Over the last year or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to intimately acquaint myself with the topography of this great nation, via both solo road trips and random long-distance-relationship meetups that have taken me everywhere from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Portland (Oregon, but actually Maine, too, now that I think about it). I’ve stayed in big cities and small towns, laid my head down at hot-spring spas and creepy Airbnbs, and eaten more Starbucks egg bites than I can possibly total, but if I had to assign one theme to my travels, it would be the following question: What’s the weed situation like at my next destination?
There’s something about describing your weed intake (even as a reasonably responsible adult) that can make you feel exactly like a 14-year-old skater bro bragging about how he totally scored some primo ganja, but what can I say? Early mornings and red-eye flights have taken a real toll on my ability to drink before a travel day, and given the increasing legality of marijuana across the U.S., I’ve learned to replace my evening glass of wine with a weed gummy or half a joint before curing up some reality TV.
In Southern California, where I spent the month of November with my partner, obtaining weed is laughably easy; the state legalized the use, sale, and cultivation of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over in 2016, and at this point, L.A. is absolutely saturated with dispensaries. (Seriously, there might be more weed “collectives” there than Starbucks locations.) Driving home, however, presented a problem: The marijuana that I’d purchased legally in California was still illegal in Texas, where I live; and while marijuana has been legal in Arizona for “adult personal use” since 2020, and New Mexico legalized recreational use a year later, had I driven up to Utah—as I was considering doing to meet a friend in Moab—my weed would have been a problem, just as it was when I made my way to Marfa, Texas to crash in a friend’s friend’s friend’s guesthouse and panic-ditched everything I’d bought before a Border Inspection station in El Paso.
In New York, the state where I was raised and where most of my friends and family still live, recreational use of marijuana was legalized in 2021; in fact, my best friend lives upstate and works at a dispensary just across the Massachusetts border, where New York stoners in the know have been picking up their (legal) weed for years. In New York City, though, the landscape of legal(-ish) weed has long been defined by the ubiquitous “weed bodega,” which Curbed writer Bridget Read described last year as a “tacky, snack-filled corner-store purveyor, like the regular bodega’s stoner cousin.”
On December 29, New York City opened its first legal recreational cannabis storefront, Housing Works Cannabis Co., in the East Village; a week later, I peer-pressured two friends, one a medium smoker and one a self-professed “weed virgin,” into joining me there to check out the scene. As we’d predicted, the line was around the block, and the presence of two police officers monitoring the scene from the corner of Astor Place and Broadway didn’t exactly conjure the chillest of atmospheres. I briefly found myself missing the weed bodega, a place where I’d never had to wait in line.