What to know before you puff puff pass this 4/20

The Bronx Times set out to talk to experts on all things cannabis consumers, strains and forms of consumption this 4/20.
The Bronx Times set out to talk to experts on all things cannabis consumers, strains and forms of consumption this 4/20.
Photo Dean Moses

Happy holidays to all who celebrate April 20 — a day in which the city comes together to smoke a little weed and chill out. And this year’s 4/20 observance is particularly joyous, as it’s the first year that New Yorkers will be able to buy from fully legal state-sanctioned marijuana dispensaries. 

Although New York legalized recreational weed in 2021, the state Cannabis Control Board only just approved its first round of dispensary licenses — reserved for those with prior marijuana-related offenses or those who have been impacted by the war on drugs — in November of last year. Since then, the state has doubled the amount of available retail licenses in an effort to widen the legal cannabis market. 

As of Wednesday, there were eight dispensary storefronts fully opened in New York — five in NYC and three upstate. The city’s legal shops include Housing Works Cannabis at 750 Broadway, Smacked Village at 144 Bleecker St., Union Square Travel Agency at 62 E. 13th St., Good Grades at 162-03 Jamaica Ave. and Dazed at 33 Union Square West.  

And while some boroughs, including the Bronx, don’t yet have physical recreational cannabis dispensaries, the Bronx Times set out to ask experts about what people in NYC should know before they light up this 4/20. 


Before getting into the weeds of weed, it’s important to understand the evolution of the marijuana user, said John Kagia, the director of policy for the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). 

“There has been this kind of long-standing caricature of the cannabis consumer being somebody who is sitting stoned on a couch, eating cheetos and watching ‘The Simpsons,’” he said. 

But according to research the state has conducted, Kagia said some of the primary reasons people choose to smoke or take an edible are for relaxation, stress relief and anxiety reduction, sleep quality and pain management. 

“Five of the top six reasons are health and wellness related,” he said, “which I think is a really important lens.”

One of the groups Kagia and the OCM team are targeting for their new educational campaign is a sect they’ve coined “canna-curious” folks — people who are not currently consumers but might be interested in exploring their options in the new legal market. 

He said the message to canna-curious groups, or those who use cannabis but not very often, is simple: “Start low and go slow.” 

“Just as in alcohol, you wouldn’t walk into a liquor store, buy a handle of vodka and go to your room and drink it all in one sitting,” Kagia said. “Talk to the staff at the licensed dispensary where you’re buying your product, consume a small dose and wait to see how you feel.” 

Ken Woodin smokes a bowl at the opening of the city's first legal recreational dispensary in the East Village on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.
Ken Woodin smokes a bowl at the opening of the city’s first legal recreational dispensary on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Photo Dean Moses

Cannabis strains and forms of consumption 

Kagia said there’s a lot of nuance to today’s market and the different cannabis strains that are available for users. He said the effects will vary depending on what someone is consuming — and can be used to improve everything from sleep habits to sexual function. 

“The commonly used monikers of ‘sativa’ and ‘indica’ are meant to reflect a general type of experience that you might have based on what you consume, but they certainly don’t fully cover the complexity of the experiences that you might have,” Kagia said.  

Tanka Asongna-Morfaw, who runs Common Courtesy Dispensary in the Bronx with business partner George Tabi Jr., is one of the first legal license holders announced by the state in the past five months.

Generally, he said, users can expect different sensations from indica and sativa — as well as a hybrid strain, which is a combination of the two. 

Asongna-Morfaw said indica is a short and stockier plant, which makes it easy to cultivate. He said that pure strain, and indica-leaning or indica-dominant hybrids, are the most common that he’s seen because of its accessibility.  

“Generally speaking, indica is more sedated, something that is more about nighttime use, more of a body high,” Asongna-Morfaw said.

Sativa strains, he said, are “more uplifting, more cerebral.” 

“I will say sativas are more suited for daytime use,” Asongna-Morfaw said. “It can also increase and improve creativity, clarity — you can still be functional with sativas.”

Daniel Salcedo, a longtime cannabis legacy operator in the Bronx, said there are multiple factors that determine his customers’ favorite strains. 

“Often it has nothing to do with the bud itself — it could be packaging, it could be word-of-mouth,” he said. “There’s no shame in asking what individual strains do and how they feel. It’s better to know what fits your mood, because a bad high can f–k you up and unfortunately give you a bad taste on smoking weed.”

And apart from the different strains and their effects, the experts who spoke with the Bronx Times also noted the importance in the various ways to actually consume marijuana products.

Michael James is the co-owner of Good Grades, a state-sanctioned dispensary in Jamaica, Queens.

Flower, or bud, is a dried version of the plant that’s smoked and inhaled, James said. That can either be as a pre-rolled joint or blunt — sort of like a marijuana cigarette, a term Sublime used in their early 90s hit “Smoke Two Joints,” a cover of The Toyes’ 1983 version  — in the bowl of a pipe or a bong.

Consumers can also “smoke” a concentrated liquid form of cannabis in an electronic vape, and eat or drink cannabis-infused goodies in the form of edibles and concentrates. 

A staff member at Smacked LLC in Greenwich Village sets up for opening day on Jan. 24, 2023.
A staff member at Smacked LLC in Greenwich Village sets up for opening day on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo Dean Moses

Juan Cruz, who works at a smoke shop in the Fordham section of the Bronx, said that because edibles and concentrates have effects that are less regular and immediate than smoking, it’s important to advise customers on dosage. 

Anything less than 10mg is a lower dosage. Anything up to 30mg can cause some pretty strong effects, higher than that and it could lead to a bad trip,” he said. “I recommend for first-timers or people with low-tolerance to cut them up or maybe mix them in food, so it can be a slower, more manageable high.”

James said one of the crucial aspects of finding what works for everyone individually is to talk about them, something that he encourages customers to do with the budtenders in his Queens dispensary.   

“There’s a way to be introduced to it,” James said. “New York (State) has done a great job of putting instructions on their products in order to allow people to be introduced to it without over consuming, and also just be educated on how to consume those products.” 

4/20 this year

Stoners have been celebrating 4/20 for decades, long before the “legalize it” movement gained serious momentum. 

Kagia, at OCM, told the Bronx Times that this year is unique. 

“This is going to be the first time that New Yorkers are going to be able to go into stores around the state and buy legal cannabis,” he said. “This 4/20 I think (is) just a milestone moment to reflect on how far the state has come in its evolution of its cannabis policies.” 

James just opened his Queens dispensary on March 30. He said creating a safe space for consumers and employees — especially those who have either been individually impacted by over-policing of cannabis or who are part of groups who have been — is very special. 

“It’s our first time being on this side of the industry — having a legal dispensary and being able to serve the community,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing everybody come out and enjoy the products.” 

– Robbie Sequeira and Megan LaCreta contributed to this report

Reach Camille Botello at cbotello@schnepsmedia.com. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes