Shall we dispense with the clichés first? No, the air was not heavy with the pungent odor of marijuana, even though a handful of people were smoking it no more than 25 feet away from the chief of police. Nor was there much tie-dye in sight. And even though Bob Marley music was playing over the loudspeakers, there wasn’t a single aging hippie dancing arrhythmically to celebrate the legalization of marijuana in New York State.
Instead, “Sag’s 420 Freedom Rally,” which took place — when else? — at 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, in Sag Harbor’s John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, was billed as an opportunity to inform people about the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that was passed last month by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The event was organized by David Falkowski, the owner of the Open Minded Organics farm in Bridgehampton and OMO Apothecary on Long Wharf, who, at the risk of harshing everyone’s mellow, stressed the importance of acting like responsible adults and not doing dumb things like driving while stoned now that personal possession of up to 3 ounces of pot by those 21 and older is legal in the state.
“My goal with this event here today was to bring together different facets of the community,” Mr. Falkowski told a crowd that began with about two dozen people and eventually grew to about 60. “I think if you all look around right now, there is a wide spectrum of cannabis users here. This is adult-use marijuana. We need to be adults. We need to set the precedent moving forward.”
To help do that, he had placed QR codes on poles directing people to the resource center on his website, openmindedorganics.com, so they could learn more about what the new law allows and does not allow.
Mr. Falkowski was joined by Nicole Ricci, a member of the board of directors of NY Small Farma, and Andrew Rosner, the vice president of the New York Cannabis Growers & Processors Association. Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire also attended the event, posing for photos with pot smokers.
While pot smoking by adults is now legal anywhere it is legal to smoke cigarettes, except in cars, fears that there will be harmful ramifications are misguided, Ms. Ricci said. “This doesn’t mean it’s now on the streets for everyone,” she said. “In fact, it’s off the streets. It’s going to be sold in sanctioned buildings, where they will check IDs.”
She added that the law contained provisions that would require 40 percent of the taxes collected from sales to be used to rebuild communities adversely affected by harsh drug laws, 40 percent for public education, and another 20 percent for addiction treatment.
Mr. Rosner also pointed to the war on drugs and the disproportionate impact it had on communities of color and the poor. It was important to reflect on the impacts of that public policy “and at the same time think of what you want this industry to look like in your communities,” he said. Under the new law, local municipalities will have significant input over regulations, many of which will be phased in over the next 18 months.
After the speakers finished their presentations, a handful of people lingered on benches overlooking the water to enjoy a carefree smoke without having to worry about the police, although most remained reluctant to give their names, citing worries about what their bosses or families might think.
Things didn’t get weird until a handful of people dressed in colorful dinosaur costumes made a brief appearance, cavorting at the edge of the park. At least that’s what we thought we saw.