New York City is the mecca of financial business, fashion and food – but the Empire State has a lot of catching up to do in terms of cannabis reform.
New York State doesn’t have recreational cannabis, but it does have a limited medical program that has a few patients, and even fewer registered doctors. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, less than 1 percent of the doctors in New York have taken the 4+ hour course that’s required in order for them to be registered and participate in the medical marijuana program. Having only 20 dispensaries for the entire state, New York is ranked second to last when it comes to the number of medical pot shops per capita of any medical state.
Just because it’s illegal, doesn’t mean the plant is off limits to all of New York’s entrepreneurs.
“I realized for people to actually get things done on policy or business level, people have to gather and be in the same room,” said Michael Zaytsev, author and founder of High NY, the largest cannabis meetup group in the City that Never Sleeps.
Zaytsev literally wrote the book on becoming a ganjapreneur. His book, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis, is a collection of 25 interviews with leaders in the cannabis industry, including the CEO of Harborside Health Center, Steve DeAngelo; the Executive Director of SSDP, Betty Aldworth; and the founder of Leafly, Cy Scott. “New Yorkers are frustrated but also excited to see progress on the national level,” Zaytsev explained, “People want to get involved in the industry here but have no idea how.”
High NY provides a forum and a community for people who are curious about cannabis. They come to monthly meetings to invest, ask questions, and start businesses.
July’s monthly gathering highlighted New York City native, Miguel Trinidad, the executive chef and founding partner of Maharlika and Jeepney. He and his business partner, Doug Cohen, have put on five-course infused dinners for up to 60 people in L.A. and smaller groups in New York City. The duo plan to launch an edibles brand in California called 99th Floor. Until then, they told High NYers how they are using their inspired, infused dinner parties to reframe the perception of cannabis.
The chef is using cooking as a unique way of destigmatizing the plant. “Learning about cannabis through food is less intimidating than ripping a bong,” said Trinidad.
— Chloe Sommers (@ChloeCannaNews) July 28, 2016
No consumption was allowed, and there were no infused edibles at the event because New York has not legalized adult use. Zaytsev doesn’t mind, the fact that these cannabis meetings are happening, in public, with a consistent group of at least 100 proves that change will come.
Zaytsev takes it as a signal of progress, “it means we are becoming a community of people who are active and engaged.”
Every month, High NY organizes events on different topics with different guest speakers. This month’s meeting was more about how the award-winning chef and entrepreneur decided to go from being a successful chef in the city to launching an edibles brand. August’s speaker is Danny Danko, Chief Cultivation Editor at High Times. Tickets are available to learn how to grow at home from the expert.
“It’s a conversation starter and an example for the cannabis community – here’s a New Yorker who got in the industry while still living in the City…The point is that you don’t have to wait for better laws,” Zaytsev said.