The New Smell of New York

Julio Vincent Gambuto
3 min readApr 22, 2022

New York has been through a lot these last few years. It needs a joint. But do we really all need to smell it?

Hello from New York City. It has been a year since the now-disgraced Governor Cuomo signed into law new regulations that made recreational use of weed legal in New York State. This week, our sister state, New Jersey, just west over that bridge and through those tunnels, started legal pot sales. Our new governor, Kathy Hochul, says similar plans are on track; we should see sales in New York kick off this year. Rounding out our tri-state threesome is Connecticut, to the north, where it is now legal to consume, as well. Dispensaries are coming soon to preppy towns that permit pot sales.

Here in the city, two things are clear: one, everyone is confused about the rules; and two, the entire city stinks of weed. The confusion, I am sure, will subside. You really just have to google it or ask your pot-smoking friends. They’re both happy and eager to tell you what’s what. For me, I first had to learn the difference between THC and CBD. (I know, I’m a novice.) Then I had to understand that the Weed World “weed trucks” and the like that line the streets around Herald Square and Times Square don’t actually sell pot yet. They say they do, but their products likely don’t have THC. They’re tourist traps for right now. My education continues.

Legal cannabis sales or not, smokers are getting high, and the smoke is everywhere. The city has been to hell and back these last few years, and we are coming “out” of the pandemic — whatever that means with a new variant spreading — looking different (fewer people packing the streets), sounding different (the volume has dropped from madness to hectic), and now smelling different. Sniff, sniff. Yep, that’s pot. There are now few blocks you can walk in Manhattan that don’t stink like an NYU dorm room.

I am all for legal weed. It has never made any sense to me why smoking a plant should be illegal, especially when there are three bars on every corner. We are all humans and supposedly responsible adults. It’s not really an activity I seek or a high I crave personally, but “to each his own,” as my mother would say. I prefer a Hendrick’s and tonic with a lime. Others like Black Diesel hash. Whatever works. Half of my 40-something mom friends now prefer a steady stream of Sativa gummies. Seems the only way to raise three kids in 2022 without burning down the whole fucking house. The Merlot is just for show.

But we would be wise to be thinking about how to control the stink. Tax money from the sale of weed might help the city and state’s bottom line, but a New York that reeks of marijuana is problematic. It only serves to re-enforce the dominant story of late that “the city” is to be avoided. Pandemic images of boarded-up stores and empty streets started the dystopian narrative, and rising crime and the recent subway shooting continued it. But if commuters, tourists, and suburbanites go home complaining about the rampant pot-stink, we have one more barrier on our hands to rebuilding. Smoke away, but smoke…away.

Julio Vincent Gambuto

Author of “Please Unsubscribe, Thanks!” // Now available in US and UK //