Between the Lines: Does The Past Portend a Proliferation of Pot?

Perhaps.

And by that, do I mean will New York State eventually, or inevitably, legalize the recreational use of marijuana? Are doobies in our destiny? Will we be lured into a lullaby by lucifer’s lettuce?

Since the state’s Democratic governor proposed it to the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate, it seemed a sure thing earlier this year. But, unfortunately, all youse wild about wacky weed were left with the political version of a big bag of oregano instead when both houses failed to approve it before this year’s legislative session ended in June.

Supporters vow to soldier on, but since next year is an election year for all 150 Assembly seats and all 63 Senate posts, it remains to be seen how many legislators have the stems or seeds to say yes to dope. If a change is coming, probably won’t be before 2021. 

And that’s just for legislative approval. Who knows how long it will take the bureaucracy, in its sloth-like speed, to come up with licensing and registration rules and regs, and of course giving police means and guidance to deal with a likely increase in driving while high.

But I’m willing to bet a dime bag that happen it will, and it’ll change the local agricultural industry and the face of the East End forever.

Before we get into that, know that the legislature did vote to decriminalize pot possession and to wipe away some 160,00 low-level marijuana-related conviction records.

Once a Class B misdemeanor, possession of one to two ounces of maui wowie is now only a violation with fines capped at $200. Caught with a joint or any amount less than an ounce? The state shaved $100 off the fine, lowering it to just $50.

Thank God! Uh, I mean, that’s…um, a step in the right direction.

You must remember this, a spliff is just a spliff,
A high is just a high.
A code change means you’d never need
An alibi.

Getting back to permitting recreational possession and use of laughing grass, why do I see it coming and why am I convinced it’ll turn this end of the Island upside down?

Two syllables; Muh-nee.

Prior to WWII, potato fields covered about 60,000 acres of what’s now suburbia, including Levittown, from whence I sprang. Aside from war-weary GI families needing homes, over time potatoes just didn’t cut it financially. A few North Fork spud specialists are hanging on, but they work no more than a couple of thousand acres.

Farmers were forced to diversify and their fields now produce sod, nursery stock and, of course, vineyards. While wineries carry much cache, they only cover about 3,000 acres and many, if not most, of the growers and gentleman farmers who once had other, far more profitable careers.

Before founding Pindar Vineyards in Peconic in 1980, Herodotus “Dr. Dan” Damianos, who died in 2014 at age 82, was both a NYC school principal and a physician. His go-to answer when asked if viticulture was profitable was something along the lines of, “If you want to have a small fortune, build a big fortune then start a winery.”

It comes down to this: Could anything grown on eastern Long Island compete with an onslaught of Acapulco gold? How much profit does an acre of reefer yield?

No, that’s not a hypothetical. How much? The folks working in the East End’s nascent industry extracting the legal pot compound cannabidiol, aka CBD, are already onto this. I’ve no doubt they already have it on a spreadsheet and are waiting for the climate to change, so to speak.

Would the greenhouse guys have the advantage? Could it be cultivated out in the open? Would the fields need razor wire-topped fences to keep thieves at bay?

T’was quite puzzled over the past few years to hear North Fork farmers press the town for a code change to permit on-site processing of their products. Didn’t seem to make sense. Sod and nursery stock growers don’t need that. Wineries can already produce their own potent potables, likewise the microbrewies. No one growing sweet corn has said anything about wanting to can it or freeze it.

So what gives?

Call me skeptical – and if you ain’t skeptical you ain’t paying attention – but it seems more than coincidental that the Town Board approved the right to process measure on June 4, just two weeks and a day before the Assembly and State Senate wrapped up the latest legislative session, an interval during which supporters, including the New York Farm Bureau, hoped for a last-minute deal to permit puffs of Panama red.

Actually, the big money doesn’t come from selling bags of grass and rolling papers or bongs. No indeed. Why take a drag on a harsh, cough-inducing unfiltered J when you can “process” the crop to draw out the Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol.

No, I’m not showing off. Well maybe a little, but that is the full name of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis producing feelings of intoxication and euphoria. In layman’s terms, gettin’ high.

That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.

In states where the stuff is permitted, much, if not most, of it goes into edibles. 

Providing a potential preview of may lay in store for us, The Maine Sunday Telegram recently printed a 16-page special section called “Clarity on Cannabis.” The top story of the front page of that same issue’s Food & Dining section went gaga for ganja gastronomical goodies under the heading, “Cooking with Cannabis.”

Marijuana sales in the state, which it proudly proclaims offers “life the way it should be,” are expected to begin next year, four years after Mainers voted to legalize its personal use. The delay stems from a 2018 gubernatorial veto, followed by a legislative override and the creation of a framework for oversight and control.  

So far only 11 states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, allow recreational use while 33 have medical marijuana programs.

Senator Bernie Sanders represents Vermont, right? Just sayin’.

Them what knows say processing marijuana for consumption is a two-part deal. The first is decarboxylating, otherwise known as decarbing, a necessary step to convert the raw chemicals to THC. You can do it at home by placing your ground pot on a baking sheet, cover it with foil and bake in a 240-degree oven for an hour.

Maybe that explains while Julia Child spoke the way she did.

Many recipes call for the use of cannabis-infused butter, or “cannabutter.” When it’s legal across the board (communities must actively “opt in) and not just for medical use, Mainers can fog their friends with cannabis brownies, cannabis cornbread, cannabis candy, even cannabis mac & cheese and, of course, lobster. I mean, lobsta.

The Maine Sunday Telegram reports that in 2018 the Wellness Connection company, one of the firms producing medical marijuana treats, made 27,000 chocolate bars using 1.5 million milligrams of THC, 80,000 cookies, 100,000 candies and 33 gallons of tinctures.

Now imagine East End farms growing the golden green for wholesale or retail use, with shops popping up like, well, weeds, offering all sorts of psychoactive pleasures.

Imagine shops carrying T-shirts emblazoned with the familiar image of that star-shaped, serrated-leafed botanical with “Property of Southold (or Laurel, or Mattituck, or Cutchogue, or New Suffolk, or Peconic, or Greenport, or East Marion, or Orient) High.”

Think pumpkin pickin-season traffic’s a nightmare now? Just wait.

Then again, with the proper backing, I could open “Uncle Timmy’s Weed & Feed.” The food? That really would matter, would it? Come to think of it, local 7-Elevens stand to make a killing.

By the way, the “Clarity on Cannabis” section included a story about talking with your kids about you-know-what. Not surprisingly, the challenge is quite similar to having frank discussions on underage use of drugs, alcohol and smoking or vaping.

One subhead asks, “Should I tell them about my past?” Lemme answer that – Hell no!”

I had that very discussion with Child #1, admitting to toking a total of about a half-dozen times and said all it did was make me sleepy. Several months later, when talking with relatives and/or friends about another topic entirely, me boy declared, “Of course, in the 60s when you were a drug addict…”

He’s got two of his own, so all I need now are edibles infused with patience.


Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.

East End Beacon

The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

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