Marijuana Dominates Astoria

By: Anisa Kandic

As one strides along the streets of Astoria the smell of pungent odors surrounds the community. From the scent of food from the Halal Guys’ truck to the smell of gasoline that escapes from the engines of cars, the streets of Astoria are filled with diverse smells, shops, and people. Astoria is a community filled with lots of love and activities. New York, one of the biggest cities in the world, legalized marijuana with the signature of ex-governor Andrew Cuomo back in March 2021 according to pbs.org. The legalization of marijuana has caused mixed feelings among civilians, especially members of the Astoria community. From Ditmars to 30 Ave
to Broadway, local shops have shut down as these bright green trucks and shops selling cannabis items have been expanding into the community.

Multiple businesses have closed in Astoria since the legalization, this leaves an opening for marijuana sellers to create stores and set up trucks to sell their creations in any vacant area. Astoriapost.com elaborates on the closing of its Stop and Shop located on 48th street. The article stated, “after a detailed review of the operating performance of our stores, we have made the difficult decision to not renew our lease at our store…,” said Stefanie Shuman, external communications manager for Stop & Shop.” The closing of Stop and Shop has left a vacant area in which cannabis sellers are allowed to sell their products as shown in the photograph provided. With more places closing, it opens a gateway for these businesses to expand.

Along the streets of Astoria, cannabis trucks have stood their ground, parking in areas where once enjoyable food trucks were. These food trucks are forced to find other sections of the neighborhood to park in, affecting their business and its growth. Eirene Arholekas from givemeastoria.com, wrote in her article, “Astoria’s Food Trucks: The Backbone of Queens Cuisine,” about the various food trucks within Astoria. She writes how popular food trucks located in Astoria from El Tri to King of Falafel are loved and supported despite the COVID pandemic. However, if you go to find these trucks today, they have been interchanged with
cannabis trucks. Though these businesses were altered by COVID, many are non-existent as these new retailers have taken up parking spaces they once used for their own businesses.

Multiple community members have had mixed feelings regarding easier access to marijuana products. Many argue that it allows teens and our youth to be more prone to these substances that could endanger them, while others state that regulations regarding getting those substances are strong enough and put into place.

Sophia Boutureira, a seventeen year old who has lived in Astoria her whole life, stated her views regarding marijuana shops and trucks opening up around her area.

Sophia elaborated on the legalization of marijuana that, “it was good
however it needs some restrictions.”

She continued to vocalize that having restrictions will ensure that young kids aren’t exposed to these substances at their early age as marijuana may be a gateway for drugs. Chris Christie, the former Governor of New Jersey agreed in an interview
with Hugh Hewitt on his radio show on April 14th of 2015 regarding his theory around marijuana. He vocalized that marijuana is the gateway drug while arguing that there should be federal enforcements regarding the substance. Dave Levitan vocalized in “Is marijuana really a ‘gateway drug’?” on Factcheck.com. An eighteen year old female who has lived in Astoria her whole life as well had contrasting opinions regarding marijuana and its legalization. Sarah Ramabaran expressed how people are trying to make money and selling marijuana products in trucks and shops is no different than selling cigarettes or alcohol. By having these trucks and shops it makes the product more accessible and its people’s individual decision whether or not they want to purchase the products. The opening of these retail shops and trucks has caused a division within the community.

Astoria has been through its ups and downs within the past couple of years. From COVID to gang violence to now an increase of marijuana and cannabis shops opening up, it has drastically changed the community. Communities have been divided, as many are unsure of what to do and how to feel regarding the opening of these shops. Politicians have started to bring the community together by creating regulations regarding cannabis use. This includes allowing on site consumption sites with licenses according to nyc.gov. To unite our once lively and loving community we must continue to find a line of agreement between having these products available for those who enjoy them while protecting our local businesses that have been within the community for years.

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