A legal cannabis farmers' market is being built near New York's Times Square
Out of the way, superficial bodegas: The locals of Manhattan's Times Square and the millions of visitors to New York can now buy legal, tested cannabis from the state's recreational program right near the famous intersection.
A new push to get 2023's fresh outdoor crop into the hands of smokers before it goes stale has led to several “Cannabis Growers Showcases” popping up across the Empire State this winter.
Offerings include Hell's Kitchen Cannabis Collective at 356 W 40th St, just a few blocks from Times Square, where we purchased Ithaca Organics Piff Haze – which was truly amazing.
The HKCC Showcase is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and features 11 brands and approximately four to six varieties per brand. The HKCC staff won't let you smell the glasses, they have to work on that. However, there is a lot of foot traffic with tourists and locals, and you will leave with a bit of real New York.
Visitors to Times Square will have a legally verified marijuana store in their neighborhood for the first time since legalization. (David Downs/Leafly)
The start was “a complete mess”
Legalization was passed by the New York legislature more than two and a half years ago, but New York state regulators have been rolling the ball ever since, locals told me. Regulators only allowed hemp farmers and non-cannabis farmers to grow cannabis initially, and farmers were not allowed to use indoor lighting, which is used to grow many of the best cannabis plants.
When all the weed of varying quality was ready for retail, due to a series of political delays and lawsuits, few stores were open to sell it. As of press time in early December, between 6 and 13 stores were open in the New York metropolitan area, where 2 million smokers smoke each month. It's hard to say where the stores are or when they open. The government website is out of date.
At the same time, an unfettered and brazen illegal market has emerged, circumventing the legal market – with fresh, hot indoor flavors flown in from Los Angeles and sold in unlicensed lounges and bodegas. Illegal market profits far exceed the state's fines, if any fines are ever imposed. There are reportedly approximately 300,000 pounds of unsold New York outdoor weed that has a narrow path to retail shelves.
“The rollout was complete chaos,” said an HKCC official. “It makes everyone look bad.”
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HKCC is clean, stylish and effective
But New York has almost no way of manipulating the bag anymore. New stores are opening every day and next up is indoor ganja. It's a win that the state has approved the Growers Showcases – which require a lot of bureaucratic red tape to get a spot. “It’s a miracle in Manhattan,” the operator said.
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A win is a win. HKCC is clean, stylish and effective. Here we were, just blocks from where the ball drops on New Year's Eve, looking at fresh, legal trees from New York's outdoor and greenhouse growers.
Fair Price: $55 for an eighth of an ounce of authentic New York weed culture? Sold. (David Downs/Leafly)(David Downs/Leafly)
Patrick and Paul from HKCC recommend checking out brands like Claudine, whose first batch sold out; or Ravensview; or Slack Hollow, a biodynamic outdoor farm with great Jet Fuel gelato.
We saw some nice purple diesel GMOs and some really nice citral glues. Original Glue is an absolute hit for Sour Diesel lovers in New York.
We begged and persuaded the staff to let us smell the weed and were given the opportunity to try Ithaca Organics Piff Haze – a classic, local strain. Grown in collaboration with Piff Coast Farms, the duo offers recreational consumers a staple of the traditional New York weed scene.
Piff Haze had a sweet and spicy scent of terpinolene and caryophyllene and that old-fashioned structure with smaller, spear-divided buds that are less dense than modern strains. The taste is similar and very light, with a strong sativa haze effect. You can see why New Yorkers were drawn to Piff. The energizing strain woke me up after a hazy, red-eyed flight from San Diego, California. After one joint, I felt ready to bench press a subway car.
The price of $55 seemed reasonable for Manhattan, where everything costs twice its actual price. (For example, I paid $12 for a can of Modelo Especial beer in the lobby of my hotel that evening.) Several locals confirmed that we had the real kick, so it was encouraging to have one on our first day in the Big Apple to get your hands on classic smoke.
New York State's weed scene is like a fueled rocket simply sitting on the launch pad, waiting to fire up in 2024. We look forward to serving Leafly readers the best legal weed, shops and experiences New York has to offer. So stay tuned.