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The Weed World Fleet

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).

Spotted in prime Times Square territory — 7th Ave and 42nd St

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.)

Salesperson: THC.

(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.

What is the reality vs the perception of marijuana decriminalization in NYC? Find out in this recount of an experience with Weed World Candies.

Weed candy truck

A Weed World Candies truck in Indio, California. Photo: Pete Marrero

Weed World candy trucks line up in Times Square selling what the company says is marijuana-laced candy. The bright green vehicles are decorated with pictures of flavored lollipops next to cannabis plants and the words, “Get Medicated!”

The question is, what’s in the candy? The company says it contains only CBD, the staff say it contains THC, and legalization proponents argue that whatever it is, it’s either a boon or an obstacle to legalization. Advocate Rafael Post, who plans to launch a legalization petition, explained that CBD is the element present in medical marijuana. THC is the mind-altering aspect that creates the high.

The Weed World Candies company launched in 1999 in New York and now has 22 vehicles across the country, in legal and non-legal states. They sell edibles, including lollipops (one for $6 or four for $20), brownies, and muffins. According to Marketing Director Pete Marrero, “there is no THC in these products. It’s strictly just CBD hemp-oil products . . . It does not give you a head high. It gives you strictly a body high.” The company says that the candy is created for medicinal purposes only and helps relieve minor headaches, back and muscle pains, nausea, and stress.

“The whole point of what our company does is to actually educate individuals on the benefits of what CBD does and how it helps,” Marrero said, “and the next segue is to provide the product to the individuals that choose to have it.”

But he admits that truck staffers don’t always communicate that message in person or on social media, and customers come away wondering why they didn’t get high. “Some of the staff does not follow through with the way they’re supposed to educate and promote the products,” he said, “and that has become a problem. Not just through social media but through bad customer service because no one wants to be lied to.”

According to Marrero, the candies cannot contain THC, even in legal states, because the state has to keep track of sales and taxes, and it would have no way to monitor THC products sold out of vehicles.

Attorney Noah Potter is an advocate for legalizing marijuana in New York, where weed is not legal, is active in drug policy reform, and is the general manager of the NYC Cannabis Parade, an annual pro-legalization event. He believes that the “cute and colorful” aspect of the trucks might obscure the seriousness of social issues surrounding the issue.

“They’re funny, they elicit a smile . . . There’s a somewhat problematic message because there are many, many messages in circulation in the reform movement wanting to focus on social justice and mass incarceration and this empowerment primarily of people of color,” he said. “It’s an extremely serious issue.” Potter believes the trucks could better contribute to the reform movement by adding politically-conscious messages on the sides, such as “remember the prisoners,” or posting lists of advocacy groups.

“I don’t think there’s anything cute,” said Marrero, in response. “I don’t agree with that. I’m a cancer survivor. The reason why I do what I do is because I’m a patient, I’m a survivor, I beat cancer in 2010 . . . These vans are put in place for shock marketing, when people see them they get surprised, they draw people’s attention, and they come over to the van.” The staff can then educate the individuals on the medicinal benefits of CBD.

“A lot of people who don’t know about weed have a problem with it because of the smoking aspect of it,” said Rafael Post. “They don’t like the idea of smoke going in their lungs and smoke coming out of them because it does damage your lungs.” He feels that the trucks expose customers to a less dangerous form of weed.

A twenty-year-old female tourist from Dublin had never seen the trucks before but decided to buy a lollipop because, she said, “it is just fun to try.” She said she does not think the lollipop will get her high, even though the staffers say otherwise.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 at 7:02 pm. It is filed under Business and tagged with CBD, Midtown West, new york city, Times Square, Weed World Candies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Weed candy truck A Weed World Candies truck in Indio, California. Photo: Pete Marrero Weed World candy trucks line up in Times Square selling what the company says is marijuana-laced candy.