As N.Y. Eyes Legal Weed, Bodega Owners Demand Their Vig

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has made it no secret that after many years of inaction he finally intends to add his state to the list of ten that have already legalized the recreational adult use of cannabis.

It’s a safe play in a state that recently showed 65% of the state in favor of legislation to not only allow for the possession of the plant, but the legal retail sale of it in their own neighborhoods. This 2/3rds supermajority reflects nationwide polling results on the same subject.

Despite this apparent momentum towards real reform in the Big Apple, realists in the state government have cast doubts that they can craft the framework for what will be a robust and complex industry before an April 1st deadline for new spending plans for the year.

Regardless, it’s not a matter anymore of if, but rather of when, and when legalization touches down in NY, there are 15,000+ store owners ready to man the front lines of the five boroughs and beyond.

United Bodegas of America spokesman Fernando Mateo represents the thralls of owners of thousands of uniquely New Yorker establishments called bodegas – small streetside shops, part convenience store part neighborhood hangout. As a press conference over the weekend in front of such a store, Mateo lobbied to allow he and his counterparts to openly and legally move cannabis once the state amends its laws.

“Rather than drug peddling outside of these bodegas,” says Mateo, “we want to bring them inside.”

In a written statement, another Bronx bodega owner named Radames Rodriguez pled, “We have battled with people selling Marijuana for decades in front of our stores. We have seen thousands being arrested for selling Marijuana in front of our businesses. Bodega owners need increased revenue to survive, we have paid our dues.”

Rodriguez says that for years he has watched weed dealers make more money than him on his own corner and now he and an army of shop owners like him want their piece of the pot pie.

Mateo agreed, telling a local ABC News affiliate, “All this money should not go to white-owned businesses. It should not go to corporate America. It should be shared with the underdogs.”

To clarify, the United Bodegas of America and its constituents are not even looking to sell cannabis and related products directly to the public. Instead they are lobbying to control the wholesale distribution aspect of the industry, touting their sprawling presence in the state and their experience dealing with other taboo products like booze and cigarettes.

That request really gets to the heart of the matter which is that lots and lots of New York herb, legal or otherwise, will be passing through these locations whether they are cut in on the action or not.

To leave them out opens up a major playground for whatever black market survives initial forms of regulation, and it just presents opportunity for unfortunate clashes between civilians and police as we saw when Eric Garner who was killed by a chokehold from an NYPD officer who was upset that Garner was selling loose cigarettes.

Because of deeply cultural threads like bodegas that weave the incredibly inimitable tapestry that is New York, legalization there will need to be as unique as the state itself.

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