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The State of 4/20 in New York

The city that never sleeps, New York sparks hash hole after hash hole, takes a power nap, then rolls another one.

Photos by JoJo Valente

For a few years now, friends have been telling me New York is the place to be for 4/20. Being a lifelong west coaster, the last time I smoked weed in NYC we had to order it from a bike messenger. So when the offer came in from the team at Northeast Leaf to check out what the Big Apple has to offer, I hopped on a plane to see if all the tales are true. 

To any of our readers who don’t already know, the policy as outlined by NYC.gov says adults can legally have up to three ounces of Cannabis and 24 grams of concentrated Cannabis for personal use. It also states you can smoke or vape “wherever smoking tobacco is allowed under smoke-free air laws.” Pretty much everywhere you go you’ll find someone smoking weed and while it’s still illegal to smoke in a car (even if it’s parked), you can light up in front of a cop on 5th Avenue and nothing will happen.

Even the city’s own website declares that Cannabis is the second most used recreational drug in New York … after alcohol. 

This year, the 4/20 celebrations spread out across Manhattan with Washington Square Park, The Billy’s competition in Hell’s Kitchen, Happy Munkey hosting musical act Sister Nancy on a 210-foot private yacht out in the East River, The New York Times covering a hash podcast in Chelsea, and Royal Queen Seeds counting down to 4:20 on a billboard in Times Square. Technically smoking at the crossroads of the world is a violation, since public parks and plazas are against the free-air act, but none of the park officers I saw around the city were giving out tickets. 

Like so many Cannabis celebrations, a crowd of weed events have latched themselves together to create a 4/20 in New York that lasts an entire workweek. On the 17th, things kicked off with the U.S. debut of Masters of Rosin. A well-known European competition with a single category, the Aloha Apothecary Sour BX4 from Karma Genetics I tried was a stellar second place winner. The next day, multiple events ramped up including Higher Empire with Doja Pak in the city and a party out in Long Island with Greendawg and Gotti where we tried some of their awesome Pistachio Milk flower.

Famous as the city that never sleeps, New York sparks hash hole after hash hole, content to order Cuban food at 4:00 a.m., take a power nap, then roll another one. On the 19th, music loving stoners were treated to concerts from legends like Raekwon and Cypress Hill, who played in the city to prepare the vibes. The foodie crowd was served up private dinners from Florida brand NWO and the Billy Awards. Arranged by popular New York smoke spot The Astor Club and Archive, it was a special gathering of East and West Coast Avengers that really emphasized not only the size of our community, but how many of us made the trek out.

Anyone up early on the 20th squeezed into a beautiful spot in Chelsea for a live recording with Hot Dabs Podcast starring glass legend J.P. Toro. Stop and think about how this hash scene has gotten to the stage where The New York Times puts this event on their 4/20 event list. Just about 19 blocks south, Washington Square Park blossomed as the undeniable epicenter of the 4/20 in New York – part tourist attraction, part cultural movement, the area is a smoke-filled bazaar of organic chaos that’s very much on brand for the weed community. Transformed into a mix of open-air market, smoke session and public display, the almost 10-acre park was packed with rings of various spectators, even spilling into a nearby block dubbed “hash alley.” 

At the edge of it all, people who would normally be at the park stood next to New Yorkers who just wanted to witness what’s happening. Past them watched the canna-curious and the closet stoners, content to smoke near the crowd but not with it in case someone recognized them from work. Just inside from there, the parked-all-day crowds filled every available space with blankets and hammocks, rolling joints to the rhythm of a drum circle. Finally beyond that was the inner layer, with colorful costumes and the hum of live music, and tables filled with an endless selection of clones, cuttings, drinks, edibles, mylars bags of every shape/color, and rosin jars galore.

After the explosive 4:20 countdown, I went to Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen to witness three floors of people smoking up to the sounds of Larry June. As I looked around this humongous room, what struck me as I watched the crowd was how accepted the celebrations seemed. It was as if the city wasn’t just squishing stoners into some pre-approved corner (even though I did spend a good chunk of time at The Astor Club). We were all over Manhattan and beyond, having parties in fancy rooms, passing joints on the street, and giving East and West Coast creatives a valuable chance to connect.

Swallowing down four edibles, an espresso, and a bacon, egg and cheese, my day started up again at 10AM with High Grade Confirmed hosting two impressive showcases. It’s insane to think people could get up after four days of sessions, but thanks to some custom pieces from Toro Glass at the dab bar and the Tenco/WCA Black Zushi bucket Helios Hash brought, people piled into Work ’n’ Roll’s beautifully lit space on the twelfth floor. 

Later, the party moved to a Warhol-esque gallery of sound/visual art exhibits and Cannabis immersive spaces in SOHO aptly named THC NYC. With four distinct floors to choose from, there was something for everyone – multiple live bands, mirrored hallways, light shows, rooms spraying terpenes, a costume contest, and Danny Danko giving cultivation advice on the third floor.

As I loaded up on pastrami from Katz’s deli for the trip home the next day, I just kept coming back to how many Cannabis-friendly spaces I saw; how free and open people smoked and yet I never witnessed anyone blowing it in someone’s face or being rude about smelling it. I told a friend of mine how people light up on the street and she replied, “You can do that on the West Coast.” But, and I know this sounds cliche – like the pizza and the bagels, it’s just different in New York.

@adhddead | @theastorclubnyc

Photos by @thejojosnaps

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of All Magazines.

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