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Park goes to pot; Washington Square now a cannabis casbah

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | It was a recent early evening and vendors were hawking pot from tables ringing the Washington Square Park fountain. Beer and alcohol sellers were also plying the park’s plaza with rolling coolers.

Their sales pitches made it sound like the Washington Square version of being in the stands at a Yankees game.

“Edibles! Pre-rolls!” one woman called out from a table on the south side of the square.

“Ice cold beee-yah! Ice cold nutcraah-kuhs!” a guy barked as he wheeled his ice-chilled cooler in for a night of business.

An array of “edibles” for sale in Washington Square Park. (Photo by The Village Sun)

With former Governor Andrew Cuomo having legalized recreational marijuana this past April, New Yorkers can now possess up to three ounces of cannabis — equal to a good-sized baggie of weed — for personal use.

Technically, smoking pot is banned in parks per the same law that prohibits cigarette smoking in parks. But it doesn’t sound like anyone is getting a ticket for toking in Washington Square.

The pot vendors display their signs, complete with payment apps. (Photo by The Village Sun)

As for selling pot, authorized dispensaries, which will include a sales tax on purchases, aren’t expected to start operating until next year. It is still illegal to sell weed in New York — but, again, technically illegal.

Some of the pot purveyors in Washington Square might be planning to apply for a license to operate a dispensary — but for now they’re selling during the so-called “gray area.”

One woman had an especially well-stocked table of pot products. She had pre-rolled joints for $20, edibles — like THC-infused popcorn and seaweed — for $10 and $20 and gummies and other snacks for $20 and $30.

A young entrepreneur ran what looked like a mini-pot dispensary. His rate for an eighth of an ounce of weed was $25. (Photo by The Village Sun)

She had a gel substance in tubes and also small packets of hashish, which she said she likes to sprinkle on her blunts.

But could it all just be…oregano? The Village Sun did not sample any of the purported pot in the park for this article, but this vendor, for one, assured hers was the real thing.

“I don’t sell anything that I wouldn’t smoke myself — and I like to smoke,” she assured, grinning broadly.

Another young entrepreneur is like the Johnny Appleseed of pot in the park. Like the others, he sells joints and edibles. But he specializes in seeds and plants — even pot pollen, so that you can create your own hybrid strains. In general, his thing is teaching people how to grow their own ganja.

He has a favorite proverb.

“You can give a man a fish or you can teach him to fish,” he said.

Pot plants for sale in the park — as well as lessons on how to grow them. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Sinsemilla sales are actually not his main gig, though.

“I’m in tech, I’m actually doing well,” he shrugged. “This is a side thing.”

The twentysomething grower, who calls his business Green Klub, said he had noticed all the pot vending in the park and decided he might as well get in on the action himself.

“It’s a f—in’ marketplace,” he marveled of the amount of the pot being purveyed in the park.

The weed-raising wiz said cops have checked out his table a few times, but he tells them that he isn’t selling anything — just taking donations.

A good-sized pot tree for sale — or just admiration. (Photo by The Village Sun)
A novelty item: a bonsai pot plant. The expert grower said it took a lot of work to achieve this result. (Photo by The Village Sun)
(Photo by The Village Sun)

Nearby the cannabis cultivator, Mike Grossman was selling Goofy Fruit, the stoner comics that he writes, along with related merch. One of his most popular characters is Chill Pepper, a one-eyed, “baked” red chili pepper with a joint dangling from his mouth.

He admitted of selling pot in the park right now, “It’s a weird gray area.” But he said the D.I.Y. weed vendors are currently stepping in to fill a demand that the city and state are not.

Mike Grossman, selling Goofy Fruit stoner comics and other material, supports the park’s pot market. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“I think this is what the city needs right now, as far as creating this entrepreneurial event,” he said. “The city [government] isn’t doing anything.”

T-shirts for sale sporting Chill Pepper, one of Goofy Fruit’s most popular characters — especially, apparently, in Washington Square Park. (Photo by The Village Sun)

One night a few weeks earlier, Elizabeth Schmookler and Stefen Reed stood listening as a group of musicians jammed on Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” on the south side of the fountain plaza. The slogan on the tote bag over Schmookler’s shoulder, “BUY WEED FROM WOMEN,” was literal.

A couple checking out music in the park run a boutique pot-delivery service. (Photo by The Village Sun)

They run a boutique pot-delivery service. She handed out a QR code for its Web site. Sure, she said, she knows it’s technically illegal.

Unlike the weed hawkers around the fountain, who readily share their social-media handles and Web addresses, however, she asked that their company’s name not be mentioned.

As for nutcrackers — home-mixed alcoholic drinks in bright colors — they could recently be spotted on sale in a couple of spots around the fountain on Sat., Oct. 2, when participants from the Women’s March poured into the park for a rally.

Nutcrackers for sale for $10 and $15 in the park the day of the Women’s March. (Photo by The Village Sun)
A police officer glanced at a tableful of nutcracker drinks in Washington Square Park the afternoon of the Women’s March. (Photo by The Village Sun)

One night a few weeks earlier, Joe Ulu, a “mixologist artist” per his card, was selling two types of nutcracker bottled drinks — ones with glowing lights on the bottom and ones without. Sales in the park had been going well for him.

“I was able to quit my job over the summer,” he said. “We’ll see how the winter goes.”

He’s also working on a fashion line with a signature logo, including ball caps.

Joe Ulu sells four flavors of nutcrackers in bottles — with or without a glowing light on the bottom. (Photo by The Village Sun)
(Photo by The Village Sun)

Evrim Can, a community affairs officer at Greenwich Village’s Sixth Precinct, said pot and alcohol sales in the park are illegal. As for the nutcrackers in the park on the day of the Women’s March, he said the park tends to see a spike of the D.I.Y. drink vendors during “special events.”

“Nutcrackers are illegal,” he said. “Alcohol is a violation, 100 percent illegal — public consumption [of it], and to sell alcohol you need a special license from the State Liquor Authority.”

The community affairs officer said if police spot alcohol in the park, they confiscate it and write a summons.

Who needs pot dispensaries and sales tax? Forgot to buy weed at Washington Square? Stickers on Citi Bikes pitch a delivery service for pot with names like Sky Walker, Train Wreck, OG Kush and Platinum. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Trevor Sumner, the president of the Washington Square Association, said the alcoholic drinks, in particular, are an issue.

“Washington Square Park has struggled with illegal drug sales, ever since I was a child in the ’70s,” he said. “And the new sales of premixed drinks is remnant of the chaotic lawlessness of the summer. That doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye.

“We’ve made substantial progress since this summer through increased Park Enforcement Patrol and police presence and more consistent enforcement of park laws,” Sumner said. “We outlined our policy recommendations earlier this year and believe that it lays a roadmap to address these challenges moving forward.

“We believe that Washington Square Park should be an environment that is safe and enjoyable for all residents and visitors. We need to address these challenges continuously to achieve that goal. ”

5 Comments

  1. Terry Katz Terry Katz October 13, 2021

    There is no rule of law in the United States, Washington Square is a cesspool, and the NYPD are good for NOTHING. I was all for legalizing AND taxing marijuana, much like alcohol. Not this. Washington Square is the park closest to my home. It is the only place for me to see trees and plants and to be outside. But the bridge-and-tunnel trash come to New York and bully me so they can have a place to conduct business without paying rent. De Blasio hates New York, while The Vance Family, Chin, Johnson & Rivera do nothing. It will be worse when the Party appoints the new bridge-and-tunnel mayor, Long Island Adams.

  2. Carmine Strassa Carmine Strassa October 13, 2021

    Thanks for publishing this.
    Today (the next day) six or ten NYPD cops with another half-dozen-plus Park Enforcement Patrol police stood around the fountain to scare away the pot sellers. Yet, at the same time, the drug dealers in the park’s northwest corner continued their thriving business in full view. Shooting up and smoking ensued there without hesitance or enforcement and adjacent to the children’s playground.
    What does it take??????????????

  3. Jane Doe Jane Doe October 13, 2021

    The selling of ANYTHING in any NYC park should be illegal. We have so few places to engage with nature in our city and already have many, many places to buy things (a.k.a. stores), so can we please let our parks be noncommercial quiet zones?! Speaking of which, what happened to cracking down on amplified (and loud piano!) music in our park? Where is the NYPD? Is it all or nothing with them?

  4. fred up fred up October 13, 2021

    This is a joke. The park is a disgusting mess. We have to stop catering to criminals rather than the law-abiding, taxpaying citizens who would like to stroll through the park with their children or alone, and not be abused, solicited or attacked. There is no law and order and it has to stop. NYPD has its hands tied. When they make arrests, the criminals are out within hours. Our political leaders have failed us and have caused this situation to proliferate. Since there are no consequences for illegal behavior, it has become a free for all. Thanks, Hoylman, Chin, Rivera and friends. You ruined a beautiful city.

  5. Suzan Mazur Suzan Mazur October 14, 2021

    Avoid Washington Square Park. Mentally ill, filthy drug addicts now own it. The west side of the park between MacDougal and Fifth Avenue today is full of such characters. One guy pants down, backside to street, showing off his seriously soiled underwear. It’s a revolting horror movie with no police in sight to protect the public.

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