One of the most important parts of New York’s new marijuana laws is one of the least important for me personally… Because I am old and white.
Under New York’s new marijuana law that legalized possession, there is no explicit ban on public consumption. However, smoking tobacco or cannabis is illegal in New York City under local ordinances. And I sympathize with people who don’t want secondhand smoke of any kind when they are standing on a corner. But…
To my point… The New York Daily News reported that NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has expressed his concerns over people being allowed to smoke marijuana in public:
“I hope I’m missing something but it appears (the bill) is legalizing the smoking of marijuana outside. That’s not something that most other states did. They legalized marijuana but it was still illegal to smoke outside and in public.”
Unfortunately, there is simply no reason to trust the NYPD if they have the power to arrest people for possession in public. They have abused their power over decades, under Giuliani, Bloomberg and De Blasio, resulting in hundreds of thousands of arrests of overwhelmingly non-white young people. Of course, this was justified because of so-called “Stop and Frisk” laws, which were ostensibly to search for guns in high crime neighborhoods.
Of course, the best way to prevent the nuisance of public smoking is to provide plenty of places to smoke in “private.” For better and/or worse, there are going to be a lot of little stores and cafes available.
Realistically, no one expects legal sales to begin for another 18 to 24 months.
Because the new law sets up a complex system in which the state will “regulate” where marijuana retailers can locate, and who gets to grow and sell (etc) cannabis products. In the meantime, bodegas could provide places to smoke by selling soft drinks and snacks for the munchies, and providing jobs and paying rent and taxes.
Consequently, the transition will be a boom time for the black market, so in the real world, some of them will inevitably have a “house dealer.” But, for the next year or so, where is all that weed to come? From the black market where the penalty for growers could be up to seven years in prison.
When my old friend, Wernard Bruining, opened Mellow Yellow, the first “coffeeshop” (which he actually called a “tea house”) in Amsterdam in 1973, there was a “house dealer” who sat on a special stool that had sides with a convenient slot on the side where he could drop his inventory (almost all hashish in those days). Far be it from me to tell New Yorkers how to break the law, but… Otherwise, BYOBud.
Of course, rich people gotta have fun, too. The upscale New York restaurants have also been devastated, and some may want to provide smoking rooms for cannabis, just as there were tobacco smoking areas as tobacco was gradually banned. Out with the old and in with the new…
The world’s classiest speakeasy, 21 Club has closed after 90 years and is trying to “reimagine” itself. I cannot think of a more appropriate way than having a room for tokers.
In addition to Amsterdam, New York will have real competition from Las Vegas, which is finally going to allow smoking in cannabis venues. New York “regulators” should pay attention.
Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of How Does Temperature Affect CBD Hemp Processing?
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