Most people who visit New York don’t realize that up to 27 grams of cannabis—nearly an ounce— was decriminalized in the1970s, particularly because the NYPD and DA prosecuted people anyway. Despite mayoral directives in 2018 to stop arresting people for cannabis possession, the NYPD is still at it, and you can do a night in central booking and potentially cop a charge for a vape pen under their floundering attempt to continue the racist “Broken Windows” policy right under our noses.
Even though recently re-elected Governor Andrew Cuomo has been pressured by both constituents, leftist candidates, and even been lobbied by some of cannabis’ biggest names, he still hasn’t legalized recreational cannabis in the state. This is why reports of legislation breaking as soon as 2019 hold some salt, but until then, NYC’s weed culture is still underground, on the sneak, and thriving, like alcohol speakeasies in the last Prohibition era.
Because New Yorkers consume more cannabis than most other cities in the world but have to do it in the alley or in their own home if they’re lucky or privileged enough to avoid police scrutiny, using cannabis in NYC is its own reality that West Coasters will never understand.
When it’s cold outside
The weather may be a small talk topic but when its booming snowflakes in your face and 21 degrees, the weather is no small occurrence. Though most other legal states also limit public consumption, not having the heat lamp protected waves of tobacco smoking areas makes sharing a joint in the wintertime a legitimately painful experience.
When you have to drop the joint
As noted, New Yorkers must always be on the lookout for the police when smoking cannabis, but this goes double for black and latinx New Yorkers. Being ready to drop your joint and walk away no matter how good it was is an important skill to maintain.
The lack of affordable quality cannabis
This seems hilarious but when you’re still paying 50 dollars per eighth of fancy but dry cannabis you feel like you’re smoking your cash itself. Despite the booming market, cannabis people are bound by whatever the dealer brings to the table if they want anything at all.
The punctuality of purveyors
The trope of the super late drug dealer is a New York City special. With our crumbling infrastructure making everything take hours, it’s no wonder they’re known for a piff pit stop before submitting to potentially getting trapped underground or in traffic to bring you buds. Sure it may take double the prescribed 90 minutes to get your pot, but you should still tip, they’re still risking prosecution to get you stoned.
Sad, funny, and uncomfortable, the reality of cannabis in New York City is one that desperately needs to evolve. Right now it’s either hilarious or tragic, but the best next chess move is for the privileged among us to not only pressure the state for legalization, but for a complete vacating of cannabis possession convictions, which have plagued our neighbors of color for decades. If things never change, you won’t be laughing when they come for you down the road, but don’t let that be your only motivation