New York City was consistently cold and wet up through the last week of April, at which point I arrived, bringing Florida weather with me. The locals displayed their gratitude in all sorts of ways, some of which cannot be discussed in a family publication. Suffice to say that the City That Never Sleeps showed a degree of hospitality that even a native Southerner would envy, especially if you’re a smoker.
New York’s marijuana laws are considerably more liberal than ours, though still falling short of the laxity seen in places like Colorado or even Washington, D.C. Possession of 25 grams of fewer carries a fine ranging from $100 for a first offense to $250 for a third, with up to 15 days in jail tacked on. It doesn’t hit felony weight until eight ounces for possession, but penalties for selling the stuff are about as draconian as they are anywhere.
The deterrent effect was nonexistent, if the atmosphere was any indication: That characteristic smell was as persistent as the car exhaust and subway funk it mixed with, from Harlem to Hoboken, and everywhere in between.
If sharing is caring, then New York really cares, because things were being passed my way at every conceivable opportunity. Backstage at the jazz club; across the bar in Hell’s Kitchen at 4 a.m.; my Uber driver passing a spliff while we idled on the Brooklyn Bridge; old men in front of Bed-Stuy bodegas; young men selling bootlegs in Bensonhurst; vagrants vaping near the Verrazano; angel-headed hipsters burning ‘dro, to and fro.
At no point did I even ask, but it would’ve felt rude to refuse. Besides, once they realized that I write a pot column in Florida, they felt obliged to show off what they were working with, like tweeting pictures of your food to Gordon Ramsay.
The reader may ask: Where were the police during all of this? They were busy keeping the city safe from real threats, which has always been a selling point for decriminalization. Fifty percent clearance rates for homicides just do not cut it up there, nor do jail cells swollen with potheads, not while ISIS still exists. And on the few occasions that 5-0 was to be seen, they were sometimes smoking, too—which they are not allowed to do, but with their union, it takes a whole lot to lose that job, as we have seen. I had no plans to write a column about my time there, but once I saw the quartet of NYPD folks repping #VapeNation in full tactical gear in front of the New York Public Library at 10 a.m. (allegedly), well, you can’t let details like that just go unreported. As the saying goes, “Anything less would be uncivilized.”