Less than a week before he heads to Austin FC's first home match, club superfan Jay Torres winced slightly as he watched the signature Verde & Black crest get permanently etched on his arm.
Torres, a "capo," or hype man, for Austin FC supporter's band La Murga, was one of 12 lucky fans to get inked up as part of a free Austin FC tattoo marathon on Sunday.
From 11 a.m.-11 p.m., fans sat contentedly on Verde & Black lawn chairs in the midday heat as they awaited their turn to get tattooed. "We've been here since noon," supporter Serafina Lopez told Austonia as the clock neared 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, tucked inside a softly-lit corner decked out with wall-to-wall tattoo art, Torres recounted the legacy of Austin FC as the team crest slowly came to fruition.
Torres remembers when he dragged his kids to City Council meetings to get the original plans for, what would become, the Q2 Stadium approved in 2017. He was one of the first four to form La Murga, and he's made dozens of new "brothers and sisters" as Austin FC transformed from an abstract plan to a sold-out stadium.
"They were like, 'What are you doing here? This is not fun,'" Torres said. "But that's the kind of stuff you need to do if you want it, and now it all makes sense to them. They're like, 'Okay, now we understand why our dad's crazy.'"
For Torres, the new tattoo is a reminder of the community that's been formed across the city.
"I look at (the crest), and I look at home," Torres said. "Soccer, I mean, it's a bond, and that's something that brings (people) together."
The club partnered with local tattoo artist Joey Ortega of Triple Crown Tattoos to give fans their new ink just before the home opener. Ortega said he's had plenty of experience doing 12-hour shifts at tattoo conventions around the world, and he came equipped with Yerba Mate and plenty of tacos to keep him nourished as he's done many times before.
Fans got their choice of four designs—from the intricate, difficult-to-tattoo crest ("This is a nightmare") or tree design to simpler text-only "Austin FC" or "ATXFC" text tattoos. Most loud-and-proud fans went all in for their club tattoo.
Plans for a mass tattooing event at Q2 Stadium began up to eight months ago when members of Los Verdes reached out to the club. While they haven't been able to obtain a permit necessary to host a tattoo marathon within the stadium, Torres is certain that plenty of people will be lining up for their own Verde & Black ink as soon as the city allows.
In the meantime, Torres and the rest of the inked up crew will join all of Austin to welcome their club at home for the first time on Saturday, June 19.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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