Washington Square News

Washington Square News

Washington Square News

Opinion: Stop buying weed from Washington Square Park

40% of cannabis sold at unlicensed dispensaries around New York City is contaminated. Cannabis sold at Washington Square Park is no exception.

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Kevin Wu

(Kevin Wu for WSN)

Abi Rivera, Deputy Opinion Editor

You have to be high to think you’re getting a $10 pre-roll from Washington Square Park that doesn’t have E. coli in it. 

According to the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, salmonella, lead and E. coli were shown to be present in almost 40% of cannabis products purchased from unlicensed dispensaries in New York City. In addition to that, all of the tested items failed to comply with the state’s established branding laws.

For unlicensed dealers, Washington Square Park has long been a hotspot for the robust illicit marijuana business. The chant “pre-rolls, eighths, edibles” is the heartbeat of the park.

When I lived in Rubin Hall, walking past the Washington Square Park cannabis dealers setting up shop before my 8 a.m. class was a spectacle. They transferred small, colorful baggies from backpacks and briefcases, meticulously laying them out on folding tables that had been chained overnight to nearby bike racks. These dealers put out signs and colorful display cases, while playing music to set the vibe. Most also tout mason jars jam-packed with pre-rolls — cannabis joints that have been rolled for the consumer. These unlicensed dealers also do not check for identification.

Unlicensed dealers employ a diverse set of tactics in order to build consumer trust, including copycat packaging for cannabis products like eighths — dried cannabis flower sold in one-eighth of an ounce packages — and edibles that mimic legal cannabis companies. You might see a Punch Bar, ​​a really small and potent edible, on one of these tables. It was probably bought on Amazon.

You also might see illicit cannabis products in neon holographic packaging customized with images of satirical pop culture memes or profanity. Despite their packaging, illicit cannabis products with funny strain names or bizarre flavors, like Gelato or Zkittlez, can stand all on their own in attracting naive consumers. 

Consider the Obama Runtz strain, named after the former U.S. president, a hybrid with an indica dominance that is a cross between the cannabis strains Runtz, Afghani and OG Kush. For an unlicensed dealer, the Obama Runtz name is enough to attract consumers because of its recognition. However, their pre-rolls may actually contain E. coli and shake — pieces of marijuana flower that have collected at the bottom of a container — instead of the claimed Obama Runtz strain. There can really be anything packed into those delicate paper cones.

Just as New York awarded its first 36 cannabis licenses last month, New York continues to crack down on unlicensed dealers, but it’s clear that these rules are not fully enforced. 

As a result, some unlicensed dealers at the park utilize a generous gifting policy. You can purchase their art for $10 — a coloring page of a Rastafarian banana smoking a joint — and then get a pre-roll — and yes, they do take Venmo, Cash App, Zelle and even PayPal. This gifting policy is a loophole used to go around New York City Department of Parks & Recreation rules for vendors as it allows them to technically sell art so that the weed is just a gift with purchase. 

Maybe some of these dealers are just trying to get their licenses like everyone else. But when it comes to what you’re putting in your body and in your lungs, it is vital to make smart decisions. 

Making smart weed choices can be as easy as asking the right questions about pricing, consistency, potency, process and especially origin. 

Unlicensed marijuana drug dealers are not obligated to tell you the truth. Anyone selling marijuana — or other illicit materials — at Washington Square Park is simply taking advantage of the fact that Washington Square Park is “the geographic and social center of NYU’s Manhattan campus,” as stated in a WSN article on how illegal dispensaries target NYU buyers

Despite NYU’s proximity to the marijuana scene at Washington Square Park, NYU administration considers it in all forms a controlled substance and prohibits it in NYU residence halls. If you’re going to get busted for smoking, you might as well avoid inhaling lead while you’re at it — it’s important to make conscious choices when it comes to what you’re putting in your body. 

As New York approaches a more regulated and safe adult-use cannabis market, the best way to stunt as a stoner is by not purchasing marijuana from Washington Square Park. I promise you that eighth is not real Pineapple Express — you might just be smoking a salmonella pack.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Abi Rivera at [email protected]

About the Writer
Photo of Abi Rivera
Abi Rivera, Deputy Opinion Editor

Abi Rivera is a sophomore studying environmental studies. She loves being a New Yorker and her dog Sparky. If you see her on campus, she's probably on...

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