Weed legalization is spreading through the country, and New York might be next. With their new Fifth Avenue location, cannabis company MedMen hopes to instigate change and mainstream marijuana.
How many of us unwind with a glass of Chardonnay after a long day, or step out for a quick cigarette amidst a stressful workday? These vices are so well-accepted throughout society, yet those who turn to marijuana for relief are viewed as “stoners” or “potheads,” directionless juveniles who need to get their acts together.
But in reality, cannabis provides more benefits than most take notice of, and is less damaging than it’s alcoholic and tobacco-filled contemporaries. The medical community has begun to accept cannabis as a viable treatment for a range of physical ailments, from chronic pain to glaucoma. It’s been noticed by the beauty industry as a natural alternative to ingredients that can harm animals. And, when used recreationally, in many ways weed is less harmful than alcohol, which can literally kill a person if ingested in a large enough quantity. While recreational marijuana does impair judgement and coordination, it isn’t as immediately lethal as alcohol. Not to mention that recreational marijuana doesn’t carry nearly as many carcinogens as cigarettes.
There is clearly a stigma surrounding weed. Despite society’s acceptance of more dangerous substances, marijuana has been through a long battle to enter the mainstream. And MedMen is here to help, through challenging society’s view of what a “stoner” is and working with institutions to help create the next generation of marijuana businesses and consumers.
The company launched its first New York location today, after having much success in its West Coast flagship. Set up similarly to the Apple Store, customers over the age of 18 can go into the Fifth Avenue location, browse products on iPads while learning about the products through the MedMen (their equivalent to Apple’s Geniuses), then go to the counter to show their prescription to the licensed pharmacist and purchase the appropriate cannabis product to fit their medical needs.
The sale of marijuana is highly regulated in the State of New York, and MedMen follow the rules strictly, selling only the marijuana-derived products they manufacture themselves. Eventually, the store hopes to expand to carry cannabinoid beauty products derived from hemp. Medical marijuana has been legal in New York since 2014, and in the past four years, over 50 thousand patients have benefited.
In the California locations, MedMen obviously have more freedom to sell a wider range of products. Those stores carry the same medical gels, vape pens, and drops as the Fifth Avenue location, but also sells marijuana flowers and edibles.
MedMen hopes to show the East Coast what legalization can look like. The store is decorated with images of the California flagship, and photos from the company’s Forget Stoner campaign, which aims to show the wide range of people who can benefit from marijuana.
Is New York ready for legalization? MedMen’s midtown location is significant–it’s not a more hipster locale like Dumbo or Soho, it’s a neighborhood filled with suited men and women working in skyscraper offices, tourists looking for a glimpse into a famed shopping street. And these people are ready for MedMen, eagerly waiting outside the store, peering into the windows as the team prepared for the launch.
“The world’s changing, that is for sure,” says BJ Carretta, Chief Marketing Officer of MedMen. “I think [legalization] is going to happen, we all think it’s going to happen in the next couple years.”
Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo called on New York lawmakers to approve a plan to study the feasibility of legalizing recreational marijuana use. And, as BJ points out, it truly is in the state’s best interest. California taxes 27% on marijuana purchases.
“I also think after the state of California gets through one year and all that tax money comes in, that’s going to do a lot for schools and roads and bridges and things like that,” BJ says.
Nine states and Washington D.C. allow recreational marijuana use, while every other state except for Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas allow some level of medical cannabis use.
Less than 100 years ago, alcohol was illegal throughout the country, and we look back to Prohibition as a ridiculous era. Perhaps future generations will see the early 21st century as a time of ignorant, fearful people who didn’t understand marijuana. New York is ready. America is ready. MedMen just needs to help paint a picture of what a legalized world will look like, and lawmakers will soon get on board.
MedMen Manhattan is located at 433 5th Avenue, between 38th and 39th streets and celebrated its launch on 4/20. Go check it out.