To see the impact of Oakland cannabis culture, look no further than NYC. That’s right, my first entry as I take over Oakland’s premier cannabis column is about New York City.

Just last week, I was on holiday visiting family in Brooklyn, laying across the water from its more picturesque big sister, less statuesque, yet cooler. I was promised a brownstone full of second cousin stoners, but there wasn’t a whiff of the stuff in the house. Outside it was a different story, weed smell everywhere. With the medical scene too new to be viable yet, I made it my mission to find out where people get their weed.

Cruising with the family, I saw a “tobacco shop” with glass pipes and—wait a minute—little containers of bud marked with the CA government warning for weed. So I peel off from the family and go in. 

“You sell weed here?” I ask. The cool cat nods and walks me back in the room, pulls out a flight of sealed glass jars marked with the CA warning. Beautiful, beautiful bud. Then I realize he’s smoking a jay. Without a word, he extends the joint to me. I’m about to fake hit it because of Covid, but being a fan-boy of serendipity, I take an old-pro drag without touching it to my lips. 

“So where is this bud from?” I manage to ask after a moment.

“Cali,” he smiles, “California’s where it’s at.”

I wonder just how that works, interstate and all. I tell him I’m not going to buy any today. Before I leave, he passes the jay back again with a nod to the street. “They don’t got to know.”

Some days later, we found ourselves in Washington Square Park, eating from a dosa cart and digging on a jazz two-piece. There are chess games for hire, NYU students leading a dance class, kids and dogs and people in mental crisis mixing it up with passers-by. And impossible to miss is a ring of suitcase-stand vendors overflowing with cannabis products of every kind. All are marked with the CA warning. I ask a bunch of questions, but get only jokes in response. So the origins and quality of those vendors, so adjacent to NYU they’re practically essential workers, will have to remain a mystery.

Across Manhattan, I did get to meet a wonderful professional stoner girl named Iman who works at CBD Kratom in Chelsea. It’s a CBD and hemp derived Delta-8 store. No THC here, but we did talk a bit about the situation with California weed. She told me she has seen both real CA products and counterfeit. You can see subtle differences. 

“Like with handbags,” I venture. 

“Yes, exactly,” she laughs, her sick-ass colored braids swirling, “like a fake Louis Vuitton.”

When I mention the story about the tobacco shop in Brooklyn and we realize I’m staying in her same neighborhood, I get real specific about where people buy weed. “Anywhere” is her response.

“I’m Arab-Puerto Rican,” she says, all New York as f-k. “I just go into an Arab store, any bodega, I use the language and they show me.” These convenience stores are everywhere in Brooklyn, mostly owned by Arabs. When I express some trepidation about trying this myself, she says that any place selling a hookah will be good. Turns out, not so much.

My last day in NYC, I swing into a bodega as my wife is across the street picking up souvlaki for lunch. When I see a very clean father behind the counter working with his daughter, pure in her ornate headscarf, I hesitate awkwardly. “You guys sell weed here? Cannabis … grass?” A solemn shake of the head from father and I bail.

Next door, in a classic glass head shop, better luck. Smiling at my question, yeah, he indicates he does. I ask for Indica, but he ignores me. 

“You want 40, 20?” That was my only choice; imagine. He wraps it in a black plastic bag below the counter and takes my $20. “You’re going to like it.” 

Nice guy. No idea if it was good. I left the bud in its counterfeit CA package as a thank-you to my hosts and came back home to the mecca of marijuana, in plenty of time for a proper 4/20.

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