Whoa, this article went in SO MANY different directions in such an unexpected way and I kind of love it for it. From the rapidly developing weed-infused food market, to 1990s NYC mob wars, to the federal prison system, to underground COVID speakeasies, to Instagram influencing as a business model - this really has it all. Couple thoughts:
I'm not sure if I'd want to hang out with Chris Barrett (AKA The Pizza Pusha) personally but the man has lived at least 3 lifetimes worth of craziness and hustle and action and reinvention. Some people have an innate business sense, that inborn hustle quality to read the situation and adapt as quickly as possible to make a buck no matter where they find themselves. I am definitely not one of those people. This guy is the definition of the mindset.
As much as things have changed in just the last 5 years, as mainstream and as casually accepted as weed has become in the US, we are only at the outer edges of how big it's going to get. When I was in high school weed was "drugs" (perceived by many, though not by most, as in the same class as crack and heroin), and mere possession of it could get you locked up (it still can in a lot of states, esp if you're poor or Black or brown). Now it's either available medically or decriminalized or straight up legal in most states and it's well on its way to being as mainstreamed, and as heavily marketed, as booze. There will be weed Super Bowl ads, and a weed critic column in your paper's lifestyle section, and fancy "couple's cannabis tasting nights" at chic venues. And OK fine, whatever, but as all that's going down we need to be fighting for POC equity in all of this because there are still legions of mostly poor/POC people locked up for nothing more than selling or having weed in the exact same era when white hedge fund backed entrepreneurs and major corporations are already making bank for the exact same thing in an industry that's about to experience stratospheric growth. I don't think "Big Canna" is the way and there's not really much to celebrate about Billionaires cornering the market on a plant that just grows in the ground but if that's what we're doing it's good to hear about stuff like this recent initiative: Jay-Z Joins Push to Boost Minority-Owned Cannabis Businesses that seeks to include the people that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs now that we're slowly waking up to the fact that it was a racist money grab to begin with.
While there will always be *some* demand for it I think there's a pretty low ceiling for the Pizza Pusher's current core business model (that is, infusing olive oil with THC and then pouring it on pizzas and garlic knots.) Weed is here to stay. Weed edibles (like lozenges, gummies, chocolates, cookies, etc) are here to stay. But as far as ingesting THC in this manner goes: a little goes a long way. You can eat 2 gummy bears and get as stoned as you'll ever want to get for the night (or considerably more so...). Just like with booze there is a limit, individual to every user, beyond which things stop being fun and become potentially nightmarish. It does not make sense to me to put the THC (which honestly does not have an amazing taste on its own) that you want to consume into an oil or a syrup and then spread that over an entire pizza when you can just take a few puffs, or chew a few gummies, or down a dropper of oil out of a medicine bottle and then just eat however much regular food you're inclined to. That is a more exact way to dose. You don't have use spices to drown out the THC flavor. And you don't have to put on 5 lbs every time you want to get high. And if you don't finish your food you don't literally have to throw weed down the garbage disposal. I think that what Barrett is thinking in terms of bar-like weed lounges and performance venues where people can toke up and chill while socializing or watching live music are definitely going to be a big part of the future, but as far as eating weed goes I think people are going to stick with small items that you can consume or drink in a few bites and swallows and be done with it rather than 5 course tasting menus where every item will get you rocked off your ass.
Also: fuck this dude for hosting indoor events during a pandemic where the central activity revolves around deeply inhaling and exhaling while standing around a bunch of strangers doing the same.
A week later, Barrett invites me to his Harlem brownstone for dinner. At 47, the stoned Mighty Mouse is a wiry five-foot-seven with a scarred shaved head and a blunt-stained perma-smile unsettled only by a persistent hacking cough. “It’s not COVID,” he assures me. “I just smoke a lot of these,” referring to the comically large blunt hanging from the corner of his mouth. ... As we sit outside, Day offers me a slice. A thick-crusted, rectangular Sicilian pie, it’s an above-average pizza by New York standards. If you’re reading this anywhere outside NYC, it would be the best pizza you could get your hands on. ... In 1991, acting Colombo boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena staged a coup after Colombo boss Carmine Persico was incarcerated for life. Persico allegedly took out a hit on Orena, but the plot failed when Orena evaded the ambush outside his home. Brooklyn erupted in violence. “I went from carrying money under my shirt to carrying it underneath a bulletproof vest,” says Barrett. “Every day, I woke up thinking this could be my last.” The third Colombo war was one of the most brutal and violent in New York Mafia history, with dozens shot, killed, or never seen again. ... “This is going to be the hotbox room,” Barrett says, walking me into a glass-framed space in the corner of the restaurant. “What about COVID?” I ask him. “We’re installing industrial fans that will suck the smoke out,” Barrett says, pointing up to the windows in the glass room as he blows smoke toward them. “The ventilation will be better in here than the restaurant” — which would seem beside the point. ... There are a few masks, but I’m the only attendee wearing an N95. Everyone I talk to tells me they’re from Brooklyn. I wonder if this is one of those “superspreader events” I keep hearing about. Blunts are smoked. Music plays. People dance. While hiding in a corner, I connect with a Russian woman who introduces herself through her handle, @damnhomie11. She tells me how many followers she has (1 million) and how “in the future, all of life will take place on Instagram; there will be no television.” There are so many @damnhomie11 types here it’s like I’m in a real-life Explore page. I can practically hear the ding-ding of follower counts going up.