Legal Weed Set to Reshape NYC’s Party Scene: Cannabis Weekly
(Bloomberg) -- Happy Munkey’s April 20 “Farewell to Prohibition” party in New York offered a peek at the opportunities that legal cannabis may open up for one of the world’s cultural capitals -- from a new social scene to an above-board career path for those involved in the formerly illicit industry.
The cannabis lifestyle company, which hosts events, sells merchandise and produces a podcast, brought together around 400 people to smoke pot and watch performances by DJs and a psychic.
The crowd ranged from politicians and Wall Street types to hip-hop artists and cannabis advocates and entrepreneurs, according to Stu Zakim, president of Bridge Strategic Communications, who represents the party’s organizers and attended. They all relaxed and got high together. Goody bags with ashtrays, t-shirts and rolling trays were handed out.
In most ways, the event was similar to many others held over the last four years by The Munkey, as the business is known by supporters. The so-called cannabis speakeasy was hosting parties seven days a week with a similar number of people near Times Square at its peak, according to founders Vlad Bautista and Ramon Reyes. But those parties were illegal, they acknowledge.
This party was above board now that New York is legalizing recreational cannabis. It was held in a Bobby Van’s Steakhouse off Wall Street. And Bautista and Reyes, former sellers of illicit cannabis, are now looking to raise investment and expand their business.
“We will buy some licenses in New York,” Bautista told me in a phone interview. “We have some potential investors that are waiting. We can’t get anything concrete until New York finalizes its regulations though.”
Bautista and Reyes’ ambitions are to turn their Happy Munkey project into a full-scale company that grows and sells marijuana. The fact that they have a shot at pulling this off, despite decades of experience in what’s now called “the legacy market” (and in the case of Reyes, a weekend in prison and two years of parole) are a testament to the social equity provisions in New York’s new laws. These were designed to help minorities, who have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.
Competition for licenses is expected to be tough, with multi-state operators -- some of which are public companies with market capitalizations in the billions of dollars -- looking to get a piece of New York’s market. But Reyes said he’s optimistic: “Why would they give it to anyone else except Happy Munkey? We’re the community that’s been targeted.”
Their prospects also rest in part on the vision that the two share for how cannabis socialization will take shape. With no smoking in New York restaurants (with rare exceptions like cigar rooms, such as at Bobby Van’s) events are most likely at club-type venues.
“It shouldn’t be any different than a big New York club; but there won’t be any alcohol, there won’t be sloppy drunk people running around. It will be VIP-style. It will feel very luxurious,” Bautista said. He envisions a mash-up of the Amsterdam-style cafes, laid-back California vibes and New York hospitality -- with a touch of his family’s native Dominican Republic.
“If people get the munchies, we’re there. We make sure the stoner’s not too hot or cold; doesn’t have cotton mouth,” he said. The experience could include themes from the Roaring Twenties, with live jazz bands and burlesque dancers. Stand-up comedians and cannabis yoga are also possibilities.
“We’re taking it to the next level,” Bautista said. “New Yorkers are good with those kind of things.”
NUMBER OF THE WEEK
- 67.8%: The increase in revenue that retailers saw this April 20 as opposed to last year, according to GrowFlow, a business management and compliance tool for cannabis sellers.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Passing this bill will show that Congress can work together in a bipartisan way to address outdated marijuana laws. I hope this bill is an ice breaker for the House to take up other reforms and finally remove the conflict between state and federal laws,” said Representative Ed Perlmutter during a speech on the floor of the lower House when introducing the Safe Banking Act on April 19. He highlighted support from banking, credit and insurance trade groups as well as labor unions and state governments.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed an act that would prohibit federal banking regulators from penalizing banks and other depository institutions for providing banking services to cannabis businesses. Cannabis shares climbed on the news.
- A constitutional ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida was struck down by the state’s Supreme Court.
- A California cannabis company lost its appeal challenging a tax code provision that bars marijuana companies from receiving business tax breaks.
- Researchers from across Canada called on the government to loosen restrictions on cannabis testing, saying that more than 1 million people are using medical marijuana without adequate evidence of its safety or effectiveness.
- MGC Pharmaceuticals Ltd., a biopharma company based in Australia, will buy Israeli company Medicanl Inc.
- GW Pharmaceuticals received new approval from the European Commission for Epidyolex, paving the way for an expanded launch of the medicine across Europe.
- Flowr Corp. reports 2020 earnings after the market closes
- WeedMD Inc. reports fourth-quarter earnings after the market closes
- Two-day National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference begins
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