New York Daily Weed Report
By – Alfred Calyx
With the new year celebrations fading in the rearview mirror, I’ve had some time to reflect on the monumental month that just was. While New York City hummed with frenetic pre-holiday energy, the New York State legislature spent much of December working feverishly behind the scenes to craft legislation to finally legalize the recreational use of cannabis.After suffering for many decades with draconian, misguided laws on the books – which locked up many thousands of people for non-violent, weed-related “crimes” – the arc of justice was finally bending toward the green spectrum.This new herb-friendly reality in New York is encapsulated perfectly by the juxtaposition of my most recent concert experience at Madison Square Garden, with those of my youth…Rewind the tape to the evening of December 31, 1982.
Billy Joel, at the height of his powers was closing out the year with his Nylon Curtain Tour. It was an incredible show, filled with hit songs and some adventurous production to boot, punctuated in my adolescent brain with Billy standing atop his baby grand, proclaiming “Happy New Year, New York! Don’t take any shit from anybody!” He cursed in front of 20,000 people. Mind. Blown.I was 10 years old at the time and attending the concert with my parents – in short, I wasn’t trying to sneak any weed past MSG security…that night.Fast forward a few years to September 1987 when the Grateful Dead rolled into town for their annual visit to the world’s most famous arena. The country was suffering through the last years of Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign, with the war on drugs in full swing. My friends and I didn’t think much of Nancy and we were most certainly trying to sneak weed into MSG that night. The security guards were equally motivated to catch us. In those days, passing through security for a Dead show – as well as subsequent concerts in 1988 and beyond – was a harrowing experience. The baggie filled with weed stuffed in one sock, the pipe shoved in the other or worse yet, down your pants. Vigorous pat downs and thorough searches of our pockets, bags and cigarette packs always greeted us at the doors of MSG. Therefore, several loops around The Garden were required, to identify any weaknesses in the defense. Word would spread which entrances to use and which should be avoided at all cost, “Dude, they just busted Tommy at 4 Penn!”Once inside, the game of cat and mouse continued, as those lucky enough to smuggle in the goods, attempted to enjoy their contraband without getting busted by the ushers.
I witnessed many a head being forcibly removed from the seats. With any luck those poor souls were simply thrown out of the arena – in some cases they were arrested for possession of a Schedule 1 controlled substance. That meant a possible jail sentence – for smoking weed.
Oh, how times have changed…Phish recently completed a four-night run at Madison Square Garden, culminating with a New Year’s Eve extravaganza for the ages. Unlike the concerts of my teen years, I confidently strode through security each night, without fear or hesitation – five pre-rolled joints in my shirt, a vaporizer pen and three different cartridges in my pants pocket and a few edibles for good measure.
The security guards I encountered couldn’t have cared less about people carrying weed. In fact, walking in nights three and four, I opted to place my vape pen in the dish, along side my cell phone, wallet and keys, as I passed through the metal detector. The security guard simply smiled, handed me my belongings and wished me a Happy New Year.When the lights went down, the joints lit up. The sheer volume and variety of super high-quality cannabis products passed around during the concerts was at times ludicrous. Flower and concentrate vaporizers of all shapes and sizes (with Bluetooth connectivity and iOS/Android compatibility of course), and so very many joints. At any given moment during the shows, it was unusual to have two, three or four joints handed to you simultaneously.Back in the 80’s I was grateful for the communal joint being passed my way.
During these most recent shows, the onslaught of joints at times was a complete nuisance and distracted from the concert. Nancy Reagan would have been proud of how many times I said “No.”Simply put – enjoying cannabis is no longer an issue, in or around Madison Square Garden.Deeper still, we all awoke on January 1st to Governor Cuomo’s remarks prepared for his inauguration later that day, “When they write the history books and ask what did we do – in the face of anger and division, when people were disillusioned, let New York’s answer be that in this defining moment we brought healing and light and hope and progress and action. That New York led on legalizing recreational marijuana, bringing justice and new economic opportunity not for rich corporations, but for the poor communities that paid too high a price for too long.”A new day is dawning in my fair city and my state. The mayor’s decriminalization of smoking weed was a big step in the right direction – the complete legalization of recreational cannabis in New York is the end game we’ve all been working towards.Who knows – maybe next New Year’s Eve, I’ll bring a bong to MSG.