Marijuana is not legal for recreational use in the state of Florida. But there is another strain of THC sold in Florida that is legal, safe and produces similar effects. It's called Delta-8 and Sarasotan Katie Starling, owner of Siesta Key Sea Bee Dee, is making organic, pure-grade products out of it.
Starling began making her own CBD tinctures five years ago after being prescribed over- the-counter pain relievers and prescription pain medicine to relieve her arthritis symptoms. A full-time mom and hospitality industry worker for a number of years, she was in need of relief. She bought whole-flower hemp online and steeped it in Everclear—the old-school way to make whole flower tincture she says.
"I didn't turn back to over-the-counter pain relievers again," says Starling. "I knew I had to share this with others."
She started Siesta Key Sea Bee Dee five years ago, after receiving her hemp license from the Department of Agriculture. Under this license, Starling can store, package and sell CBD and Delta-8 products online and in-person. She recently got another license that allows her to make ready-to-eat and solid foods--aka, edibles.
Now, she sells her lotions, tinctures, sprays and gummies at The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime, where she has a wellness center with a massage room. She's always catching up on new cannabis guidelines and laws and has to renew her hemp license once per year. While the process can seem tedious, she finds it fascinating.
"I love talking to people about the different strains of THC and CBD and how they can help," says Starling. "There are so many options out there [there are over 100 strains of THC], but I think buying from a maker like myself can give you a more personalized experience than buying a vape or gummy from a gas station."
Because of loopholes in federal law, the Delta-8 strain of THC found in the hemp plant is legal. (It does naturally occur in marijuana plants, but in small amounts). It can be ingested orally or topically, is less potent and produces a milder "high" without impairing you. Starling says it can help with relief from pain, anxiety, insomnia and cramps, and that some people—even lifetime stoners—have come to prefer it over the traditional Delta-9 which surprisingly, Starling can also sell.
"The legal limit for Delta-9 is 0.3 percent THC, so if any of the products you make contain less than that amount, you are good," says Starling. "This opens a lot of doors for people who may have tried CBD or Delta-8 for pain or anxiety, but didn't feel any positive effects."
So, if small amounts of the good old Delta-9 THC are legal, why was Delta-8 created? Starling believes it was a way to skirt regulations. But now, lots of her customers prefer it.
"I call one of my Delta-8 products 'mommy's little helper,' because it works like a traditional Sativa strain, giving you energy," she says. "Then we have another that's a hybrid—25mg Delta-8 and 5mg CBD--and an Indica-style strain to help feel calm."
As far as new products, Starling is always coming up with new ideas. She purchases all of her organic hemp from small farms in Oregon and Texas. Then she presses the plants into oil, infusing it into chocolates, gummies, lotion and sprays. She finds that the most difficult product to make is gummies, because of the humidity in Florida, but chocolates, on the other hand, are easier. So easy, in fact, she hosts monthly cooking classes with Cooking Mama 941 to show others how to make their own.
"That way, people who purchase marijuana using their cards can make their own edibles at home if they choose," says Starling. "People make them for 'pot parties' instead of wine parties, now," she says with a laugh.
If you're just starting out with CBD, Starling says the best product to try is a full-spectrum CBD with trace amounts of other cannabinoids. Then, if you want to take things up a notch, switch to Delta-8 or Delta-9 THC. Or, if you're watching your sugar intake, try zero-sugar supplement drops in your water.
Starling also recommends microdosing cannabis—a recent health phenomenon that involves taking very small doses of cannabis. This way, you don't accidentally overmedicate--in other words, get too stoned.
"For years, I've seen the negative stigma of cannabis keep people from getting the natural relief they deserve. I've seen marijuana associated with illicit drugs in the fields of law and medicine," says Starling. "But I've known people who use CBD to assist recovery. It's better than devastating outcomes we see all the time—accidental overdose of lethal substances like fentanyl."
The narrative around CBD and marijuana is slowly shifting, even in Florida, in part to the legalization of medical marijuana programs across the state. This gives entrepreneurs like Starling the opportunity to share their product and story of how cannabis helped them.
"It's becoming more socially acceptable," says Starling. "I've gotten lots of positive feedback from the community and only hope to continue showing people love through my business."
Find Siesta Key Sea Bee Dee products at The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime, 821 North Lime Ave. For more information or to purchase products online, click here or call (708) 254-1441.