Matthew Wetzel, owner of Laughing Grass Hemp cannabidiol (CBD) dispensary, has seen many changes since he opened one of the first CBD dispensaries in the Milwaukee area. In less than a year, Milwaukee County experienced a CBD store boom, and Wetzel recalls how many current CBD entrepreneurs had visited his store in West Allis before beginning their path to cannabis entrepreneurship.
‚ÄúI remember their faces from September, during the first couple of days we were open,‚ÄĚ he recalls. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve traveled to a lot of their stores, and it is rewarding to see what they‚Äôve learned from us. We gave to Wisconsin a very unique dispensary, and others have put their little twists on it.‚ÄĚ
Wetzel opened a second Laughing Grass location inside the Miramar Theatre on April 20‚ÄĒ4/20 Day, during which annual cannabis-oriented celebrations take place. There‚Äôs retail space downstairs and a 1,200 square-foot membership-only, V.I.P. hookah lounge upstairs. ‚ÄúWe use a non-tobacco, non-nicotine shisha, which is a tobacco blend that‚Äôs put into a hookah, and combined with Laughing Grass‚Äô own CBD kief, a CBD hash,‚ÄĚ Wetzel explains. Membership is limited at this time, but Wetzel is planning to expand, possibly with a CBD pedal-tavern.
Meanwhile at the West Allis location, business is brisk, and Wetzel‚Äôs adding new products. In addition to CBD oils, edibles, flowers, pre-rolls, coffee, topicals and pain balms, he now carries CBD bath bombs in citric, basil or lavender scents, made with essential oils, and he‚Äôs recently added hemp honey and tea. CBD kombucha on tap is coming soon. Wetzel also has a processors license and contracts with a hemp farmer in Port Washington to make Laughing Grass label CBD products.
Laughing Grass also has its own unique glass tubes for their hemp joints that are engraved with the company‚Äôs ‚ÄúLGH‚ÄĚ initials. Wetzel says that measure, along with special cards the store issues to customers, can help the West Allis Police Department distinguish CBD joints from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) marijuana joints. He‚Äôs remodeling the West Allis location to add a Wi-Fi lounge, and his staff has certification from THC University in Colorado to thoroughly answer questions and help with products.
In 2014, Wetzel‚Äôs son had experienced severe seizures. After learning how other families with children suffering from the same type of seizures found relief through CBD, Wetzel moved his family to Colorado, where he says they were ‚Äúcannabis refugees.‚ÄĚ He began giving CBD to his son, which he credits with stopping the seizures. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs now a healthy boy and just had his eighth birthday,‚ÄĚ Wetzel says. ‚ÄúHe has not had a seizure since we left Colorado.‚ÄĚ
Wetzel advocates for advancing cannabis legislation in Wisconsin and is working with others in the hemp industry to form the Wisconsin Hemp Alliance. The group will push for regulation of CBD products. ‚ÄúRight now, CBD is not regulated, and we don‚Äôt want this to be a race to the bottom because there will be people creating products with no CBD in them, and that doesn‚Äôt look good on the industry.‚ÄĚ
Wetzel is confident that Wisconsin is close to full cannabis legalization, and stigma surrounding the plant is slowly drifting away. He‚Äôs been working with attorney Matt Flynn, and with Eric Marsch of Southeastern Wisconsin NORML, to advance medical, industrial and recreational legalization of marijuana. ‚ÄúWe can grow more cannabis than Colorado‚ÄĒif we do it right,‚ÄĚ Wetzel enthuses. He‚Äôs also active in the West Allis community and participated in events such as the recent West Allis A La Carte.
For more information, visit facebook.com/laughgrass1.