15 New Yorkers on the Dank New Dawn of Legal Weed in the Big Apple

Published March 12, 2019

This past December, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a surprise announcement presenting his plan to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for all of New York’s smokers, dealers, dinner-party bong-rippers, cannabis-curious individuals, and, most pressingly, the thousands of people arrested in New York for the harmless act of lighting up in public. In case you haven’t smelled it yet, New Yorkers have been getting illegally stoned in droves for decades. In the past year alone, residents of the city have blazed through almost 200,000 pounds of it. (That’s twice the amount that’s in Los Angeles, to be blunt.) With many still wondering what all this might mean, we hit the streets of New York to take the temperature of this dank new dawn.

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DOUG COHENCo-founder of the cannabis dinner series 99th Floor

“There are lots of legalization models, some of which work better than others, and I have no clue which one they’re going to follow or if they’ll come up with their own. For me, the thing I’m most excited about is the end of prohibition, of criminalizing a relatively benign behavior. I’ve heard whispers that they want to make New York the most small-business-friendly legalization process, but given what they did around medicinal use, I have a hard time imagining that. The amount of money you needed to get a license was very restrictive, and I don’t know how they’re going to open up licenses without people admitting they were criminals in the past. How can you say you’ve had cultivation experience? I hope they follow through, but let it be a boon for New Yorkers and not just big business.”

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SUSANOffice manager

“I hate the smell of weed and I don’t believe in smoking. Why makit legal? Because people get arrested for it? You’re just not supposed to do it if it’s illegal. I wish they got rid of cigarettes, too.”

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SHIRAMusic publicist

“I have no loyalty to my drug dealer and I think the stores are great. It feels super safe and clean and friendly. It’s just another thing that helps destigmatize cannabis. I’d rather take my mom to a store where they explain everything rather than having to be like, ‘Mom, there’s a drug dealer coming to my apartment.’”

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DAVEWeed delivery guy

“I don’t think legalization would change my life much. I’ve worked here for 15 years, and I’m the oldest delivery guy around. I have friends in Washington and Portland who, despite it being legal for several years now, are still under the radar doing their own thing. It’s a covenant. It’s a conspiracy that you’re in together. You kind of develop a little brand support. It’s like somebody who goes to the same supermarket even though there are four other ones in the area. Why? Well, they have everything I want, and I’m used to the people at the checkout.”

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PHIL TORONTOSenior vice president at the communications company VaynerX

“Right now, people in the cannabis industry in New York are feeling excitement and terror. I think a lot of people thought that they’d have more time to be ready for when this would happen. It went from ‘not happening’ to ‘this is a real possibility’ so much quicker than I think anybody ever anticipated.”

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SUSAN BLONDFounder of Susan Blond Group, Inc. (and Interview’s first publicist)

“I can’t imagine learning to smoke at this point, though I’m sure people would say I could relax a little. When I started working with Andy Warhol, I stopped painting. Now I’ve started painting again, so it could be time to try something like that! Are most people smoking now, or are they doing it other ways?”

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BESSY GUEVARATSA spokesperson

“TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but in the event illegal substances are observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer. TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport, regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized.”

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ROBCorporate lawyer

“People at work barely hide that they smoke. I hear rumors that some banks drug-test, but I’ve never heard of a firm that does. My firm’s written policy is that the use of marijuana in the office is prohibited, and that it is a private matter unless it impairs your work.”

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DESIIGNERMusician

“I use weed for inspiration. It is part of my creative process. I’ve used it making all of my hits. Of course, use in moderation is best, but I definitely don’t feel like people should go to jail because of something that is part of a lot of people’s lives already.”

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KEVIN D. HASSETTPresident of the Retired Police Association of  the State of New York, Farmingdale

“Most retired law enforcement officers would be against the legalization of marijuana. It’s a drug. Drugs should be controlled. Now, we are told that legalizing marijuana will be good for the state and its citizens. If the government says it’s good, you can bet it’s not.”

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CYNTHIA NIXONActress and former gubernatorial candidate

“Now that we’ve won the argument over whether to legalize it, it’s time to talk about how we legalize it. Legalizing marijuana will create a brand new, billion-dollar industry in New York City. We have to make sure that those economic benefits go to the communities that have suffered under the racist War on Drugs—not the same rich white men who for decades have kept marijuana illegal and used it to target and criminalize communities of color.”

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LAIAMagazine editor

“The only good thing that legalization could offer is if everyone currently in prison for weed was set free.”

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MIKE ZAYTSEV, Founder of the cannabis group High NY

“New York going legal was a pipe dream, and now it’s an inevitability. I think the biggest concern is that the medical marijuana program here is not great, and it’s not compassionate. There are millions of New Yorkers who could benefit from medical cannabis, and right now there are fewer than 100,000 patients registered in the state.”

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FUNKMASTER FLEX, Hot97 DJ

“I would like it to be done responsibly in terms of driving and handling machinery, but other than that—look, it’s different from when I was a kid. This is here to stay. For some people it’s not an issue, for some people it is. But it’s here. I played in Colorado the first year it was legal, and the strangest thing is playing in a club with 2,000 people who have been smoking weed all day. The reactions to the songs are slower.”

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BILL DE BLASIOMayor of New York City

“I have been convinced that we can establish a regulatory framework that keeps our streets safe, rights the wrongs of the past, and gives economic opportunity to communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs. I support legalization because we’ve developed a path forward that will make our city fairer.”