High Times family member and regular Cannabis Cup volunteer Andrea Sternberg recently opened a unique smoke shop in Fountain Hills, Arizona—a small town whose 22,000 residents seemingly had not paid much attention to the burgeoning cannabis movement since voters approved MMJ here in 2010. That’s all about to change.
The Higher Conscience Smoke Shop (THC) opened to a full house of over 400 people last week. And the traffic has been steady ever since.
“The Arizona community is really excited about the store. It’s already morphing into an activist hub, bringing local artists and activists together,” Sternberg tells High Times.
Sternberg says that her smoke shop is filling a need in Arizona, a state with the harshest marijuana laws in the country, enforced by the octogenarian lawman who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” Joe Arpaio.
“The concept for the smoke shop came out of the difficulty I experienced as a consumer. It’s rare to walk into a smoke shop and receive the assistance and guidance necessary to navigate the huge amount of products out there,” says Sternberg.
She explains that the shop is essentially an extension of the work she has been undertaking with her non-profit, the Cannabis Access Alliance, which provides medical marijuana patient support and advocacy.
Sternberg points out, “Not everyone knows what or how to buy. There are elderly or disabled patients who are unaware or unable to deal with their own meds.
“We are instructing caregivers and will be offering patient education classes here at the smoke shop…showing people how to use microscopes and the various paraphernalia involved in the process of medicating.”
Once a large empty space in a strip mall in the center of town, Sternberg’s stepfather Ermanno and interior designer mother, Marianne, helped Andrea and her partner Sean Rice turn the place into a welcoming center where Arizona’s nearly 80,000-strong MMJ patients can come with their questions and concerns and make purchases from knowledgeable experts.
“We intend to provide honest information and support while creating a sense of community,” said Sternberg, who was recently asked to be on the board of Arizona NORML.
Another perk for Arizonans? The Higher Conscience Smoke Shop is the only outlet in the US that officially sells High Times Cannabis Cup merchandise and apparel.