Holistic Connection to sell THC like Delta 8 in downtown Knoxville


When customers walk into The Holistic Connection in Nashville, they sometimes think the in-store cannabis is fake just because you can buy it off the shelf. But take it from John Slota, who has been working at the store for six months: It’s the real deal. 

So much so that Slota, along with his father, Patrick, and his friend Rekesh Ali, are opening their own Holistic Connection franchise in the heart of downtown Knoxville.

They plan to open the business, which is half retail and half “dab bar,” at 716 S. Gay St., where customers would be able to consume legal THC products and chill out as the effects take hold. 

“People will be having their mind state changed,” Ali told Knox News. “And you need to be able to make sure everyone’s safe, especially because there is sort of a stigma around the industry right now.” 

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Regulating THC on their own

Tennessee lawmakers recently considered an outright ban of delta-8, one form of legal THC that has similar effects to the delta-9 THC found in marijuana.  

“Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant but is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant,” according to the FDA. “As a result, concentrated amounts of delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD).”

The proposed Tennessee bill morphed from a ban to simply regulate delta-8, but the legislative session ended before lawmakers could take action, meaning there’s no ban and no regulation of delta-8.

The forthcoming Knoxville business, however, has its own form of regulation: All products sold at Holistic Connection locations come from plants grown by the company in Tennessee – no third parties – and the doses are carefully controlled. 

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That has been one of the defining characteristics of the company, founded by University of Tennessee graduate Mike Solomon. Solomon’s Tri-Star Medical and Craft Cannabis are the flagship brands for his Holistic Connection business, whose website currently lists eight other locations in Tennessee. 

“Any way you can intake something, we’ve got it,” Ali said. 

Tasty cannabis treats, plenty of seats

Holistic Connection offers a variety of legal delta-8, delta-9, CBD and THCa products. But let’s start with the edibles. A short list rattled off by John includes brownies, Rice Krispies Treats and chocolate chip cookies. 

The retail side of the business also will offer flower, prerolled joints, tinctures, gummies, pet treats, lotions and salves. 

While you can’t smoke a joint in the store, the “dab bar” will allow people to use sterilized rigs to inhale vapors from THC extract that’s in a wax form.

“Budtenders” are trained to know the products and how to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable. They also will know when a customer has had enough, John said.

“We give people free water,” he said. “With alcohol, you get drunk, and you’re drunk the rest of the night. With this stuff, the effects can wear off in like 30 minutes to an hour. … We have a whole lounge. Sit down, play a game, chill out for a minute.” 

While the bar would be able to comfortably sit about 14 people, the roughly 2,000-square-foot space will have plenty of comfortable seating so people can relax. In addition to video games, John said, the bar also will show TV and could have live music and other entertainment on certain nights. 

THC mocktails and more on the menu

The 700 block has been considered a notorious gap in the downtown landscape, but that is changing. 

“When I first saw this place, I was a little bit skeptical myself,” Patrick said. “But then, I sit here and watch the foot traffic as we’re building this out, and it’s just people, people, people, people all the time. And you got the theater on the corner here that lets out at a certain time.”

Patrick said on weekends, especially when there’s a nearby show, the business could stay open to midnight. Ali said low-traffic days could have shortened hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

While the owners are leaving the munchies to nearby businesses, including Dazzo’s Pizzeria practically next door, they will be offering beers and seltzers. Not to mention their THC mocktails, including the Weedwacker, their own unique take on a Bushwacker. 

That’s not to say cannabis-infused meals couldn’t be in Knoxville’s future. Solomon plans to open Buds & Brews, the state’s first legal cannabis restaurant, in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville this spring. 

The demand for dabs is undeniable 

For now, the Knoxville franchise owners are focusing on what they do best: catering properly dosed cannabis experiences to veterans and newcomers alike. And when the time comes for marijuana to be legalized, Patrick said, the business will be a step ahead of the game. 

“If you drive down (Chapman Highway), you’ll see five CBD stores before you get three miles out,” Ali said. “The demand here is huge. … A lot of the logistics is taken care of for us (as a franchise). It’s vertically integrated. So, they grow it, they ship it to us, we use the name.” 

The Holistic Connection — or THC, for short — is scheduled to have a soft opening by July 1, and the business is hiring. Check out theholisticconnectiontn.com for more information. 

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