First there was the Ever Given, which blocked the heavily trafficked Suez Canal for six days. And now there is the Spare Room, a 41-foot-boat that was removed from the shoulder of Hwy. 71 in Bee Cave on Thursday after 11 days ashore.
The Travis County Sheriff's Office shut down several lanes of the highway, between Southwest Parkway and Bee Caves Road, around midday Thursday so crews could remove it. Around 3:41 p.m., the boat was making its way down the highway, prompting the office to tweet: "Bon voyage…"
Deputies shutting down several lanes of SH 71 between Southwest Parkway and Bee Caves Road. One lane currently open in each direction. Lane closures will last several hours. https://t.co/HiZUOACHZK
— Travis County SO (@TravisCoSheriff) July 22, 2021
The removal was delayed because of its cost—due to its weight, the boat required two large cranes to move—and temporary traffic disruptions. The Bee Cave Police Department cited a $10,000 to $15,000 estimate in a Tuesday Facebook post.
"We did not believe it was necessary to spend tax dollars to move and house a boat and take civil action against the owner to recover expenses when the situation was not creating an imminent danger," BCPD Chief Gary Miller wrote.
The boat's owner, who has not been identified, attempted to move the boat last weekend and again early Tuesday morning but struggled with breakdowns, prompting TCSO to get involved.
"It is an oversize vehicle and clearly there are multiple traffic law violations but issuing a citation does not move the boat," Miller wrote in the same post.
Despite the inconvenience, the boat never posed an imminent danger to the 50,000 vehicles that pass by it each day. But it did prompt some spirited debate on Reddit, where someone who claimed to be the owner tussled with the owner of a local towing company.
The apparent boat owner, r/Interesting-Estate35, claimed that his marina "illegally terminated (his) lease because they are sister marinas with another marina (he's) suing for sinking (his) last boat," which led to a failed attempt to move it along the highway.
Another Reddit user, r/Millennial, claimed to be the owner of Quick Tow, which has spent a week trying to tow the boat off the highway. "The problem is they put a 40,000lb boat on a homemade trailer," according to a comment published on Monday. "If they had money or insurance we could've gotten two cranes and the proper trailer to do this job in an hour but unfortunately there is no money and the city cannot pay for something like that so we are working with the owners for peanuts just to get it done and open the road."
Like its predecessor in Egypt, the Spare Room did manage to inspire some comic relief in addition to logistical headaches.
OK, who called the cops? Snitches get stitches! pic.twitter.com/uzAMRqNvRv— Bee Cave Boat (@BeeCaveBoat) July 19, 2021
The boat stuck on 620 in #Lakeway is the single most chaotic thing Lakeway has scene in years and I love it— David Logan (@A_DavidLogan) July 22, 2021
The newly made @BeeCaveBoat parody Twitter account racked up 463 followers since its July 17 debut.
I hate to leave folks but I think I've worn out my welcome. See you on the flip side! #illbeback pic.twitter.com/fLFdBQ9uSd
— Bee Cave Boat (@BeeCaveBoat) July 22, 2021
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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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