Would You Like Weed With That?

By: Jasmine Wallis

In Amsterdam, the smell of marijuana is as common as the smoke from tobacco; noticeable but not out of the ordinary. On the other side of the pond however, the war on drugs has been raging and incarcerating American citizens since Nixon’s presidency in the 1970’s. Despite the strict laws and intolerance for drugs of any kind (bar, alcohol) an “acceptable” form of the cannabis plant is popping up all over New York City.

Cannabidoil or CBD is a compound of cannabis that has many benefits without the feeling of being “stoned”. Some of these benefits include relief from inflammation, seizures, pain, and anxiety, and in the city that never sleeps; it’s being welcomed with open arms. I first stumbled upon CBD products in the trendy Canal Street Market between SoHo and Chinatown in downtown New York City. The products weren’t being sold at one of the stalls though. Instead they were in a “Chow Pod”, an AI-powered vending machine that dispenses “healthy and trending products”, according to their website. Inside the machine were what looked like jars of vitamins but turned out to be CBD-infused gummy lollies. “I can’t believe that this is just here so casually!” New York native, Jason, 29, exclaimed to his friend, “Matt, come over here! I’m gonna buy some CBD.” It wasn’t his first time trying marijuana but was his first buying CBD-infused products. “I’ve seen them popping up more and more in the city, so I’m kind of curious what it’ll be like.”

Only a 15-minute walk away, Chillhouse sits on Essex St. Described as a “destination for self-care” the café also includes a massage parlour and nail bar and is a hot spot for wellness and fashion influencers alike. Stepping into Chillhouse, you immediately feel relaxed: hell, it’s all in the name, right? The smiling woman behind the counter recommends the ‘Purple Haze’ – a homage to Jimi Hendrix, of course. She hands me an ice cold drink that includes Butterfly Pea Tea (a caffeine-free herbal tea), lemon juice, and CBD from Greenwich. The benefits of this $7 drink include: reduced anxiety, promotion of collagen growth, improved brain function, memory, blood flow and heart health to name just a few. The purple drink is definitely Instagram-worthy and tastes refreshing. It’s not until thirty minutes later that I realise I feel way more relaxed than I did after my black coffee with breakfast.

So, why has this calming drug become so popular amongst New Yorkers? Tim Zamboni, who works at The Alchemist’s Kitchen, a company that aims to connect people to the power of plants, says it comes down to the “great need for relief of pain and anxiety” in these modern times. He says, “There’s been weed in New York for a long time and so it was always a matter of time before people in positions of authority realised that cannabis was a useful plant, beyond whatever psychoactive effects it has.”

The CBD boom has come as the state of New York gears up to legalize marijuana. In June of last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would no longer be arresting citizens caught using weed but ticketing them instead. And only one month later, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo suggested that it’s not a question of if, but when the legalization of the drug would happen in New York. There are issues of inequality that still need to be addressed however: as the country changes its stance on marijuana, will they be releasing the citizens arrested for selling or having the drug? The majority of whom are from much lower socio-economic statuses than the people buying CBD matchas in Bowery?

There’s no denying that New Yorkers are willing to buy into an industry to calm their frazzled nerves. The CBD market is set to hit $22 billion by 2022 according to industry analysts the Brightfield Group and this could come down to generational awareness. “We’re looking at a generation of people who are much more familiar with cannabis than any of their parents or grandparents so that basic familiarity with cannabis lends itself to a greater acceptance at large.” Tim says.

Whether this trend sticks like avocado toast or is just a blip in the wellness zeitgeist remains to be seen but with the legalization of marijuana and it’s by-products impending, these CBD-products will be around much more in the fast-paced capital. A word of caution however: maybe have your hip CBD-infused latte on your way home to relax after work. Otherwise you may be yawning on the subway and feeling a little too Zen at your laptop – you’ve been warned.