science behind it, or the medical research. We will when they ask, but we basically just tell them the stories that people have told us about it helping them. And that’s all you’ve got to do; it sells itself,” Ms. Silva said.

Charles Sadler, left, talks about his product purchase with shop co-owner Stacy Silva. Tyler Sage (right) is one of their employees. Photo by Chris Felker.

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