Long before being known for nightlife, parades, and restaurants Ybor City was famous for cigar production. At its height, Ybor produced hundreds of millions of hand-rolled cigars every year. The peak came in 1929 when the combined production hit 500,000,000. The Great Depression put a damper on that growth, but cigars are definitely synonymous with Ybor.
I have never been a big cigar person myself. In my early 20s I pretended to enjoy them because I thought I was supposed to. Spoiler: I also do not like Scotch, it tastes how I imagine an old man’s dress socks would. Cigars weren’t my thing, but I always loved smoking. I smoked cigarettes for years, I even rocked a pipe for a brief period when I was 18 or 19 and desperate for some sort of personality. And of course weed, in a world of vape pens, dabs, and edibles I still love just smoking a joint.
On a recent trip to Ybor City, I made my way to the Chillum Hemp Dispensary. I was on a mission, like thousands of visitors every year, I made the journey to Ybor City to buy a cigar, but this was something different, I was aiming to get my hands on a canna-gar. A canna-gar is hemp based cigar that is infused with Delta-8 concentrate.
My editor at Creative Loafing Tampa Bay told me about these cigars being sold in Ybor City that could get you high and asked me to look into them. I have had countless bosses assign me countless mundane tasks so when asked me to try out a new way to get high I was not going to complain. It is a tough gig. Chillum had a surprisingly wide selection of these canna-gars. Some were wrapped in rose, others in hemp fan leaves. Doses ranged from 650 mg all the way up to 1875 mg of Delta-8. Since I had no experience with Delta-8 products and I am a bit leary of fad-type ways to get high, I decided to start small and slow. I opted for a 3.5 g hemp leaf-wrapped canna-gar.
Delta-8 is not one of those fake marijuana substitutes like Spice or K2 whose nasty side effects kept me from ever experimenting with them. I have been brave (or dumb) enough to take acid prior to a big family dinner, but I’m not even I was interested in messing around with synthetic cannabinoids.
You may not know it by name but if you have ever gotten high you are familiar with Delta-8s running partner Delta-9. Delta-9 THC is the cannabis compound primarily responsible for getting you high. All those good times and big laughs are brought to you by Delta-9. When people refer to THC they are generally referring to Delta-9, but Delta-8 creates the same euphoria and sedative effects that Delta-9 does. Or so they claim.
In a surprisingly enlightened move Delta-8 is entirely legal in Florida. The 2018 Farm Bill made Delta-8 products legal and in Florida, Senate Bill 1766 further solidified their legal status in the state. SB 1766 does limit the sale of Delta-8 products to people over 21. Its totally legal status made me suspect of the claims that this cannabis compound would actually produce effects anything like I was used to. I had a medical card, a bevy of offerings at my local dispensaries so I did not pay much attention to Delta-8. That was about to change, I am a journalist now on assignment and with a purchased canna-gar in my pocket. It was my duty to investigate these claims. I am pretty much a heady Carl Bernstein.
I briefly considered finding an outdoor bar to sit at and puff away, but I had driven down and although I was dubious about the claims being made about the ability to get high off these I still thought it was best to indulge at home. I got home, posted up on my balcony, and proceeded to give this a shot. My expectations were low. There was no way I could walk into a store and buy a cigar that would actually get me stoned. The day before I bought a new water pipe and broke it in with an Indica strain called “Creme De La Zin” that hit me with a beautiful case of couch-lock that had me fully content just sitting there with zero exterior stimulation. So the bar was high, but I was convinced I would not be.
The packaging was nice, a glass tube topped with a cork stopper held the pre-rolled canna-gar. I poured a bit of bourbon, put on some Alton Ellis, and fired up. It lit up fairly easily, and quickly began producing a very pleasing earthy, grassy smoke. I mentioned it at the start that I was not a cigar person but this was different, the mellow enjoyable flavor was not at all off putting. I was really digging it. I am not going to opine on the subtle flavors my palate detected because I do not have a sommelier's skill set. I took a few puffs, set it down and enjoyed the music. It was a pleasant night, the music was right and the booze was delicious, but I was not feeling any different. After waiting a bit,I got back to it. Puffing away with less concern about the world suddenly going sideways on me like I was on some god forsaken salvia trip. My thoughts began to wonder, the tension of the day slowly started to fall away and I realized that I was getting stoned. Not that rapid onset that comes from a high-powered strain being inhaled via a three-foot, double bubble glass bong. This was much more mellow, almost sneaky. I had that dumb goofy smile on my face, and my rapidly approaching deadlines suddenly seemed a bit further off.
After smoking more than half of the canna-gar I was pleasantly stoned and decided to head back into the house. Pretty quickly the munchies came on, along with red eyes. I started to laugh, I could not believe that it actually worked. There is a totally legal, no medical card necessary way to reap all the psychoactive benefits of THC. If you are a regular user of cannabis that wakes up with a blunt, hits dabs and eats potent edibles on the regular, Delta-8 might not be for you. The high is less intense, but the delivery method the canna-gar offers allows you to slow down and puff away knowing that this cigar will produce the euphoria and distraction that we all need from time to time. When the other delta variant slows down and I am again comfortable sitting at a busy Ybor City sidewalk bar, I can guarantee I will have a canna-gar to puff on while I watch the show go by.
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