A lot of weird shit can happen when you buy drugs and that’s part of the fun of doing them, especially when you’re young.
This is especially true with buying weed because of how varied the product is—when it’s actually as good as the plug says it is, you’re psyched. Then you graduate to just wanting to get high and the idea of having to sit around with a dealer and chit-chat is annoying. Sure, it was cool that my old “guy” would play me obscure music after he got me high, but then he got way too into Sun City Girls and I ended up leaving his place stressed out and confused.
When I moved to New York and discovered delivery services, it felt like actual magic. The best part was how simple and businesslike it was. The delivery person knew their shit and because they wanted to make money, they kept it moving. Then I stopped smoking and ceased caring. Now, my exposure to weed culture has been narrowed to memes, reading someone’s social posts about how marijuana can fix problems and awkwardly turning down one-hitters outside bars.
I started to notice all my Californian friends getting really excited about 2018—and not in a typically New Year’s Eve type way—because recreational pot was finally going to be legal. Ok, I thought it already was (or at least so fucking easy to get that no one really cared). I was wrong. This is a massive deal. On the East Coast, specifically in New York, it doesn’t seem like this is close to happening, despite all the vape lounges that seem to preempt the legal weed thing. Maybe not though, as Daniel Yi says.
Yi is the VP of Communications for MedMen, the self-proclaimed Apple Store of marijuana. Just a few years ago, he admittedly knew even less than your random dorm stoner about weed, but that changed in one click on LinkedIn. Yi, who describes himself as a “recovering journalist” after working for the LA Times for a decade, made a career pivot and applied for a communications gig with MedMen. After jumping onboard, Yi understood the potential of making not only marijuana, but the plethora of products made from it, legal.
The immediate call out though, is that brick-and-mortar spots like the MedMen stores sound a bit like a Starbucks, which immediately makes me think of gentrification, so I asked Yi if he thought this whole thing was a bit classist.
“Drug reform is reform, but we also need to make sure we work together to affect change across the board,” he said. “The War on Drugs has devastated communities and filled our prisons with low-level offenders who pose little threat to society. People have gone to jail for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and certain communities were disproportionately impacted by that policy.”
If you think of this in simple terms, we’re starting with the craft beer stores and they’re getting the sexy press, but in five years or whatever, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be small mom and pop shops selling pot. As Yi pointed out, we’re decades behind some European countries, so right now it’s massive work in progress with a lot of dumb concerns. Mine immediately was that the US has tons of guns, so what’s stopping me from robbing the MedMen store, especially if I’m part of a local drug ring whose business took a hit? I’m sure there are several experts on Prohibition that could lay this out in detail, but Yi explained it simply: the stores have security, they transport the herb in unmarked vehicles, and honestly, “How many people try to hijack a liquor truck?”
A week into Prop 64, Los Angeles has been slow to distribute licenses—and of course Jeff Sessions threw a pick and rattled investors with his memo—but Yi and the MedMen saw record crowds, and more importantly, no evidence that this model wasn’t playing out to the expectations they have, that the industry could balloon to a six billion dollar game by 2021.
“That’s more of a smokescreen,” he said of Sessions’ memo, lacking any irony. “You have to read beyond the headlines. This is going to have a huge impact on places like Las Vegas and we’re already seeing success in Colorado. Sessions and his constituents are the minority that think marijuana is as dangerous as heroin. Are people dying in the streets? Has Colorado fallen into the depths of hell? No. People still go to work every day.”
As far as MedMen and their growing industry presence, Yi explains that expansion and legalization are unpredictable, but fertile, with eight states currently legal and a number looking to join in 2018, including Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Connecticut. While that still means that if you want to legally buy rec weed in New York you’ll have to go to NJ (which is most New Yorkers’ nightmare), change could come as quickly as the luxury condos that loom, mostly empty, over the Williamsburg waterfront. Baring a nuclear war, there will probably be a MedMen below those complexes sooner than you think, and jobs, and rope, and CBD oil, and of course, a lot of people smoking weed.
“I know this sounds a like hyperbole, but we’re literally living history,” Yi says. “If you asked me 20 months ago what’s the difference between indica and sativa, I’d have had no clue. From where I am, anything is within grasp.”