As the cannabis industry continues to grow and evolve, this week I traveled to London to meet with Geshe who runs Otherside Shop on Portobello Road.
Otherside calls itself a Cannabinoid Dispensary – but what exactly does that mean in the UK pre-legalisation?
Entering this shop, I get that familiar feeling of having been there before – and I have, but in a past incarnation. Do you remember the time I visited the shop when it was still Alchemy? Back then the shop was run by veteran cannabis activist Lee Harris and held the title of London’s Oldest Headshop.
When Lee retired from the business 2.5 years ago, Geshe took over and transformed London’s oldest headshop into its most modern one, full to the brim with ranges of products and paraphernalia I’ve previously only seen online or at community events.
Walking through the store, I see products which include Revelry smell-proof bags, glass bongs and quartz bangers, vaporisers and more products organised neatly on and in front of the wall that was previously a counter. The design of the place is great as well – as well as increasing the space by ditching the old long counter (the shop shares its location with a tattoo and piercings parlour) Geshe has used old cheese boxes, upcycled them and attached them to the wall with some awesome LED Lighting, which gives a slight hipster infusion to the shop which looks like a mashup of portobello road and Amsterdam!
Particularly interesting and different to any other headshop I’ve seen is the baked goods section, which includes things like Hempress Rising’s vegan chocolate infused with CBD. While I was there they also took a delivery of some delicious looking brownies which apparently don’t last long on the shelves.
The cosmetics section has things like Hempress Bath Bombs, CBD-infused topical creams and gels, and a lot of other body-focused products all utilising the benefits of CBD.
It is wonderful to see that Otherside are supporting independent products and manufacturers in the industry and showcasing some awesome products instead of just stocking the tried and tested smoking products I see again and again. I even saw some awesome artwork by a local artist that had made bud shot canvases to be displayed and sold in store.
Of course, due to the legality THC is nowhere to be found, but CBD (and CBG) can be purchased in all its forms. And there is also a healthy dose of education around the cannabinoid – I would always recommend people purchase their CBD from a store like this than a standard high street giant with little to no knowledge of how it works. While sellers cannot make medical claims, it is nice to see informational leaflets talking about the endocannabinoid system.
Up until a few weeks ago Otherside had a more coffeeshop-style approach, dispensing grams of CBD flower just like you’d see in Amsterdam (without the THC), but recently they have started requesting age + ID verification for anybody purchasing so they can prove if asked that they are not selling to minors.
This is an example of the community policing itself in a truly grey market and is a response to the increasing ambiguity of CBD products in the UK which lacks enforcement and substantiates itself of rumours and ambiguous Home Office Guidelines (and unenforced EU Novel Food regulations when we are about to leave the EU).
I enjoyed my visit to the shop, which was insightful and enlightening. I also filmed some footage of my trip, which will be released on the ISMOKE YouTube channel soon.
Otherside is an example of an inspiring legal cannabis business and I wish them future success. Go and check them out next time you visit London’s famous Portobello Road.
And if you are based further South be sure to read our feature on the Hampshire Cannabis Community Headshop in Portsmouth