Step aside, sketchy bodegas—NYC locals, as well as the city’s millions of visitors, can now buy legal, tested cannabis from the state’s recreational program right near the iconic (and chaotic) Times Square.
A new push to get 2023’s fresh outdoor crop into the hands of smokers before it goes stale has resulted in multiple “Cannabis Growers Showcases” popping up around the Empire State this winter.
The offerings include the Hell’s Kitchen Cannabis Collective at 356 W 40th St., just blocks from Times Square, where we bought the Ithaca Organics Piff Haze—which was fully amazing.
The HKCC Showcase is open 11 am to 9 pm every day; it features 11 brands and about four to six strains per brand. HKCC staff won’t let you smell the jars— something they’ve got to work on—but they have heavy foot traffic with tourists and locals, and you’ll leave with something genuinely New York.
Legalization launch was ‘a complete mess’
Legalization passed the New York state legislature more than two and half years ago, but, according to locals, regulators have fumbled the ball since then. Regulators only allowed hemp farmers and non-cannabis farmers to grow cannabis initially, and farmers couldn’t use indoor lights—which grow much of the best pot.
When all the mixed-quality weed became ready for retail, few stores had opened to sell it, due to a series of political delays and lawsuits. As of early December, there were somewhere between 6 and 13 stores open in the New York metro area—which is home to 2 million monthly smokers. It’s hard to tell where the stores are or when they are opening. The government website is out of date.
Simultaneously, an unfettered and brazen illicit market has run circles around the legal one—with fresh, hype indoor flavors flying in from Los Angeles and selling at unlicensed lounges and bodegas. Illicit market profits far exceed the state’s fines, if fines are ever issued. There’s something like 300,000 pounds of unsold New York outdoor weed with a narrow path to retail shelves, according to reports.
“The rollout has been a complete mess,” a HKCC staffer said. “It’s making everyone look bad.”
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HKCC is clean, classy, and effective
But the state is evolving. New stores open daily, and indoor-grown ganja is coming next. It’s a win that the state even allowed the Growers Showcases to open up shop. “In Manhattan, it’s a miracle,” the operator said of the red tape they had to navigate.
A win is a win. HKCC is clean, classy, and effective. Here we were, blocks from the legendary, and messy, spot where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, looking at fresh legal trees from New York’s outdoor and greenhouse growers.
We saw some nice Lilac Diesel GMO, and some really nice Citral Glue. Original Glue really carries the torch for Sour Diesel lovers in NYC.
We begged and cajoled staff to let us smell the weed, and eventually got a chance to check out the Ithaca Organics Piff Haze—a classic, local cultivar. Grown in conjuction with Piff Coast Farms—the duo brings a staple of the legacy New York weed scene to rec consumers.
Piff Haze has a sweet and spicey terpinolene and caryophyllene nose and an old-school structure with smaller, spear-shared, buds that are less dense than modern cultivars. The taste is similar and very light, with a strong sativa haze effect. You can see why New Yorkers gravitate to Piff. The energizing strain woke me up after a bleary redeye flight from San Diego, CA, and I felt ready to benchpress a subway car after one joint.
The price at $55 seemed fair for Manhattan, where everything costs double its real price. (For example, I paid $12 for a can of Modelo Especial beer in my hotel lobby that night.) Multiple locals attested that we got the real Piff, so it was heartening to score a classic smoke on day one in the Big Apple.
New York State’s weed scene is like a fueled-up rocket, just sitting on the launchpad, waiting for ignition in 2024. We’re looking forward to serving up Leafly readers the best legal weed, stores, and experiences New York has to offer, so stay tuned.