How Did We Get Here?
Saturday’s Smokeshop Murder Leaves Community in Shock
By Ed Wendell
It was the early 1980s when VCRs – video cassette recorders – became affordable and suddenly everyone had one.
Now you didn’t have to miss your favorite television programs, you could record them. At the same time it created a demand for renting movies to watch at home and as a result video stores began popping up all over.
The Video Connection. Captain Video. Video Maniacs. They were everywhere. It was a fun and exciting time and no one was hurt. For sure, no one was ever killed over a VHS tape.
Four decades later a new market has emerged with stores popping up all over the place. Smoke Palace. Kush Kings. Leaf Connection. As a result, because of the way New York mishandled it, a market for violent crime and mayhem was created.
This past Saturday afternoon, while most of us were out enjoying the day, a young man was shot and killed during a robbery of a smoke shop on Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill. He was just 20 years old, his entire life ahead of him, ended violently because of the gross stupidity of New York.
How did we get here?
After many years of debate, New York made it legal to possess and smoke and grow marijuana in your home. But they dragged their heels on rolling out licenses and as a result today there are only 3 places in New York where you can purchase pot legally, all within a few blocks of each other in Manhattan.
As a result, entrepreneurs across the city began opening up shops to capture a share of the market and the city made the decision to leave them be. As a result we have shops all over selling pot openly and illegally. And because they’re selling it illegally, it needs to remain a cash business.
To recap, because it’s really hard to believe how stupid New York handled this, they took an underground business that was connected to the criminal world; they dropped businesses flush with cash and drugs in our laps; and they told the police to stand down.
What did they expect would happen? Of course all of these stores would become rich targets for robbery. Thugs know these stores have drugs and cash and if they get robbed they can’t really go to the police. These robberies are becoming more frequent and brazen and violent and what happened Saturday is the result of stupid arrogant thinking on the part of New York State.
Last year, we took a wee trip to visit a friend in Massachusetts. As soon as we crossed the state line we saw a half-dozen shops open for business, but the difference was that they were all licensed and all operating legally.
We stopped into one of them on the way home and it was as safe an environment as you could ask for. Upon entering the store we were in a lobby where a receptionist asked to see some ID. We gave her our drivers licenses and they scanned them in.
We were buzzed through a door and entered a long hallway where we were buzzed in through another door. Once inside, we were greeted by name by a young man with an iPad who walked us around and answered any questions we had.
You would tell him what you wanted and he would enter it on the iPad and when you were done, you went to the counter and paid for it by credit card and walked out with a nice bag. It was all very well organized and very, very safe.
Compared to Massachusetts, our state is the wild, wild, west. We have created a rich environment for crime and violence and over time, the toll on our communities will surely mount.
This was so badly handled that I don’t think that any of us expect that New York will work out a solution to this massive problem that they’ve created any time soon.
There’s really only one explanation for why the State of New York decided to roll out this law this way – they must have been high. And being high and stupid is a deadly combination.