These weed sellers don’t wait for a permit: ‘Like a dream come true’

Here’s what it’s like to walk around Washington Square Park in Manhattan after legalization.

Wanting to invest in himself and free himself from bosses, Terrence Gorham started selling custom t-shirts, hoodies and backpacks a year ago from a folding table in Washington Square Park. Like any good salesman, he noticed at the end of last year that other tables started offering something new: weed. Soon he was offering pre-rolled joints and one-eighth-ounce packets alongside his “Think Rich” clothing line.

“We are chameleons,” said Mr Gorham, 34, who previously worked as a caretaker. “We have to adapt to any environment. Weed is legal here, so I thought why not.

New York State legalized marijuana last September, and while the law allows personal possession of up to three ounces of cannabis, sales regulations have yet to be passed. Direct sales, including those presented as “gifts” of marijuana offered with purchases of trinkets or overpriced club memberships, are still prohibited.

On Thursday, responding to concerns that the overwhelming majority of those imprisoned in the past on marijuana charges have been young people of color, Governor Kathy Hochul said the state is reserving at least the first 100 retail licenses for New Yorkers who had been convicted of marijuana. -related offences, or their relatives.

Not all providers wait for a license to start. In Manhattan’s Washington Square Park – a place no stranger to weed, sold or surreptitiously smoked – a breezy outdoor market has emerged. On a recent sunny day in March, customers chatted with vendors while deciding which variety to buy. As if welcoming visitors with canapes, a vendor sold pre-rolls on a tray.

Tim Green, an advertiser from Sydney, Australia, witnessed the scene as he smoked a joint he had just bought from a vendor. He offered his professional opinion on some of the more carefully laid out tables, including one with rainbow and psychedelic designs.

“There’s an old hippie vibe to it,” said Mr Green, 55, still surprised by the open sales. “The designs could do with a bit of work. But you don’t really need to advertise weed.

For sellers who remember how young lives were derailed by a joint discovered during a stop-and-frisk, it’s also a strange new day.

“I smoke too much weed to be mad at anyone,” said a 21-year-old salesman whose nickname, EZ, matched his attitude. “I dreamed of this day every day. Mistakes that have been made in the past are being corrected.

EZ, who prefers to impersonate his nickname because selling weed is still banned, is a musician. He was working in a restaurant – where his father still thinks he works – when he switched to selling cannabis to help fund his music.

“I tried to do a straight job,” he said. “But then reality hits.” He said he made in a day selling weed what he made in a week at restaurants.

Most days, EZ arrives at the park at 9 a.m., commuting from his home in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, and works at a table with his business partner. They’re friendly and chatty, offering customers $20 pre-rolls and free paper to roll newly purchased weed.

“Coming to the park is different from selling in your community,” EZ said. “Price, appearance, preparation and delivery matter. People need weed and are willing to pay.

He and the half-dozen other vendors who regularly set up shop in the park know they operate in a gray area, but they said the police did not bother them overall. When the agents pass, the sellers put away their products and stop the sales. In one case, a police officer punched a saleswoman and flirted with her.

The Police Department and Parks Department did not offer an official response, but officials from both agencies said they were working together to enforce sales regulations. In the first two months of the year, park enforcement officers issued 20 summonses for illegal selling — of anything — in Washington Square Park, up from 31 in 2021.

Just as the pandemic has changed people’s priorities, values ​​and coping abilities, Mr. Gorham believed it has also eased the way to sell openly. “This should have happened years ago,” he said. “Maybe Covid has made people a little more forgiving. It’s tough here, but times are changing.

Selling bulk-bought cannabis using his earnings as a bike courier helped an AI-powered salesman get out of homelessness. She said she left home after relatives did not accept that she was gay.

Now she chairs a lively and colorful table with cannabis edibles, pre-rolls and flowers, as well as CBD lotions she sells under her Canaremedy brand, which she markets as a queer-owned company. blacks. And yes, it – like other providers – delivers.

“People want to smoke,” she says. “We see this as an opportunity. We are the future, and this is a good opportunity to have a fair economic system.

AI has two cannabis misdemeanor arrests – including one that landed her in jail on Rikers Island for five days around Christmas five years ago – that she plans to clear. She said she had friends and relatives who had also been arrested for possession of marijuana.

AI, who preferred to use her nickname because of her arrest history, said she suffered from anxiety and eczema, and that cannabis – smoked or in lotions – had alleviated her physical and emotional symptoms.

Now that New York has legalized marijuana, and with the latest announcement that the first licenses will go to those convicted of cannabis, its goal was to create a storefront and expand its offering. She had put her business documents in order and registered her brand.

“I was incarcerated and I have family members who were too,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true. Marijuana has helped me for 12 years, and it has helped me so much, that I want to start a business to help others. I have a lot to offer the world when it comes to cannabis .

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