A Sikh and a Hasid stood in the lobby of a Chelsea apartment building late last month, heads bent together as they debated what seemed to be a matter of common concern.
“I smell flowers, very, very bad flowers,” insisted the Sikh man.
“It’s stronger,” his bearded counterpart responded, gesticulating to a hallway permeated by an all-too-familiar smell. “It’s disgusting. Like skunks!”
They turned to me as I tried to walk by, and the man who wore a turban asked, “What do you smell?”
“Me? I smell pot,” I said.
To be blunt, there’s a noticeable increase in the scent of sativa in New York City.
“Over the past two years or so, I encounter people just boppin’ around, smoking pot,” Linda Mann, who’s made her home in the West Village for 40 years, told me. “There was always a whiff of pot in the places where young people gather, but now it’s everywhere!”
She’s not wrong.
Pot acceptance seems to be on the rise in NYC.
Part of it has to do with DAs declining to prosecute low-level marijuana cases, and also the fact
that medical marijuana is increasingly suggested as an alternative to opioids for some conditions. Though the program is only about 3 years old, a November 2018 state Department of Health report estimated there are 98,000 New Yorkers using medical marijuana in various forms, up from 61,198 in July of that year.
And last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that decriminalizes some marijuana use, so possessing small amounts of pot no longer means jail time. While it isn’t quite legalized yet, weed is less vilified and more accepted. (Stricter laws apply to repeat offenders or those caught with large amounts of pot.)
Like the ubiquitous cigarette smoking of the “Mad Men” era, it seems pot is having its moment, though it’s not necessarily welcomed by all New Yorkers. Real estate agent Michael Bello said that “some of the buildings I show already have signs in the common areas that specifically say ‘No smoking or vaping (including e-cigs).’ ”
Then again, some people adopt a don’t-ask-don’t-smell attitude when dealing with the increasingly omnipresent herb. “You’d be surprised how many bongs, glass pipes, etc., you see when showing occupied apartments!” Bello said.
Guess we all have to get used to the melting pot smelling like pot.
Rachel Weingarten is a Brooklyn-based writer.