On a bright and unusually warm April 20, 2021 in New York City, you could stand in a block-length queue and wait for a free joint in Union Square while the police watched and did nothing. Or you can dive into a specific Rathskeller on Broad Street in the financial district, which is in close proximity to the New York Stock Exchange. In the underground, Vladimir Bautista and Ramon Reyes worked at their “Coming Back” party in the room. If you’re around, you’ve probably gotten a taste of what they believe the next April 20th and every other day in the not too distant future will be like a New York City after legalization.
Bautista and Reyes, two uptown friends with Dominican roots who love weeds, had a conversion after Reyes visited Amsterdam and its cannabis cafes. They were already “busy” with cannabis in this familiar way and decided to open an Amsterdam-style cafe in New York. There was a small problem, however: this was before March 31, 2021, so cannabis was illegal.
Undaunted, the couple launched Happy Munkey, a New York City tax-inspired lifestyle brand and registered state LLC, in 2017. For practical reasons, Happy Munkey was one of the marijuana speakeasies prior to legalization in New York City.
Happy Munkey was essentially an Amsterdam-style cannabis cafe just a short walk from Times Square and the new high-rise luxury apartments in Hudson Yards. To get started, you had to know someone or know that Happy Munkey existed – which wasn’t particularly challenging given the gift of Instagram.
However, an inevitable police visit followed by the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak six months later put Happy Munkey’s cannabis activities on hold. In the meantime, Happy Munkey endured. Bautista and Reyes sold t-shirts, ashtrays, grinders, and trays. They hired a publicist and started a magazine (and they may or may not have entered the delivery service game).
They also participated in the lobbying blitz that preceded Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Albany state lawmakers that passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. And almost exactly three weeks after Cuomo signed the bill making public cannabis use perfectly legal in the largest city in the country, the duo hosted the 4/4 party on Tuesday in the basement of an old restaurant just steps from the physical centers of global capital: Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.
The setting was appropriate for the first legal 4/20 in New York City. The federal ban means cannabis companies still won’t be able to list on American stock exchanges, but as the world’s most popular illicit drug becomes a legal commodity, an avalanche of investment is sure to come. The trick is to stay involved.
Make a claim
It will be at least a year before New York State grants anyone a license to grow, process, or sell cannabis, but there is no time to waste. One of the tough lessons learned from legalizing marijuana from the 14 states legalized before New York City is that it in no way guarantees participation in the legal game of being “first” – or “before”.
On Tuesday, Happy Munkey sent a strong statement with the dual purpose of announcing their “come back” and making a claim at the same time. In New York, in one way or another, the pre-legal pioneers will absolutely participate in the post-legal industry. Just try to stop them.
But in the meantime, there was the still surreal sight of a cannabis party that went on while people openly smoked cannabis on the street while bored cops stood idle up the block.
“It’s a historic day, it’s a historic place,” said a suitable Bautista on Tuesday as a steady line of partygoers shuffled into the basement room, which was still fitted with an imposing vault door that served as a way station for cash and money Species a century ago.
Eugenio Garcia (Editor of Cannabis Now), Vladimir Bautista (Happy Munkey), David Hess (Tress Capital) at Bobby Van in NYC on April 20, 2021.
Bautista was a sociable man with a smooth head, a neatly trimmed beard and a huge smile. He wore a blue suit over a luxurious V-neckline. Full of kinetic energy, he hopped across the room on slippers and released himself from a hug and a handshake to hug another. Having a 4/20 party in the heart of American capitalism wasn’t an intended move – they could have rented a bigger venue elsewhere in New York – but “it all fits together,” Bautista explained. And as a metaphor, it was spot on.
“This is what the future will look like,” said Bautista. That means: legal weed in New York City with brown boys from Uptown who are deeply involved.
Happy Munkey charged $ 100 per capita, coverage that earned you a poker chip that you could buy for $ 100 (or more if you reach back into your wallet) cannabis flowers, groceries, pre-rolls, or cartridges on an in Great Britain furnished pharmacy table could exchange the old wine room of the former restaurant. You can order a $ 25 cocktail with 5 milligrams of THC at the bar. Behind the vault door were the VIP tables, where you could enjoy bottle service for $ 5,000 as well as cannabis goodies worth a gift basket: branded flowers in bags known in California, high performance food, and vaporizer cartridges, to name a few . Since New York’s new legalization law allows cannabis to be labeled “gifted” cannabis, and guests paid money to just be there, the agreement was technically legal.
In case it wasn’t obvious that Happy Munkey had graduated from underground status, floating around the room, mingling with the mix of investors, entrepreneurs, brand ambassadors, influencers, and terpene-scented hangers at cannabis festivals around the world occur, rubbing elbows. were employed by Governor Cuomo of Albany. “I know,” grinned Bautista, full of charm. “I invited them.”
The party’s dress code included masks that Happy Munkey politely requested of guests “if they are not consuming”. But within minutes of entering, noses popped up, masks hung from ears or slipped under the chin. Like the ban, the evil energy of the pandemic also seemed to be finally clearing up. And the next one is on the way.
The largest market in the world?
“It’ll be California times ten,” said Ruben Lindo. Lindo, a former professional soccer player with an MBA from NYU, owns a CBD brand in New York and THC flower brands in two constitutional states – plus 36 acres in New York state to begin cultivating, he said. Lindo offered a version of the conventional wisdom about New York’s future as a marijuana marketplace, as well as the evening’s general consensus. “This is the largest consumer market in the world,” he said. And while Happy Munkey bravely and early gain a foothold, the disembarkation is not particularly noteworthy. “Winning” after legalization will take longer.
And you don’t come to Wall Street just to be a name in the boroughs or to host an event for a night on April 20th. You come here for everything. Bautista wants Happy Munkey to be a global chain of branded consumer lounges with franchises in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Amsterdam. It’s a vision that he has just enough time to sketch out before peeling off to hug someone else. It all happens. You can feel it As large as open cannabis use is in New York, this is still just a start.