Reefer Madness became Reefer Gladness in the Big Apple on Thursday, as thousands of stoners poured into parks and performance spaces to celebrate the unofficial 4/20 holiday, the first annual party since marijuana became legal in New York.
But the weed wonderland gathering under sunny skies in Washington Square Park, the former site of raucous “marijuana legalization” rallies, had all the excitement of a street fair that’s run out of socks. .
He expected the stoner hordes, elated with triumph, to turn the park into one hellish victory party.
But now that weed is for sale on virtually every block, the once-exciting event felt denatured, filled with hemp lovers who had lost their spark. (Unlicensed sales can cause legal problems for dealers, but buyers don’t have to worry.)
FIT students Noelle D’Antuono and Sophie Browne, happily smoking the joints they brought to the park, found the atmosphere almost too relaxed.
“Last year it was protest and disorderly,” Browne said.
“There were pizza boxes all over the floor,” she recalled of the 2022 event, sounding wistful.
But she noted that it was still early.
“We’re going to stay overnight,” he said, with an anticipatory smile.
The air was surprisingly fresh and smoke-free, unlike years past when a nuclear mushroom that could be smelled from a block away hung over the Washington Square arch and park fountain.
There was a less pungent scent than I often find walking under scaffolding on the sidewalk.
Afternoon merchandise vendors nearly outnumbered smokers, selling marijuana paraphernalia, books, cheap art, sneakers, “magical” oils, jewelry, and Mexican shaved ice.
Cartoonists and tarot card readers were on hand to provide their essential services, just like any other day in the park.
In the almost maddeningly healthy atmosphere, men outnumbered women three to one. Some visitors snorted, but many more ate junk food with their boyfriends, girlfriends, families, or dogs.
The closest thing to a confrontation I saw was when a hot dog buyer first mistook the posted 240 calorie count for $2.40.
The actual price was $4, which he coughed up without a fight.
“I’m not going to fight it,” he laughed, which expressed the mood of the day.
Still, enough NYPD officers to cover Times Square on New Year’s Eve sneaked from one concession stand to another, questioning vendors to make sure they weren’t actually selling marijuana without a license.
Photo-shy police seemed more affected by the presence of a working photographer than by drug law violations.
A police officer challenged The Post’s Brian Zak: “Can I help you? You are following me.
His time would be better spent sticking his head inside the park’s new public restrooms, where Zak observed a man shooting up heroin, right in plain sight.
In the (mostly) absence of actual marijuana for sale, there were oodles of devices to get you a kick without lighting up.
Ashlin Simpson, from California, inhaled hashish oil from an ENCO disposable vape cup, one of many difficult-to-identify inhalation instruments.
Was it your first 420? “Noooooo,” she said with a smile before enthusiastically returning to the task.
I dared to smell “platinum cookies”, a potent marijuana strain with a high level of THC in a stall called Top Shelf. They looked like fresh white truffles and were almost as spicy, but too unpleasant for my non-stoner’s nose to taste.
I finally dove into a $20 marijuana-infused, chocolate-based “cookie monster” from L&T Sweets.
Tara, one of the owners, predicted: “You will not eat everything today.”
I soon learned why: things kicked in when I was halfway through the cookie. It was also delicious, a far cry from the execrable “dope brownies” of my college days.
Washington Square Park has seen worse days for crime, riots and misery. Things were so sleepy on 4/20 that I almost missed the sound and fury of a past marijuana vacation.
But not the smoke.