4/20 Exclusive: Legal Cannabis on Wall Street

On a bright and unseasonably warm April 20, 2021 in New York City, you could stand in a blocks-long line and wait for a free joint in Union Square as police watched and did nothing. Or you could dip into a particular rathskeller on Broad Street in the Financial District, within throwing distance of the New York Stock Exchange. Underground, Vladimir Bautista and Ramon Reyes were working the room at their “coming back” party. If nearby, you likely caught a whiff of what they believe the next 4/20, and every other day in the not-so-distant future, will look like in a post-legalization New York.

Two friends from Uptown with Dominican roots who love weed, Bautista and Reyes had a conversion after Reyes visited Amsterdam and its cannabis coffee shops. Already “involved” with cannabis in that familiar gray-area kind of way, they decided to open up an Amsterdam-style coffee shop in New York. But there was a slight problem: this was before March 31, 2021, so cannabis was illegal. 

Undaunted, in 2017 the pair launched Happy Munkey, which for tax purposes is a New York City cannabis-inspired lifestyle brand and registered state LLC. For practical purposes, Happy Munkey was one of New York City’s pre-legalization marijuana speakeasies.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Happy Munkey (@happymunkeygoodies)

Happy Munkey was essentially an Amsterdam-style cannabis coffee shop, located a short walk from Times Square and the new luxury high-rise apartments at Hudson Yards. To get in, you had to know somebody, or you had to know Happy Munkey existed—which, given the gift of Instagram, wasn’t particularly challenging. 

However, an inevitable visit from the police followed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic six months later put Happy Munkey’s cannabis pursuits on pause. In the interim, Happy Munkey endured. Bautista and Reyes sold t-shirts, ashtrays, grinders and rolling 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 Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers in Albany passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. And almost exactly three weeks after Cuomo signed the bill making public cannabis use absolutely legal in the country’s largest city, the duo threw Tuesday’s 4/20 party in the basement of an old restaurant, just steps away from the physical centers of global capital: Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. 

For the first legal 4/20 in New York City, the setting was fitting. Federal prohibition means cannabis companies still can’t list on American exchanges, but as the world’s most popular illicit drug becomes a legal commodity, there’s certainly an avalanche of investment coming. The trick is to stay involved.  

Staking A Claim 

It will be at least a year before New York state licenses anyone to grow, process or sell cannabis, but there is no time to waste. One of the harsh lessons of marijuana legalization from the 14 states that legalized before New York, is that being “first”—or getting in “before” the thing is legal—in no way guarantees a stake in the legal game. 

On Tuesday, Happy Munkey sent a strong statement with a dual purpose of announcing their “come back” while also staking a claim. In New York, the pre-legalization pioneers will absolutely participate in the post-legalization industry—in some way or another. Just try to stop them. 

But in the meantime, there was the still-surreal sight of a cannabis party, ongoing while people openly smoked cannabis in the street, as bored police stood idly by up the block. 

“It’s a historic day, it’s a historic location,” a besuited Bautista said Tuesday, as a steady line of partygoers shuffled into the basement-level space, still equipped with an imposing vault door from its days used as a waystation for cash and hard specie a century ago. 

Eugenio Garcia (Publisher of Cannabis Now), Vladimir Bautista (Happy Munkey), David Hess (Tress Capital) at Bobby Van’s in NYC on April 20, 2021.

A gregarious man with a smooth head, neatly trimmed beard and enormous smile, Bautista wore a blue suit over a luxe v-neck. Full of kinetic energy, he bounced around the room on loafers, pulling away from one hug and handshake to embrace another. Hosting a 4/20 party in the heart of American capitalism wasn’t an intentional move—they could have rented a bigger place, someplace else in New York—but “it all fit together,” Bautista explained. And as metaphor, it was spot on. 

“This is what the future is going to be,” Bautista declared. Meaning: legal weed in New York City with brown guys from Uptown deeply involved.

Happy Munkey charged $100 a head, a cover that earned you a poker chip you could exchange for $100 (or more, if you reached back into your wallet) of cannabis flower, edibles, pre-rolls or cartridges at a dispensary table set up in the former restaurant’s old wine room. At the bar, you could order a $25 cocktail infused with 5 milligrams of THC. Past the vault door were the VIP tables, where you could enjoy bottle service for $5,000, as well as a gift-basket’s worth of cannabis treats: branded flower in California-familiar bags, powerful edibles and vaporizer cartridges, to name a few. Since New York’s new legalization law allows one to be “gifted” cannabis, and since guests were paying money simply to be there, the arrangement was technically legal.

In case it wasn’t obvious Happy Munkey had graduated from underground status, floating around the room, rubbing elbows with the mix of investors, entrepreneurs, brand ambassadors, influencers and terpene-scented hangers-on that appear at cannabis fetes the world over, were members of Gov. Cuomo’s staff from Albany. “I know,” Bautista grinned, all brash charm. “I invited them.”

The party’s dress code included masks, which Happy Munkey politely requested guests to wear “when not consuming.” But within a few minutes of entering, noses appeared, masks hung from ears or slipped below chins. Like prohibition, the evil energy of the pandemic seemed to be finally clearing, too. And the next thing is on its way. 

World’s Biggest Market?

“It’s going to be California, times ten,” said Ruben Lindo. A former pro football player with an MBA from NYU, Lindo owns a CBD brand in New York and THC flower brands in two legal states—plus 36 acres of land in upstate New York, where he wants to start cultivating, he said. Lindo offered a version of the conventional wisdom regarding New York’s future as a marijuana marketplace, as well as the evening’s general consensus. “This is the biggest consumer market in the world,” he said. And while Happy Munkey grabbed a foothold by being bold and being early, stepping out is not standing out. “Winning” after legalization will take more.

And you do not come to Wall Street to simply be a name in the boroughs, or to have a one-night event on 4/20. You come here for it all. Bautista wants Happy Munkey to be a global chain of branded consumption lounges, with franchises in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Amsterdam. It’s a vision he has just enough time to outline before peeling away to hug someone else. It’s all happening. You can feel it. As big as open cannabis use in New York is, this is very much still just a beginning. 

The post 4/20 Exclusive: Legal Cannabis on Wall Street appeared first on Cannabis Now.

4/20 Exclusive: Legal Cannabis in New York City

On a bright and unseasonably warm April 20, 2021 in New York City, you could stand in a blocks-long line and wait for a free joint in Union Square as police watched and did nothing. Or you could dip into a particular rathskeller on Broad Street in the Financial District, within throwing distance of the New York Stock Exchange. Underground, Vladimir Bautista and Ramon Reyes were working the room at their “coming back” party. If nearby, you likely caught a whiff of what they believe the next 4/20, and every other day in the not-so-distant future, will look like in a post-legalization New York.

Two friends from Uptown with Dominican roots who love weed, Bautista and Reyes had a conversion after Reyes visited Amsterdam and its cannabis coffee shops. Already “involved” with cannabis in that familiar gray-area kind of way, they decided to open up an Amsterdam-style coffee shop in New York. But there was a slight problem: this was before March 31, 2021, so cannabis was illegal. 

Undaunted, in 2017 the pair launched Happy Munkey, which for tax purposes is a New York City cannabis-inspired lifestyle brand and registered state LLC. For practical purposes, Happy Munkey was one of New York City’s pre-legalization marijuana speakeasies.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Happy Munkey (@happymunkeygoodies)

Happy Munkey was essentially an Amsterdam-style cannabis coffee shop, located a short walk from Times Square and the new luxury high-rise apartments at Hudson Yards. To get in, you had to know somebody, or you had to know Happy Munkey existed—which, given the gift of Instagram, wasn’t particularly challenging. 

However, an inevitable visit from the police followed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic six months later put Happy Munkey’s cannabis pursuits on pause. In the interim, Happy Munkey endured. Bautista and Reyes sold t-shirts, ashtrays, grinders and rolling 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 Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers in Albany passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. And almost exactly three weeks after Cuomo signed the bill making public cannabis use absolutely legal in the country’s largest city, the duo threw Tuesday’s 4/20 party in the basement of an old restaurant, just steps away from the physical centers of global capital: Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. 

For the first legal 4/20 in New York City, the setting was fitting. Federal prohibition means cannabis companies still can’t list on American exchanges, but as the world’s most popular illicit drug becomes a legal commodity, there’s certainly an avalanche of investment coming. The trick is to stay involved.  

Staking A Claim 

It will be at least a year before New York state licenses anyone to grow, process or sell cannabis, but there is no time to waste. One of the harsh lessons of marijuana legalization from the 14 states that legalized before New York, is that being “first”—or getting in “before” the thing is legal—in no way guarantees a stake in the legal game. 

On Tuesday, Happy Munkey sent a strong statement with a dual purpose of announcing their “come back” while also staking a claim. In New York, the pre-legalization pioneers will absolutely participate in the post-legalization industry—in some way or another. Just try to stop them. 

But in the meantime, there was the still-surreal sight of a cannabis party, ongoing while people openly smoked cannabis in the street, as bored police stood idly by up the block. 

“It’s a historic day, it’s a historic location,” a besuited Bautista said Tuesday, as a steady line of partygoers shuffled into the basement-level space, still equipped with an imposing vault door from its days used as a waystation for cash and hard specie a century ago. 

Eugenio Garcia (Publisher of Cannabis Now), Vladimir Bautista (Happy Munkey), David Hess (Tress Capital) at Bobby Van’s in NYC on April 20, 2021.

A gregarious man with a smooth head, neatly trimmed beard and enormous smile, Bautista wore a blue suit over a luxe v-neck. Full of kinetic energy, he bounced around the room on loafers, pulling away from one hug and handshake to embrace another. Hosting a 4/20 party in the heart of American capitalism wasn’t an intentional move—they could have rented a bigger place, someplace else in New York—but “it all fit together,” Bautista explained. And as metaphor, it was spot on. 

“This is what the future is going to be,” Bautista declared. Meaning: legal weed in New York City with brown guys from Uptown deeply involved.

Happy Munkey charged $100 a head, a cover that earned you a poker chip you could exchange for $100 (or more, if you reached back into your wallet) of cannabis flower, edibles, pre-rolls or cartridges at a dispensary table set up in the former restaurant’s old wine room. At the bar, you could order a $25 cocktail infused with 5 milligrams of THC. Past the vault door were the VIP tables, where you could enjoy bottle service for $5,000, as well as a gift-basket’s worth of cannabis treats: branded flower in California-familiar bags, powerful edibles and vaporizer cartridges, to name a few. Since New York’s new legalization law allows one to be “gifted” cannabis, and since guests were paying money simply to be there, the arrangement was technically legal.

In case it wasn’t obvious Happy Munkey had graduated from underground status, floating around the room, rubbing elbows with the mix of investors, entrepreneurs, brand ambassadors, influencers and terpene-scented hangers-on that appear at cannabis fetes the world over, were members of Gov. Cuomo’s staff from Albany. “I know,” Bautista grinned, all brash charm. “I invited them.”

The party’s dress code included masks, which Happy Munkey politely requested guests to wear “when not consuming.” But within a few minutes of entering, noses appeared, masks hung from ears or slipped below chins. Like prohibition, the evil energy of the pandemic seemed to be finally clearing, too. And the next thing is on its way. 

World’s Biggest Market?

“It’s going to be California, times ten,” said Ruben Lindo. A former pro football player with an MBA from NYU, Lindo owns a CBD brand in New York and THC flower brands in two legal states—plus 36 acres of land in upstate New York, where he wants to start cultivating, he said. Lindo offered a version of the conventional wisdom regarding New York’s future as a marijuana marketplace, as well as the evening’s general consensus. “This is the biggest consumer market in the world,” he said. And while Happy Munkey grabbed a foothold by being bold and being early, stepping out is not standing out. “Winning” after legalization will take more.

And you do not come to Wall Street to simply be a name in the boroughs, or to have a one-night event on 4/20. You come here for it all. Bautista wants Happy Munkey to be a global chain of branded consumption lounges, with franchises in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Amsterdam. It’s a vision he has just enough time to outline before peeling away to hug someone else. It’s all happening. You can feel it. As big as open cannabis use in New York is, this is very much still just a beginning. 

The post 4/20 Exclusive: Legal Cannabis in New York City appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Pandemic-born cannabis retailer celebrates one-year anniversary

Acquiring a retail cannabis license and opening a store was already quite an accomplishment before everybody started covering their mouths. But, ARCannabis even put a notch on top and opened four different locations while faced with the various COVID-19 regulations. We talked to ARCannabis’ Chief Operations Officer Aaron Sinnnathamby and their Regional Manager Matt Chernoff, who […]

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ARCannabis hosts Vancouver’s first virtual cannabis cup

Who’s the greatest licensed producer on the market? That’s the question that the retailer ARCannabis wants to answer.  To do so, they launched their first virtual Cannabis Cup called “the ARCannabis Cup”. In this competition, they allow us, the consumers, to vote for our favourite producers on the recreational market. We talked to the ARCannabis Cup […]

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Cannabis Legalization in New York – Is it good news For Canadian companies?

Lawmakers might strike a deal soon to legalize recreational cannabis in NYS. Meanwhile, Canadian Cannabis companies look to pave their way into the U.S. A legalization bill could be ready to be voted as early as next week by the state senate. Specifics such as the number of plants that can be grown in private […]

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Are you a Grey Market Gary or a Newbie Nancy? The four types of cannabis customers

During my time as a budtender in Vancouver, I experienced all different types of customers. Over time, I noticed that some of the conversations started to repeat themselves. This article will introduce you to some of the consumer stereotypes that I’ve encountered and how I recommend to my fellow cannabis consultants on how to serve […]

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Breeding for Cannabinoids: The CBG Seed

It’s early on a mid-March Friday morning at the Oregon CBD headquarters, outside Corvallis, Oregon. The company’s co-founder, Eric Crawford, is breaking up a piece of intimidatingly frosty cannabis as I watch with apprehension.

“Don’t worry, it’s only hemp,” Crawford jokes as he packs the flower into the bowl of a glass pipe. “It has no measurable THC or CBD, but about 15 percent CBG and it really helps with staying focused.”

Fridays are usually filled with non-stop meetings at the industrial hemp seed firm, especially as the cannabis growing season approaches. Clients travel from across the nation to sit down and pick the two brains behind the business: Eric Crawford and his co-founder and brother Seth Crawford. The brothers admit that with the barrage of questions visiting clients often lob their way, sometimes a little help with focus can go a long way.

While their innovative early-finishing, CBD-rich strains have brought them success in the past, the duo has spent the last two years working to stabilize the nation’s first production-ready, CBG-dominant varietals in seed form.

CBG, the non-intoxicating cannabis compound whose full name is cannabigerol, has been garnering attention for its promising effects in the treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions.

Morning light on field trials of White Series CBG from Oregon CBD.

According to multiple studies from researchers investigating its potential as a palliative, CBG works to fight inflammation, pain and nausea, and is showing potential in terms of slowing the proliferation of cancer cells. Research has shown it also significantly lowers the intraocular eye pressure caused by glaucoma. Strains high in CBG also could be beneficial for treating conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and cancer.

In cannabis plants, CBG is essentially the stem cell, or chemical precursor, of many other cannabinoids, and is present in virtually all cannabis plants in their early stages of flower. As the plants mature, CBG morphs into any number of the 113 currently known cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD.

Back at Oregon CBD, I inspect a fragrant nug of the “White Series,” the company’s initial strain offering into the soon-to-be-blossoming CBG market. Out of the four phenotypes of the series, we pass back and forth #103. The flower is coated thick with crystals, speckled with vibrant orange hairs and its terpene profile oozes sweet skunk. It’s hard for me to fathom how something frosted so heavily in trichomes is THC free.

My first hit produces smooth smoke that coats my mouth with sweetness. I’m not drooling high, but I feel an immediate calmness sweep my mind. It slowly gives me a boost of energy, like a cup of coffee without the anxiety.

“It’s a more profound experience than CBD, and while it does not fall under the umbrella of ‘psychoactivity’ like THC does, it does produce a noticeable head change,” Seth says. “It’s perspective-altering.”

Eric Crawford wanders the CBG fields in the evening light at Oregon CBD’s R&D field.

For the Crawford brothers, breeding a CBG-rich flower was only half the challenge. Their company focuses on breeding seeds ready for cannabis farmers looking to cover anywhere from a few to hundreds of acres.

“We conduct rigorous laboratory testing and large-scale field trials on everything we produce,” Seth says. “It takes many years to develop these lines in a way that creates a uniform crop at any scale.”

In recent years, Oregon CBD’s breeding program has sparked national and international attention for a long list of breakthroughs in the industrial hemp industry. In 2018, Seth spoke at the Emerald Cup, as well as at the CannMed conference at UCLA, giving viewers insight as to how they have isolated specific traits and compounds for their seed stock.

“Good breeding is no secret, it’s just a lot of hard work and it takes years of research and development to accomplish,” Seth says.

When asked about the flood of hemp seed stock hitting this year’s market, the brothers both laugh.

“Good breeders are not people to who just take two plants they like and cross them to get some ‘good stuff,’” Eric says. “Good breeders are people who take the time and make a plan, they create specific inbred lines to reach a target. But overall, it’s not rocket science.”

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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Cannabis In Canada: Two Year Anniversary of Legalization

On October 17, 2018, the Canadian government decriminalized weed for recreational use. Today marijuana is a popular recreation enjoyed by more people than ever with a developing industry for entrepreneurs and tastemakers alike. It has been two years of cannabis legalization in Canada but it was not an easy path. The same day cannabis was legalized […]

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How to Have a Blunt Conversation About Cannabis With Your Dad

Depending on your relationship with your dad or the father figure in your life, cannabis may or may not be a comfortable topic of discussion— especially if you factor in his personal perspective on cannabis and cannabis consumption.

But cannabis entering more prominently into the discourse of the day, and with Father’s Day coming up to boot, now is a great time to break the ice once and for all and talk to your dad about his views on the matter.

But it’s probably smart to temper your approach based on where your dad stands and what kind of guy he generally is. Whether he’s the “cool dad” who you can talk to about anything or one of those dads who requires a PowerPoint presentation to understand who Rihanna “is,” you can use some of these tips as starting points to get the conversation with your pops moving in the right direction.

The Dad Who Used to Smoke

Maybe he hasn’t lit up in a couple of decades, but when he was younger, he could hold his own blowing clouds with the best of them. You can ease him into a conversation by piquing his interest in some of the new ways cannabis is being consumed and transformed into other products. Talk to him about all the different strains, let him know about terpenes and delight him with videos on how much the art of joint rolling has evolved. You can also ask him to share some stories of his weed-loving glory days — most dads love talking about the good old days, right?

The Chill Dad Who Smokes Now

Just admit it: You kinda want to smoke with your dad. And you might even want to swap tips or even take a trip to a dispensary together. If you’re waiting for your dad to ask you to join him, just take the lead and invite him yourself. Since it’s Father’s Day, it only makes sense that you would generously treat your old man to your favorite strain or a gourmet edible. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure that he knows that the two of you can share (and match!) without any awkwardness.

The Dad Who Can Be Convinced… With Solid Information

Without a doubt, times have changed. Not only is there more information than ever available on cannabis, people from all walks of life have been coming forward as productive and successful cannabis consumers to help shift the image and dissipate the stoner stigma. You don’t need to stage an intervention to change your dad’s perspective on cannabis, but perhaps you could start by recommending some light reading or even an interesting documentary that can help shed some light on the healing plant.

The Dad Whose Relationship with Cannabis is Unclear

If you aren’t that close with your dad, it might occur to you that you actually have no idea what he thinks about cannabis. Maybe he has never mentioned his opinion or it has just never, ever come up in conversation so you aren’t really sure where he stands on the topic of consumption. Based on what you do know about his other views, you can ease into the conversation with a current event related to cannabis, gauge his response and take it from there.

The Dad Who is Totally Against Cannabis

You might wonder: Why should I try to have a conversation with someone who already has a clear, oppositional stance on a topic? Well, sometimes hearing new information from an untapped source can make a big difference. That doesn’t mean that you have to share with your dad whether or not you partake, but if his opinion is based on propaganda, smear campaigns and fear mongering then it might be time to bring him into 2019 where people are using cannabis as medicine. Does he know how much cannabis can help people with epilepsy, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression and cancer? Enlighten him with some studies and research that can at least help him to understand how cannabis can be utilized, even if he doesn’t change his mind.

TELL US, have you talked to your dad about cannabis lately?

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