So I recently treated myself to a little NYC cannabis secret shopping-reporting tour to try to figure out what was going on. A tarot card reader sold me a pre-rolled joint off of a table in Washington Square Park, warning me to watch out for other sellers who might not know what they’re talking about. An issue to ponder for another day, on both of my merchant’s entrepreneurial fronts. Later, I bought an edible from a smoke shop even though neither I nor the guy selling it seemed clear on what it was. CBD? Just regular marijuana? The synthetic stuff that might set me up for a very bad time? Maybe the tarot reader had a point.
In the Lower East Side, I popped into a store with marijuana-leaf stamps adorning its facade. “This dispensary is not a speakeasy bar ... or is it ... sorry,” a sign outside read. Then, in some fine print, it got to the point: “We sell weed.” There, I bought what I think are more reliable edibles and chatted at length with the guy behind the counter about his plans for the store. A group of teens walked in to make a purchase, and he turned them away — a move I’m not sure he’d have made had I not been there. (The legal age to buy is 21.) He seemed optimistic about his operation’s prospects. I didn’t mention that a rival shop was going up within eyeshot of his own, or that trucks selling marijuana have popped up on corners across the city.
We didn’t discuss what could become the biggest threat to his budding cannabis operation, a threat faced by every open seller I talked with that day: the fact that none of these operations are really legal. New York is in the process of handing out the first round of 150 equity-focused licenses to adult-use retail cannabis dispensaries across the state. Not a single one has gone out yet.
“None of them are compliant, none of them are allowed,” said Aaron Ghitelman, a spokesperson for New York state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), in an interview. “They’re jumping the gun.”