NEW YORK (AP) — Moise Joseph spent Wednesday night standing in front of a smoke-filled room, blunt in hand, teaching a dozen people how to paint a sunset.
“You can clear it up if you want. You don’t have to have that fisheye viewfinder,” said Joseph as he demonstrated how to paint a thin, curved line for the horizon. “There should be a screen at everyone’s table that can be seen.”
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Pedro Santos, who is 39 years old and lives in the South Bronx, was in class wearing a T-shirt that said “TROPHY HUSBAND.” He slowly looked around the table at him and whispered, “What screen?”
When his tablemates pointed to the 8-by-11-inch canvas that had been just inches away from him for nearly half the class, everyone started roaring with laughter.
“No one was going to tell me?” she said with a laugh. “Because I was like, what are we doing?”
Joseph, 30, who lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York City, was teaching at Puff, Pass and Paint, a bring-your-own-cannabis painting class with locations in multiple cities that draws hundreds of people each year. month alone in Brooklyn. Attendees of his special Wednesday night class were there on 4/20, an annual holiday that celebrates marijuana.
New York state legalized the recreational use of marijuana last March, and the state’s first recreational dispensaries are scheduled to open by the end of the year. New York City Mayor Eric Adams this week proposed investing $4.8 million in the cannabis industry, which is expected to generate nearly $1.3 billion in sales in its first year.
Many local cannabis lounges and parties remain underground, operating by word of mouth until the state begins licensing venues for on-site consumption. But the legal status of these spaces is not too far off.
Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York Office of Cannabis Management, said his office expected to open applications for on-site consumption licenses early next year.
The office aims to develop regulations that cover many different types of sites, from restaurants serving cannabis-infused food to smoking lounges and coffee shops.
“We’re definitely looking at how people have typically consumed and where people have typically consumed,” he said.
But it’s hard to regulate a scene that has been operating underground for decades, and New Yorkers have always been able to find their own dealers, places to smoke and creative ways to use marijuana in public.
Steve, founder of a members-only cannabis lounge that opened earlier this year, said he’s occasionally been tasked with setting up cannabis bars at parties, where he recommends various strains of weed and gadgets that can be used. (Steve asked not to use his full name or the name of his salon, for fear of legal repercussions.)
“The first thing I do is assess their experience with cannabis, because then from there I can tailor how much they are going to consume and also which device they are going to use,” he said. “Something that matters a lot to me is introducing the plant properly.”
Steve, who has been working in the underground cannabis industry since 2014, said he hoped the industry would become less stigmatized and more accessible.
“Imagine if wine existed and we just didn’t know what we know at the sommelier level,” he said. “Customers will eventually be able to really understand what they want. Like, ‘I want an edible, and I want it to keep me awake,’ or ‘I like to smoke because it hits me faster.’”
A basic level of comfort and confidence with weed is what helped 36-year-old Heidi Keyes find Puff, Pass and Paint in 2014 in Denver after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. The school now has locations in five cities across the country, including the studio in Brooklyn.
And while many saloons and other cannabis-friendly consumption spaces are waiting to get licenses before opening their doors publicly, Keyes said Puff, Pass and Paint has been operating comfortably in New York City for the last three years, when it started. to invite medical patients. to bring your own cannabis.
“We do everything BYOC, so we don’t provide cannabis and we don’t act as a dispensary in any way,” he said. “Every different place we go, our attorneys check it just to make sure, because there are different regulations by state, county, city, sometimes neighborhood, sometimes street.”
The week of April 20, Keyes said, is one of the busiest times in painting class.
“It’s about the community,” he said. “It used to be that a lot of people had to use in private and sometimes they couldn’t even tell their friends and family because they were worried they would get in trouble with work or people would judge them.”
Fernando Terrero, 29, had come to Brooklyn from Jersey City, New Jersey, to go on a date with his boyfriend, Santos. A single red rose was on the table next to his paintings.
“Since I met him, I smoke a lot more now,” Terrero said. “And I rarely drink. I’d rather be high, not wake up hungover, and just live my life.
“I’ve never been a club type person, like, take me to a museum, take me to the movies, I love to travel, but going to clubs was never something that resonated,” Santos added. “I love experiences.”
Mike Shashaty, 34, who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and attended the Puff, Pass and Paint class with his husband, said it was nice to find spaces that felt different from the rest of the city’s nightlife. .
“New York City is very reliant on booze,” Shashaty said. “I like to drink from time to time, but not every time I go out.”
As the room filled with smoke over the course of two hours, everyone continued to paint sunsets and various abstractions, slowly but surely.
“I’m high,” Santos said, “so every detail matters.”
This article originally appeared on The New York Times.
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