By Rich Woznicki
NEW YORK: Last night, advocacy group Legalize Now New York hosted talks from local politicians, advocates, and had a surprise visit from Redman at the Bell House in Brooklyn for the event. In attendance were all the likely suspects from the New York legalization movement, veterans like Troy Smit of Empire State NORML, NY Bar Association member Noah Potter, Mary Jane of High Times, Steve Bloom of CelebStoner.com.
Jason Draizin and Jon Nicolozzo from MarijuanaDoctors.com were there supporting the cause, handing out some fashionable cannabis socks, and catching eyes with their cannabis-decorated ambulance. Harry Hefferman, Jason Pinsky of United Cannabis, NYC Deputy Comptroller Ari Hoffnung, City Council members Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal, “Ganja Granny” Arlene Williams, and Redman addressed the audience and spoke eloquently about the state of the legalization movement today.
As has been the case at other recent gatherings, there was an air of eager optimism amid the people in attendance and a clear and common theme: “New York Wants Full Legalization – No Compromises.” These advocates are fully opposed to any excuse to penalize people for possessing marijuana for any reason – they want “Legalization Now.” This group of politicians is staring their opposition in their faces and demanding marijuana policy be commensurate with the dangers of marijuana itself – which would imply even less restriction than alcohol.
Some unexpected words were spoken by an unexpected guest, legendary artist Redman. In addition to announcing that he is pursuing education with regard to the marijuana industry, he wishes a high-CBD medical strain of cannabis to bear his name because of his empathy for the sick people who would benefit most from that particular cannabinoid.
New York City Council member Jumaane Williams brought up an often ignored aspect of the emerging legal marijuana market when he implored the audience to make sure that when regulations for legal medical and recreational marijuana stores and dispensaries are set, they ought not to exclude the same minorities which have been disproportionately oppressed by the War on Drugs.
After a call to the crowd charging everyone with the task of voting and making themselves otherwise heard, we were directed to enter the main hall to hear Ganja Granny speak about her cannabis journey and to introduce the musical guests. Granny told a tale of illness and eventual relief, as well as her friend “Jose” who set her up with her first bag of cannabis – laws be damned, she was in need of comfort in the face of breast cancer.
Ganja Granny exited the stage to much applause, the live music started, and a low-key celebration ensued. There was exuberant talk of new cannabis products and companies, as some lamented segments of the pot economy, but many more spoke in excited yet hushed tones about the hidden – and some not so hidden – opportunities to make grand sums of money in the emerging legal cannabis market. It’s all just a matter of time now until policymakers get out of the way of cannabis users and entrepreneurs; when that happens, some are going to get rich and become the big players, many will just survive or fail, and most will not get a license in the first place.