Open Ganja on the Streets of New York (as Compared to Ghana)

A homey recently sent me pics of marijuana being openly sold
and used on the street in the Bronx, and I was in a state of shock.

My homey Seriez Premiere recently took a trip up to New York City and sent a me couple of pics which verified what I've reading about a lot in the New York Post of late, that marijuana has indeed been legalized in the Big Apple, and New Yorkers are out and about, smoking freely.


As someone who grew up in NYC but hasn't been there for a long time since, it's difficult to fathom this.  When I was a child, virtually everyone I knew who smoked weed were known outlaws.  I only had one homey, this dude named Dale, who I knew of that blazed but wasn't a bad boy.  He's the one who put me on to Stevie Wonder, who went on to become my favorite musician.

One day I was at his crib, and, being the unusual youngster that he was, Dale was listening to Songs in the Key of Life while smoking away, which was the first time I had ever been around someone blazin' herb and also the first time I ever heard a Stevie album.  I fell in love with the music and didn't realize until some decades later that I must've caught contact in the process.

Snoop Dogg has been able to maintain A-list celebrity status for decades
largely due to his globally-recognized weed advocacy.

It was really early-1990s' rappers like Snoop Dogg and the Wu-Tang Clan who made marijuana smoking chic, i.e. something that appealed to a wider audience than just dudes in the 'hood who weren't afraid to get arrested.  So the first time I ever smoked, honestly, was the result of peer pressure.  I managed to hold out longer than any of my other friends, but eventually partaking of the herb - or at least trying it - had become a social norm amongst teens in NYC.

Back then, the NYPD more or less treated weed like it was cocaine, kinda like the cops in Ghana do to this day.  Oftentimes, you'd have to go to these shops, which were known as "gates" or "store fronts", which were owned by Jamaicans in order to score something to smoke.  The sellers were always under the impression that they were being surveilled, so custies also had to buy something like a piece of candy or a drink so that, when walking out of the store, it looked like they came to make a legal purchase.

I also remember this spot in Bushwick that was famous for not only its quality but also quantity price-wise.  You'd knock on the door, slip the money under it, and the person on the other side would slip the product back. They would never open the door, so you'd likewise never see who you were dealing with.  And that was a really dangerous situation, now that I think back to it.

Marijuana shops are actually a thing in NYC, though as it
currently stands, only a few of them are licensed.

Compare that to now, where there's actually a proliferation of "smoke shops" openly operating in NYC.  The overwhelming majority, i.e. 8,000 of them(!), are unlicensed.  But still, I don't think anyone residing in New York some two or three decades ago could have foresaw this happening.

There was a time when dealers and even smokers were getting locked up just for possessing herb.  I knew one dude who spent the night in Central Booking just because he got caught with a spliff, and I heard of a number of people who got slapped with major bids for selling.  But even now, if a New Yorker gets caught with a substantial amount (based on legal standards), they could be looking at a significant amount of prison time.


It remains to be seen when or if marijuana will ever be decriminalized in Ghana.  I have a homey who always stays on top of these legal developments.  A few years back, the house he was staying in was raided by a fully-armed, tactical-geared police task force, even though, to my knowledge, the crime they came to investigate wasn't a violent one, and it only involved one of the tenants of the multi-apartment residence, not my friend nor most of the other people living therein.

He had something like fertilizer and these sticks, which I believe are imported from the West Indies, used to grow marijuana in his possession.  After giving him the full terrorist treatment, i.e. breaking into his room and arresting the homey facedown with a knee to his neck, the police proceeded to place him in this stygian local jail for about a week and was on the verge of sending him to the big house, if not for someone coming to pay his bail.

I'm not telling that story to give the impression that Ghana is a police state, because it isn't.  I've lived in a number of communities here in GH where you'd never see a police officer, but still, nobody was going around doing dumb sh*t like they are stateside.  But the weed laws out here are borderline draconian, especially if you find yourself in a vulnerable position.


So the homey has a vested interest in what's going on with marijuana laws and tends to keep me abreast.  About a month ago, he was excitedly telling me that, after years of debate, medical marijuana had been recently legalized.  This feels like a victory for certain segments of the population, such as Rastas, farmers and smokers in general, because in the very least, the stigma and ignorance surrounding the plant is gradually being lifted.  But the excitement cooled down as more details emerged.

For instance, the homey later discovered that the medical marijuana could only consist of 0.3% THC.  Meanwhile, in order to actually get high off of weed (especially for experienced users), the THC content should be at least 15% or higher.  So what has been legalized in Ghana is not herb per se but rather hemp, i.e. the plant that the buds are derived from, which has a number of industrial uses.

The effort to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp has been going on for a while,
seemingly being spearheaded by the Hempire Association of Ghana.

Furthermore, a license is required to legally grow it.  I asked the homey, and he told that it costs somewhere in the region of GH₵12,000-10,000, which is pretty-steep for most locals though not bigger farms.  Also according to him, there are some entities who've already had the license for a couple of years.  But from what I can gather on the internet, this time around the government has yet to officially set a price.


There are a few African countries that have recently legalized marijuana in this way but only one in which recreational use is allowed, in private, which is South Africa.  Perhaps that's to be expected to be expected since SA is more or less run by White people, and in a manner of interpretation, White countries appear to be more tolerant towards ganja as compared to their non-White counterparts.  For example, in Singapore you can still get your ass caned, on top of spending a decade in prison, just for possessing herb.  I had another homey who went to China and told me that the ganja there is "the bomb", but still, using it recreationally is illegal.  Cannabis remains by and large illegal across the globe, but most of the countries where it has been legalized or decriminalized are found in North America, Europe, the Caribbean / Latin America and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, here in Ghana the homey was telling me that those legislative developments have not stopped police from raiding "ghettos", i.e. relatively-remote areas where weed smokers congregate to do their thing.  Marijuana in GH is often referred to as "wee", and it has a generally-negative stigma attached to it.

For example, the most-popular movie-producing nation in the region is Nigeria.  And when watching "Nigerian films", the only people you ever see smoking marijuana are thugs, i.e. armed robbers.  I grew up in an environment where criminal violence is a normal part of the culture, and I can't personally think of even once seeing or hearing of someone smoking marijuana in the name of going out to commit a violent crime.

If a dude has it in his mind to assault someone, he would rather turn to a drug like alcohol, not cannabis, because weed is akin to a sedative.  And I believe that's one of the main reasons the US government has been legalizing its recreational use of late, because people out there just be wildin' TF out.  So if marijuana has the potential to calm them down, then let them use it.  Also, it's not just considered a youth thing anymore.


All of that said, I wish I could see NYC in its current state.  There's so much ganja being blazed that the smell even affected the US Open, and according to one editorial, 'workers are turning into zombies', lol.  New York is a high-stress environment, so it's understandable why people would be compelled to smoke more.  Also, there's plenty of sights to see and attractions to enjoy in the Big Apple which, in theory, can be made more enjoyable via a good high.  And now the cops can't harass you for getting your smoke on, even in public.

A couple of homegirls freely smoking on the streets of New York,
 with absolutely no fear of law enforcement.

My personal opinion on the whole subject of blazin' is that it's better not to start at all then to form a dependency on marijuana.  But beating dudes up, throwing them in jail and charging them all types of money just for partaking of the herb is now becoming an anachronistic practice.  The world is plenty messed up, and it's made worst when you persecute people for enjoying the high derived via a non-lethal plant that naturally comes out the ground, not some artificial, chemical product that's made in a lab and can potentially kill them.

Last modified on 16 October 2023