“Enjoy yourself, light up, but most importantly, spend some money.” ~ Mayor Eric Adams
If you live in New York City and smoke weed, you’re almost certainly aware of the “weed bodegas” and grey market dispensaries that have sprouted on nearly every block since the state legalized adult-use cannabis in March 2021.
Weed may be legal, yes, but the state is still in the process of setting up its retail system, so technically no businesses are currently allowed to sell weed. But, for the time being, the police are mostly embracing a policy of noninterference, resulting in a proliferation of unlicensed businesses that sell untaxed (and untested) marijuana products.
There are literally hundreds of semi-legal brick-and-mortar shops that peddle pot, from the casual corner store and tobacco smoke shops that keep mylar bags in their window displays, to more explicit dispensary-style operations with names like Puff & Peace, Granny Za’s, Weed World, and so on. We’d also be remiss not to mention the weed buses that cruise around the city, selling kush out their windows like Marijuana Mister Softee trucks.
While these operations are fairly shameless in advertising their 420-friendly vibes, there are also a handful of discreet art galleries-cum-cannabis dispensaries that allow customers to buy a piece of art (often physical prints, as well as QR downloads of JPEGs) that come with the added bonus of “free weed.” Of course, the price of said art is contingent on the value of the accompanying green, but the gifting model — as the loophole is called — has led to a number of operations that have the vibe of a hybrid high-end sneaker shop, gallery, and cannabis speakeasy rolled into one.
So for the time being, weed shops are omnipresent in the city. And if you’re new here, or new to consuming weed, it can be tough to figure out what pot shops are legit, and which sell that Delta-8 crap that will immediately give you a headache.
Over the summer, Cash Only made physical maps that highlight five of our favorite 420-centric establishments. The list is by no means comprehensive, and it focuses exclusively on Manhattan, but these shops stand out and are a good place to start for the novice toker.
In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be publishing neighborhood-specific guides to the best weed stores, as well as releasing videos featuring the entrepreneurs who run them. But first give our initial list a peep and check out these shops for yourself, too. And if you’re like us and prefer premium cannabis delivered straight to your door, we highly recommend you hit our friends at Brooklyn Arboretum.
1. Bing Bong Smoke Shop
590 8th Ave New York
Highlights: Arguably the most “New Yawk” smoke shop in all the city, run by Nems — an OG head and the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Coney Island.” The storefront has a huge swath of 420-friendly products, including a variety of edibles, vapes, and exotic strains. Don’t ask dumb questions or tag the shop on Instagram because you will get roasted. Hard.
2. Empire Cannabis
172 Allen Street
147 8th Avenue
Highlights: One of the more formal-looking shops in Manhattan, with locations in the LES and Chelsea. Looks like an Apple store, smells like a dispensary. Offers both licensed cannabis products and underground wares, as well as an online menu for pick-ups and delivery. Expect security guards and lines out the door.
98 Orchard Street
Highlights: Gallery-style shop run by hip-hop heavy hitters. Expect high-priced, premium strains that are gifted to customers after you buy a digital download in the $60-100 range. Don’t be surprised if Talib Kweli or Dave Chappelle roll through. Also check out their sister store Gifted BK in Williamsburg.
4. The Main Event
42 Avenue B
Highlights: This cozy storefront is a hybrid of lifestyle shop and art gallery. You can buy photo prints and other cultural ephemera, and each purchase comes with a very green gift. The spot donates a portion of its sales to 20+ local nonprofits, and also offers memorable souvenirs for visitors who want to bring a taste of the East Village back home. Show up on the right night, and there might be DJ sets, readings, or other cool parties.
5. St-ned Pizza
235 E 4th Street
Highlights: The infamous restaurant run by “The Pizza Pusha” features infused pies and other delicacies. This is a must-visit for anyone with the munchies. Reservations are required in advance, and cost $100 per person for an unlimited 2.5 hour tasting experience. Smoking is allowed inside, liquor is not.