The New York weed rush is here. They came to collect.

One evening, approximately a month later, I met C. in Midtown in a four-story walk-up residence built in 1910. There was an ATM out front and a banner for a members-only cannabis club. The building itself is home to two cannabis businesses – the club downstairs, run by a former operator who has been selling cannabis illegally for 15 years, and a “grow house” upstairs. The grow house is where C. gets his cannabis. “My main goal is to only have the New York product,” he said; he wants to support local industry, from seed to smoke, with cultivators, pickers and rolls from the city, in part because he doesn’t think users elsewhere in the country appreciate the story of the market black that grows in New York. The Sour Diesel variety, for example, is said to have originated in New York. When he arrived in Miami, when C. was a teenager, it was the only type of cannabis he smoked. “I have huge respect for the producers in New York and huge respect for the game here. And it’s truly an honor to be a part of all of that. Although he’s not sure how many places like Midtown culture house that existed in the city, he guessed the number could be in the hundreds.”In Chinatown alone, that’s where most of the country gets the old school Bubba,” said he said, “The black market and the underground stretch beyond anyone’s imagination.”

This particular house of culture occupied the living rooms of two one-bedroom apartments. Danny (who is called Danny Lyfe) started the operation two years ago. He showed me the 26 plants in the back apartment, which he expected to produce 12 pounds of cannabis every 10 weeks. Each plant, about three feet tall, had its own pot, complete with a tape label that identified its strain – Cherry Lime Runt or Joker’s Candy, for example – and its phenotype. Danny was reluctant to show me the plants in the front apartment because they weren’t doing very well: the employee who took care of them had mistakenly pruned them too much. As C. and Danny shared a pre-roll, they were deep in conversation about the benefits of each strain and preferred temperature (75-80 degrees), relative humidity (high 50s, low 60s, at flowering stage ) and light for plants, the latter two variables that Danny controls remotely on his phone.

The grow house is only part of Danny’s business. He owns a farm in Oregon, where he is licensed to grow medicinal cannabis, and a streetwear store in Staten Island, where he lives. When I asked Danny and C. how they met, they both laughed. They didn’t remember it at first, but later traced their connection to a cannabis connoisseur who posted about Danny’s events on Instagram.

Danny told me his latest goal was to fill a national void: quality pre-rolls. “The pre-rolls are tainted in the domestic market because most people use their scraps — their ends, their toppings,” he said. He wanted to produce 1,400 pre-rolls a day to wholesale them at $5 each. He had just spent an entire shift that day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., working with his employees to, as he put it, “rolling cannolis.” The plants, all female, would eventually be pruned and harvested in July.

As Danny closed the apartment, he whispered to the plants, “See you later, I love you girls.” Because he’s deeply invested in weed – he’s 33 but has spent 18 years in the industry so far – he can’t wait for everything to be officially legal. “I can’t wait for my outpost to open, it’s going to be lit,” he said. Danny doesn’t mind talking publicly about his business. He is already involved with several groups seeking licenses to grow and sell cannabis, and he is confident about his prospects. One project will be headquartered in a former bank in nearby suburban White Plains. At one point, he ended up with the mayor of White Plains. “I’m Puerto Rican from New York, sitting in the mayor’s office and growing weed,” Danny told me, describing their encounter. The mayor asked Danny what his role was in the company. Danny said he spoke to her about his expertise in the industry and added, “I’m the one who ticks all the boxes when it comes to social equity.”

S. and C. hope to get their own license next year, but the process has been slow (and will likely be expensive, they worry). “We try to recruit members and we really try to do our best without stepping on anyone’s toes,” says C.. It’s a delicate balance, he notes, trying to respect the work of the activists who helped pass cannabis legislation in New York while profiting from the market it creates. The issue of fairness is close to their hearts. “Cannabis has a deep and dark history,” he says, referring to racial disparities in cannabis possession arrests in urban areas. He saw it with his own eyes. “I’m from Miami, so I get it. I want to make sure we’re doing it a certain way.

After Danny left, C. told me that he and S. were barely getting by with what they got from their New York adventure. All the gifts, events, rent, employees, taxes – it all adds up. Gross sales were high, but so were the costs of expanding their business. While their 4/20 party was a celebratory occasion, they had also just paid an extraordinary sum to the government. Their business may be operating in a legal gray area, but it’s still subject to state and federal taxes, and it can’t claim any write-offs.

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