The Flatiron district is an interesting place to work. It has a much more mixed milieu than working in midtown or the financial district. Most of the people you see on the street are not office workers involved in the capital markets. While there are financial people from Credit Suisse and the other firms that inhabit the old Metropolitan Life Tower Building, you also have college students from Baruch College, shady characters from the St. Francis Residence on 24th Street, hopeful comedians in the evening performing at the People’s Improv Theater, and a host of well-off residents who live in the area. You’ll find rock starts getting ready to play at the Gramercy Theatre. One evening my coworkers and I were at Black Barn on 26th Street across the street from Madison Square Park when we saw Hilary Clinton come and go with her Secret Service escort (her daughter Chelsea Clinton lives in the building above, as does Jennifer Lopez, a waitress told us).
I try to make it a point to go for a short walk at lunch time, going to Madison Square Park. There is always an unusual art project in the park, and when the weather is nice there are musicians there. There’s a jazz trio that often busks there and I once saw a visiting Algerian theater group Istijmam that was singing in front of the statue of Admiral Farragut.
One day this past week there were few visitors in the park on account of the cold. That didn’t stop people from lining up at the original Shake Shack to pay for the honor of eating over-hyped food outside in the bad weather.
I exited the park on the Southwest by the statue of Roscoe Conkling and headed East on 23rd to get lunch and head back to the office.
On the corner of 23rd Street and Park Avenue was a person in a giant costume, yellow with a big happy face head. The giant happy face was waving and giving the thumbs up to passersby. At first I thought this was one of the costumed people from Times Square that take photos with tourists for tips and have become increasingly aggressive and competitive. Did this person decide to branch out from Times Square? The Flatiron district is not as tourist-heavy as Times Square but may be touristy enough to support one person in a costume? I didn’t see anyone taking a photo with the big happy face, which seemed exceedingly jovial despite not having any commerce.
I thought perhaps this was a promotion for something. A few months ago a parade of Yeti made its way down the sidewalks of 23rd Street to promote a television show about looking for the elusive creature. But I saw no sign that indicated what this might be for and no overt promotion was evident.
As I walked by, I noticed a few young men positioned discreetly near the smiley face watching people pass by. Each held a small stack of business cards in their hands.
I stopped by one of the men and asked if he was with the happy face and if he knew what it was for.
“Yes, we’re here promoting this service,” he said, discreetly handing me one of his business cards. The sleek black card had a smiley face on one side. On the other side was a phone number for a marijuana delivery service “For Major Connoisseurs & Enthusiasts” that is available “For Residents In Manhattan And Select Brooklyn Locations.” “Listen to greeting for instructions.”
I’m not a fan of marijuana. The last thing I need is to be paranoid and compelled to eat more. But I think it should be 100% legal in all states in America and it’s a national shame that anyone is in jail for simply possessing or selling it.
The happy face gave me a thumbs up. Part of me is glad that this was not some group of religious zealots or other do-gooders trying to make everyone happy for the sake of it, and I am happy that industrious New Yorkers are flouting an unfair law and making a profit on it. I wish this business success and thank them for bringing some additional happiness to our corner of the Flatiron district.
New York State may soon embrace medical marijuana. We’d be better off if the government legalized it outright. Why talk half-steps when other states have already made cannabis legal?
It was Tommy Chong who put it to New York via social media, saying that we were behind the high times. New York used to be the place that this kind of progress was launched, Chong mourned, now we’re catching up with Colorado and Washington.
Tommy Chong is right. Marijuana should be legal in all 50 states. It’s ludicrous that people are in jail for growing it or smoking it or having a big wad of it rolled into a cigar leaf or in a brownie or anal suppository or however else people are getting it into their bodies today. Legalize it.
The people have spoken. In times that it’s been put to a vote, voters support legalization of marijuana. Whether it’s medical marijuana, which is more widespread, or the outright legalization that we’ve seen recently in Washington and Colorado. But beyond that, even in places that still enforce draconian laws against the weed, marijuana use is very high (pun intended).
We are not far from the prohibition of marijuana being as antiquated and ridiculous as the prohibition against alcohol that started almost 100 years ago. That prohibition is rightfully considered a joke today, and our grandchildren will look down their noses at the outlawing of marijuana in the 20th Century. Rightly so.
So let us join our voices to the millions that already call for legalizing electric lettuce in New York. Let the City lead the way and hopefully the state will follow. Let the fifty states tax and regulate cannabis like they do tobacco and alcohol. The government can’t stop people from smoking it, so it might as well make a few bucks to help keep the roads paved.
But where there is support for legalization, let’s also support some healthy distrust of the marijuana industry. Wanting to legalize it shouldn’t stop us from criticizing it. Marijuana does not belong on a list of outlawed substances (if any do is another matter), but that doesn’t mean it belongs in our bodies.
There is a lot of awareness and opposition to genetically modified foods and the potential dangers they pose to people’s health. There’s a greater demand now for natural and organic foods made free from the use of dangerous chemicals or genetic manipulation. Yet none of this scrutiny is being applied to marijuana cultivation.
If you’re not willing to eat a plant that was grown with a genetically modified seed, then don’t smoke something that’s named for a Star Trek character. I’ll do what I can to avoid food made possible by Monsanto, but I’m also not going to smoke something named “Vulcan Mind Meld No. 6.” Do we really need to be a lazier, slower-witted country that eats even more junk food at two o’clock in the morning?
Let’s definitely legalize the chronic, but let’s also approach it with the same skepticism as we would any other element of big agribusiness. And that’s what marijuana is: big business. No one is selling weed out the kindness of their heart. Tobacco and alcohol companies are rightly treated with suspicion. The people hawking ganja are no more saintly.
Medical marijuana is great, but the overwhelming majority of people using weed are using it to get high for its own sake. They have every right to do that. But unless you have a serious medical condition, marijuana isn’t good for you. I want to live in a world where people are not persecuted for smoking a plant. But I also know that the world does not need more pot heads.
Let’s increase the sanity of the conversation. Marijuana legalization is the right thing to do. But let us embrace legalization of marijuana without having to embrace marijuana itself.