The Weed Bodega Was Beautiful While It Lasted

As the city begins to enforce rules, the culture of the landscape is changing

New York will have its first legal recreational cannabis storefront up and running on December 29. The Housing Works–operated shop will take over the space previously occupied by the Gap on 8th and Broadway, a sign of hard times for traditional retail (denim, khakis) and fast times for the new (marijuana). There will be “75 to 100 unique products” on offer, including edibles and pre-rolls. Absent from the location, tragically: kaleidoscopic murals featuring the friendly, stoned faces of Rick and Morty, SpongeBob, or the Pink Panther; neon lights; décor such as a skull with a joint in its mouth; and exotic Cheetos and imported Korean Ruffles. It also won’t be open between the hours of 2 and 8 a.m., which is generally when exotic Cheetos and imported Korean Ruffles are the only things you want to eat.

Why? Because, per New York’s Office of Cannabis Management, the era of the weed bodega — the tacky, snack-filled corner-store purveyor, like the regular bodega’s stoner cousin — is about to be over. Instead, the state’s legal weed retailers will be subject to an extremely long list of regulations that includes rules on everything from location to security to aesthetics. The compliance requirements will undoubtedly be onerous and expensive for many of the operators vying for licenses, but the décor rules in particular seem designed to kill the gray-market upstarts that flooded the city in the beautiful, wild period between decriminalization and the rollout of official licenses. It’s as if regulators walked into a humble weed bodega — Cloudy Vibez, Weed 4 U, Kannabis Korner — and banned everything they saw: “cartoons,” “bubble-type or other cartoon-like font,” “bright colors, “neon,” the terms “candy” or “candies,” “kandy” or “kandeez,” and “symbols, images, characters, public figures, phrases, toys, or games” commonly marketed to people under 21. Also barred are signs or business names “depicting cannabis, cannabis products, or the imagery or action of smoking or vaping.” As the city begins to enforce these rules in earnest, the welcoming visage of a rasta Alvin the Chipmunk will begin to disappear from our streetscape.

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