As I prepared for my summer internship with 3 Generations in New York City, I was expecting to learn of new fads as I think of NYC as being at the forefront of many cutting-edge trends.
Something I was not expecting to see were fleets of trucks plastered in photographs of marijuana and edibles. If you have been to NYC or a handful of select other cities recently, you probably know what I’m talking about. There seems to be a Weed World Candies truck parked outside of every tourist attraction: the Flatiron Building, Times Square, the High Line. They’re hard to miss. They’re bright green, feature photos of cannabis plants and edibles, and are emblazoned with phrases like “Do not attempt to smoke this vehicle” and “Decriminalize and Legalize”. Below is my favorite truck design to-date. But then again, I’m partial to anything with dogs (apparently, even if one has bloodshot eyes and a joint hanging out of its mouth).
With 3 Generations’ recent project regarding marijuana legalization (Pot Luck: The Altered State of Colorado) I visited a truck in the Flatiron District to learn more about Weed World Candies. As I was aware that the bill for recreational marijuana use had failed in NY earlier this year, I went up to the window assuming that these eye-catching trucks could not be selling weed this publicly and conspicuously. Surely they would have been shut down by now. I was interested to see what exactly they were selling. I thought perhaps they sold medical marijuana or marijuana-flavored food (though, I don’t think most people consume edibles for the taste).
When I asked for a menu to browse, the salesperson said there wasn’t one. He began rattling off the prices of lollipops, gummies, brownies and rice krispie treats. With each one, he also listed a quantity of milligrams. I stopped him when he claimed one of the items had 125mg in it. Here’s how I remember the conversation unfolding; I’ve added a little commentary for the sake of clarity.
Me: 125 milligrams of what?
(Fact Check: 125 mg is very strong for an edible, which is why the number piqued my interest. The recommendation is for beginners to start with a 1-2.5 mg dose. Reports say that 80 mg is too strong for even highly experienced users.)
(Fact Check: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive part of marijuana. It’s what gets people high.)
Me: Not CBD?
(Fact Check: CBD (cannabidiol) has the same molecular structure as THC, but it is non-psychoactive. It doesn’t get people high.)
Salesperson: Nah, this is THC. These’ll get you high.
(Fact Check: THC is only legal in New York for medicinal reasons. A patient must be registered with the New York State Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program to qualify for medical marijuana. Even then, they can only buy marijuana from a select number of dispensaries. Only ten organizations were registered with the Department of Health. Weed World Candies, of course, is not one of those dispensaries.)
I could feel my eyebrows inching up my forehead. I was almost too shocked to respond to his claim that he was selling THC out of a truck that had giant pictures of marijuana on the side. Finally, I managed to ask him how it was possible that he was selling what he claimed.
Salesperson: When they decriminalized weed, they made it legal for THC as long as it wasn’t in inhalable forms. *holds up his fingers to his mouth and mimes smoking a joint* Edibles, sprays, anything you can digest is legal.
(Fact Check: First and foremost, the decriminalization bill was only signed into law on July 29. This conversation took place on July 24. However, his logic is not completely unfounded. Medicinal marijuana can only be sold in certain forms in New York state. According to the Department of Health, “Under the law, smoking is not permitted and the regulations prohibit edibles.” This leaves the approved medical dispensaries to sell capsules, oil for vaping, patches, topical creams, and other approved forms. Edibles are not legal even from a medicinal standpoint.)
Perhaps he was relying on the fact that “decriminalization” had frequently been thrown around––both in the news and online––recently. Maybe he was hoping I had heard that non-smoking forms were permitted. If he truly was selling edibles that contained THC out of that truck, he would at least be responsible for a misdemeanor. If the sale was for more than 4 ounces, it would be a felony.
Me: Hmmm. Do you take credit or cash?
Salesperson: Both. We take card, cash *points down to a register full of bills*, whatever.
(Fact Check: Most credit card companies distance themselves from the cannabis industry as marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug and is consequently illegal from a federal standpoint. Visa and Mastercard have both refused to be involved in transactions involving THC. The SAFE Banking Act of 2019 bill attempts to provide alternatives to cash in the marijuana industry, but the bill has only just been introduced; without being voted on by the House or Senate yet, it is not close to being enacted. To summise, businesses that sell weed don’t accept credit cards.)
I thanked the salesperson, said I might come back later, and walked away from the truck.
Between the high dosage claim, the muddling of legalization, and the acceptance of credit cards, it seemed to me that Weed World Candies was not in fact selling weed. I found that the NYPD reported to The Post that a police-conducted field test revealed that the products contained no marijuana.
Questions began whirling around in my head: What do these candies actually contain? How many people purchase these products? Are these food items regulated at all?
To find out if other people had similar experiences with Weed World Candies, I turned to the internet where I was greeted with some of the lowest review scores I have ever seen: 1 star on Yelp and 1.5 stars on Google Reviews. The reviewers complained about being misled: “100% LIES,” “total scam,” “con artists.” They complained about the false advertising: “Contains no THC,” “no taste of weed in it,” “I felt absolutely nothing.”
Weed World Candies lists their goal as “promoting the legalization and decriminalization of the cannabis plant and all its components.” Put that way, it seems like Weed World Candies is well within their right to advocate. But I can’t help but think of the people that had similar experiences to mine.
Over 63 million tourists visit New York City per year. I happened to pick up on the salesperson’s lies because I try to stay updated on marijuana laws across the country and have become even more engaged in the conversations around legalization since working at 3 Generations. But how many visitors see the trucks and figure that NY must be the most recent state to legalize recreational use? Do they,like the Yelp reviewers, spend upwards of $50 on products that are deceptively sold?
Out of public health interest, advertising for tobacco has been highly regulated to prevent advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds. Promotions with teen audiences have been limited to black text on a white background. How many minors have been intrigued by the trucks’ bright paint job, the dog posted on the side, and the featured photos of ice cream, lollipops, and other treats?
Despite the company’s stated goal of raising awareness about legalization and decriminalization, they profit from lies and are careless about advertising. Even if the products are technically legal due to their lack of THC content, the company’s deceptive sales practices and irresponsible promotion make Weed World Candies a menace to New York City and all other cities they decide to occupy.