Shops selling and ‘giving away’ weed before it’s legal in NYC

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Shops selling and 'giving away' weed before it's legal in NYC

New York is the new Amsterdam.

Or at least that’s how it seemed during a visit this week to the Upper West Side’s Barber Shop Museum, a kicky place for a cut, with vintage straight razors on the walls and a hot towel warmer that dates from 1900.

It’s also a place where customers can get high as a kite, thanks to all the primo weed on display in a glass case and an apparent loophole that lets the shop “sell” marijuana, despite retail pot sales not yet being legal.

“We don’t sell weed here,” Shaheem Owens, the joint’s in-house “budtender,” told The Post with a straight face. “We sell digital art. Then we give you the cannabis as a present after you purchase the art.”

The “gifting” angle for skirting New York law has been a boon for the Barber Shop Museum and other gray-area dispensaries in the city, as well as a welcome new option for desperate potheads who just want to buy a bag without getting hassled.

All while lawmakers hash out how to fully legalize recreational sales of cannabis.

The Green Truck sells cannabis on Lafayette Street and Bleecker Street in Noho, among other locations.
The Green Truck sells cannabis on Lafayette Street and Bleecker Street in Noho, among other locations.
Stefano Giovannini

The Barber Shop sets prices for its artwork based on what type of weed a customer wants, with the ganja ranging from $40 to $100 for an eighth of an ounce. Staff members know their product — with names like Platinum OG and Wake and Bake — well.

“I’m pretty high right now,” said Owens. “I just walked toward the street and had a smoke. Most jobs I get, I make sure I don’t have to take a piss test.

“To get a job here you have to test positive,” he said, half-jokingly.

Over on Grand Street in Williamsburg, Gifted BK looks as sleek as an Apple store, with framed street-art pieces and a chill vibe. Like the Barber Shop Museum, where the weed concession is owned by some of the same people behind Gifted,  it sells digital art and gives away the marijuana.

Shaheen Owens manages the NYC Barber Shop Museum, which offers cannabis.
Shaheen Owens manages the NYC Barber Shop Museum, which offers cannabis.

The museum gives away marijuana with the purchase of digital art.
The museum gives away marijuana with the purchase of digital art.

Joints come pre-rolled.
Joints come pre-rolled.

You can also get weed by the eighth of an ounce or more.
You can also get weed by the eighth of an ounce or more.

“I don’t mind traveling 90 minutes to a place where I can enjoy art, be comfortable and ask questions about weed,” said Jenny, a SUNY Purchase art major who selected some THC-infused gummies.

“I have sh–ty asthma lungs. So I can’t smoke, and a lot of the edibles upstate have been laced [with fentanyl]. I come here and don’t have to worry.”

Umi, one of the store’s owners, described himself as “coming from the legacy market — back when, if you got caught carrying a certain amount of bud, you went to jail.”

As for the pot on display, “The strains are from California,” he said, “but it’s grown locally.”

This reporter decided to test how the process worked.

The first step was picking a photo — in this case, a shot of a woman with a ladybug on her tongue. After aiming a phone at a QR code, a menu popped up. Animal Cookies, a sativa/indica blend, was priced at $55. A staffer handed over a small jar with an eighth of an ounce of pungent weed, the lid adorned with pink and white iced cookies.

The arrangement is different at Empire Cannabis Club on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea.

Customers there pay $15 for a one-day membership or $35 for the month — qualifying Empire as a private club and allowing weed purchases, since the non-profit outfit is not officially a public retailer.

Or so a lawyer for the business claimed.

Legacy NYC Art Gallery and Cannabis Products is located on the Lower East side.
Legacy NYC Art Gallery and Cannabis Products is located on the Lower East side.

The gallery "gifts" customers weed with art purchases.
The gallery “gifts” customers weed with art purchases.

The gallery is operated by the folks behind the Barber Shop Museum.
The gallery is operated by the folks behind the Barber Shop Museum.

“We are in complete compliance with the law,” Steve Zissou recently told NY1. “This is a club that has banded together to acquire what they can acquire legally.”

Not all pot peddlers have brick-and-mortar storefronts or use freebies to duck the cops.

He now throws pot parties, charging $100 to $200 for admission, where guests get goody bags that include joints, a.k.a. pre-rolls.

Bautista declined to speak with The Post, but his publicist, Stu Zakim, said that his client had partnered with the exhibit “Immersive Van Gogh,” which took place on Pier 36 last year and was a digital presentation of the artist’s work. They put on a night-time gathering that drew people who love looking at art and getting high.

“Legally, you can smoke cannabis anywhere you can smoke tobacco,” said Zakim. “The smoking was all done outside. They sold $100,000 worth of tickets. They knew the Munkey would attract people who’d consume cannabis and that cannabis would enhance the experience.”

According to Nick Harkin, the exhibit’s spokesman, “It is true that $100,000 of tickets were sold. Pre-rolls were included in the gift-bags that Happy Munkey distributed, and we had a designated, confined outdoor space where smoking was permitted but nowhere inside the building.”

Tea Brown manages Gifted BK.
Tea Brown manages Gifted BK.

The gallery carries a variety of strains.
The gallery carries a variety of strains.

Customers are "gifted" weed with an art purchase.
Customers are “gifted” weed with an art purchase.

Jennifer, a customer at Gifted BK.
Jennifer, a customer at Gifted BK.

Then there’s the group of weed-dealing pals from Harlem who stole a page from food-truck chefs: They created Green Truck, a collective of parked vehicles out of which pot gets sold. The seats of the vehicles, repurposed Access-a-Ride buses, have been removed and counters put in.

The idea came about last September after a Bronx seller set up shop in his car in the Bronx, said Attache II, a Green Truck co-founder.

“We said, ‘What happens if we put out a table and sell it off of a table?’ The worst is that we would lose our product and get a ticket.” So the friends began selling on the sidewalk on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue, and no cops bothered them, according to Attache II.

“There were lines all over the place — hundreds of people were around us, there to buy weed — and it got uncomfortable,” he said. “So we said, ‘F–k it. Let’s buy a trailer and put it on 116th Street.’” They had it up and running just a week later.

Empire Cannabis Club at 147 8th Ave. in Manhattan.
Empire Cannabis Club at 147 Eighth Ave. in Manhattan.
Stefano Giovannini

That trailer has since been replaced by the fleet of old buses. Green Trucks can be found parked in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, with former street dealers manning the vehicles and pot going out in exchange for “donations.”

One, selling a house-brand dubbed Uncle Budd, has been parked at Bleecker and Lafayette in the West Village since Thanksgiving. Weed varieties and prices are clearly listed.

Despite apparent police indifference to these operators, one official warned against selling pot from a store or, for that matter, a bus.

“The unlicensed sale of cannabis remains illegal in New York State and the state will work with its partners in government to enforce the law,” said Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the Office of Cannabis Management, which oversees weed regulation for New York State. 

“We encourage New Yorkers to not partake in illicit sales where products may not be safe, and those attempting to sell illegally must stop immediately.”

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