Another Massachusetts Street storefront set to be occupied by business that focuses on cannabis products, accessories

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Wild Side Smoke Shop has filed plans to locate in the downtown Lawrence space at 738 Massachusetts, pictured above.

Updated 9:12 a.m. June 15, 2022

Maybe you already think downtown Lawrence has a wild side to it, but it appears it soon will have a much more visible one — complete with its own awning, sign and a not-so-subtle love of cannabis. Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall to convert a Massachusetts Street storefront into a Wild Side Smoke Shop.

Plans call for the business to locate at 738 Massachusetts St., which is the shop that previously housed Kieu’s clothing boutique.

Details on the smoke shop business are a bit sparse because the company doesn’t need a whole lot of approvals. Rather, it has simply filed for a sign permit to put up a new awning and sign at the Massachusetts Street location. I did briefly get in touch with a marketing official at Wild Side, but he declined to comment about why the company was coming to Lawrence or its plans.

A website called Inhalco published an article last year that described Wild Side Smoke Shop as a smoke shop that has “reigned supreme for many years,” and that “cannabis enthusiasts who are looking for premium products will not be disappointed by their offerings.” That means products like water pipes, vaporizes, wrappers, hand pipes, hookahs and more, according to the site. A lot of that sounds geared toward the cannabis market, but some of the products can be used by tobacco fans too.

Of course, marijuana — even for medicinal purposes — is not legal in Kansas, although the industry is hopeful that a medical marijuana bill may be approved by the Legislature next year. Other types of cannabis products are legal in Kansas, including certain types of CBD oils and products, as long as they don’t contain illegal amounts of THC, which is the component that generally gets people high.

Based on internet listings, it looks like Wild Side sells some CBD products, in addition to smoking accessories, at some of its locations.

According to the Inhalco website, Wild Side has shops in more than 20 communities, with many of them being college towns. A partial list of college-town locations for the chain include: Gainesville, Fla.; Athens, Ga.; College Station, Texas; Ann Arbor, Mich.; East Lansing, Mich.; and Bloomington, Ind., among several others.

It will be worth watching how many cannabis-related shops end up in downtown Lawrence, especially if the tea leaves (I guess those are still the right leaves in this instance) point toward medical marijuana becoming legal in the state.

Wild Side Smoke Shop is the second business in less than a month that has emerged as a potential downtown tenant that focuses on the cannabis scene. In late May, I reported on plans for Guardian MMJ Recreational Cannabis Dispensary to locate in the building at 1025 Massachusetts St.

The Guardian store in Topeka was raided in April by officers from the Topeka Police Department and the Shawnee County Drug Task Force, according to reports in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Guardian officials contend Topeka officials wrongly raided the store because it had cannabis in its name. As a reminder, cannabis and marijuana are not synonymous. All marijuana is cannabis, but not all cannabis is marijuana.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Guardian MMJ Recreational Cannabis Dispensary is scheduled to open at 1025 Massachusetts Street, pictured above, on June 22, according to a sign in the window of the location.

Since last month’s article, the operators of Guardian have been including in me in some email threads, including one that they sent to the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, in an effort to prevent the type of law enforcement action that occurred in Topeka.

In that five-page letter, the business and its lawyer argue that Guardian has a bit of a unique name with its “Recreational Cannabis Dispensary” language, but that it is not selling any illegal drugs.

“We just have a different vibe and marketing strategies that seem to work very well,” according to the unsigned letter.

The letter said the store in Topeka was averaging about 150 customers per day, and the operators expect that number to grow to more than 200 per day in Lawrence.

The letter also made it clear that the store’s operators have been watching marijuana policy in Douglas County evolve, and that looser prosecution standards and lower fines for marijuana offenses has played a role in the company’s decision to locate in Lawrence.

“Shawnee County does not have the same view on this Douglas County legal position,” according to the letter.

However, on Tuesday, Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez announced that she does plan to prosecute the distribution and sale of Delta 8 products in Lawrence. There has been debate across the state about whether Delta 8 is a legal substance in Kansas. On Tuesday, Valdez said she is siding with a 2021 Kansas Attorney General’s opinion that finds Delta 8, depending on its THC levels, is an illegal substance.

How much Delta 8 plays into the plans of any of the new businesses proposed for downtown isn’t clear.

But, surely, there is some looking ahead here by businesses who are waiting for the day that some sort of marijuana use becomes legal in the state. If you recall, in April I wrote about how an owner of Lawrence-based One Heart Farm and Nursery has built what is believed to be the largest cannabis processing laboratory in the state.

Right now, it is processing hemp — not marijuana — which can produce the CBD oils or CBG oils, which is a different variety of a legal product. But the business, which operates under the Kaw Valley Cannabis brand, is prepared to start processing medical marijuana once it becomes legal in Kansas, the owner told me.

So, not only may Lawrence be positioned as a retail center for medical marijuana, but it also may be a production center, if the drug becomes legal.

And finally, it is worth noting that the legal marijuana movement seems to have the interest of some in the development community. Doug Compton, one of the larger property owners in the county, has talked in past interviews about how he and some investors have ventures as a landlord/developer for the cannabis industry in Pueblo, Colorado, where marijuana can legally be sold. The Massachusetts Street building that Wild Side Smoke Shop is scheduled to move into is owned by an entity controlled by Compton, according to county records.


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