The Big Apple goes up in smoke.
Hell Square — the section of the Lower East Side known for its nightly, drunken celebrations — is home to at least 13 marijuana dealers in a four-block section of Ground Zero for weed sales in the city’s shops.
A small problem: selling pot is still illegal.
New York legalized recreational cannabis last year, but the State Office of Cannabis Management has yet to roll out its regulations and licensing system, which could arrive by the end of 2022.
Some businesses within Hell Square’s “Green Mile” have found clever loopholes to get bud to customers, while other businesses have jettisoned the law entirely and dived headlong into the marijuana market.
Granny Za’s on Orchard Street is technically an art dealer where customers pay $75 for a digital painting by a local artist — and then get a quarter ounce of the green stuff “free” upon exit.
The Empire Cannabis Club on Allen Street — more akin to the Genius Bar at an Apple Store than a marijuana pub — requires membership before customers can purchase cannabis strains like Gorilla Glue, Grandaddy Purple, and the ever-popular Sour Diesel.
Smokers Only down the street sells pre-rolled joints, no questions asked.
The Post asked employees at all four stores if the products were made from real marijuana and would get you high, and they said yes. The Post could not independently confirm this account.
Whether everything is done by the book or not, some New Yorkers are opposed to the city’s burgeoning marijuana market.
“People don’t like the smell,” Massimo La Rocca, who owns a hair salon on Orchard Street, told the Post. “I’ve lost a few customers because everyone (in the neighborhood) smokes here.”
A man who declined to give his name and has lived in the Lower East Side for 40 years said he hates constant clouds of smoke billowing into his home.
“My apartment would get so full of marijuana smoke that I would actually choke,” he said. “I smell it too. I do not like it. I don’t think that’s fair. It basically forces me to breathe it.”
Others see legal weed as a potential economic boon for New York. The state expects $1.25 billion in new revenue from legal marijuana sales over the next six years.
“It’s a good idea for tax reasons. It will bring more money to the state and hopefully will be used properly,” said Zackary Martin, manager of Sock Man, a clothing store on St Marks Place.
Experts said the current weed policy has clouded people’s perceptions of the law and how hard it should be enforced.
Retired NYPD officer and John Jay College professor Eugene O’Donnell said the illegal sale of weed showed a breakdown in order.
“Do you think everyone just waits for the ‘Is’ to be dotted and the ‘Ts’ crossed out (before they start selling)? That’s just not the reality,” he said. “The reality is that elected officials have themselves eroded the rule of law by destroying the police force and blurring the lines of the law.”
He continued, “You’re staring into a potentially very disturbing abyss where the law is simply irrelevant.”
A clerk at the Smoke Shop on Orchard Street told The Post that a police officer saw his stash a couple of weeks ago, but just look the other way.
“He never said anything or gave me bad eye contact,” the clerk said.
Dmitriy Shakhnevich, a Manhattan criminal justice attorney, said although the sale is prohibited, selling tickets to all of these deals would place a heavy burden on prosecutors.
“They don’t want to be put in a position where they have to pursue a bunch of these cases and then have to implement initiatives and programs ‘X’ years later to have those convictions overturned,” he told the Post. “They don’t want to flood their offices with cases that go nowhere.”
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