Harlem cannabis champion Shiest Bubz is highly dedicated to his new title as New York City’s Grand Marshal of cannabis. As a lifelong innovator in the prohibition era, Bubz has influenced almost every player in New York’s legal and underground weed markets. Anyone selling weed branded as “Piff” owes him a few pounds and then some. Any smoker, grower, or seller enjoying today’s legal game is also indebted. One37pm caught up with the top dog of New York cannabis to find out why the Mayor named him Grand Marshal of the city’s booming ganja scene.
How Shiest Bubz Became the Grand Marshal of NYC Cannabis
What exactly does a Grand Marshal do?
“When I first heard the term Grand Marshal, I actually had to Google the shit. But it made perfect sense. I feel like my duty is setting the bar—just being the face of cannabis and the people and the culture. Showing up to different events and venues, representing New York City to the fullest.” - Shiest Bubz
In many countries (France, China, Peru, Italy), the Grand Marshal is the highest ranking member of the military. In other cultures, the title is given to soldiers who lead above and beyond their given rank—whether in Star Wars, medicine, or World of Warcraft.
However you define Grand Marshal in your respective corner of the universe—Shiest Bubz checks all boxes when it comes to bud in the big city.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Bubz pioneered the “legal to legacy” blueprint that is now big business for major public companies and private investors. New York plans to make $245 million in annual marijuana revenue by 2024, according to a 2021 report from state officials.
Tim Seymour, host of CNBC’s “Money Talks” told CWCB expo attendees in June, that the national “addressable market is near $100 billion.” And Bubz’ home borough of Manhattan is at the epicenter of it all.
Harlem’s Highest Diplomat
“The biggest names in cannabis claim Harlem — Branson, Shiest Bubz. GUMBO, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones, Cam’ron! I’m just talking about branding wise. I’m not talking about any cultivation of flower or anything like that. Because that’s a new thing for New York. Growing weed. It’s brand new. That doesn’t exist over here like that… New York is a marketing town. We get things from other places and then sell ‘em.” - Shiest Bubz
Bubz’ Harlem neighborhood has carried the torch for New York’s cannabis culture for decades. Even before national prohibition officially began in 1937. New York State first restricted medical use of the plant in 1914 and banned sale and possession in 1927. Even back then, Harlem was home to the city’s cannabis underground.
From 1920s nights at The Cotton Club, an early “smokeeasy” favorited by Jazz legends like Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway, to the heydays of legacy dealers like Malcolm Little (before he became Malcolm X), Branson (the inspiration for Half Baked’s Samson), and Bubz himself, Harlem’s cannabis roots run deep.
“When you say Harlem, that’s the Mecca of Black culture for the world,” Bubz explained over puffs of his Purp Invaders brand a few blocks north of Central Park. “People like to say it’s Atlanta, but it started in New York with the Harlem Renaissance.”
"New York is the Mecca of not just music, art, and fashion. It’s money central. Wall Street-type shit. So, anything coming out of Manhattan is always gonna be premier." - Shiest Bubz
Sticking to the code
While serving customers in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, Bubz followed a strict code to avoid the law. He managed to serve Cali’s finest pounds to New York’s VIPs without getting caught in the system. He also coined essential stoner slang like Piff, and made the Purple Haze strain a staple of the East Coast’s market.
I care about it being a whole culture, not just one entity dominating the game.
- Shiest Bubz
From rappers like Cam’ron and Jim Jones of Harlem’s Dipset, to athletes, influencers, and politicians, Bubz’ Rolodex is packed with grinders and shakers who always know they can hit him when they need NYC’s finest fuego. Or, more importantly, to seek guidance from the city’s most seasoned dank Diplomat.
“When it comes to the black market space of the legacy space, I actually come from that. My goal is to be a bridge.” - Shiest Bubz
In December, Bubz addressed critics who asked why a dealer was dealing with the Mayor and state officials at a press conference. “The legacy [community] that was present was there to voice our opinions on how to protect and assist Black and brown people [looking] to succeed in this cannabis industry,” Bubz posted to Instagram. “I represent the Black market, and the Legacy to Legal motto,” Bubz wrote, “I want my equity, as should you!”
Leading the legacy to legal movement
According to the state’s cannabis office, New York locked up more people for weed than anywhere else in the world during prohibition, which officially ended in 2021.
That’s why many of New York’s first legal stores are owned by New Yorkers with past cannabis charges. State officials are aiming to give reparations for the harm caused by the failed War on Drugs. And they are looking to Bubz and his fellow pioneers for guidance.
Now that legal cannabis is a reality, Bubz is putting his knowledge and network to use for the greater good. He’s mentoring the youth, as well as newly-licensed dispensary owners who are striving to follow in his footsteps—from black sheep of the “black market,” to benefactors of the country’s most progressive legal market to date.
“Yesterday I spoke at New York State probation course. I was there to be a role model and speak to them about the cannabis business. And tell them about my background and my history and the black market as well as transitioning into the legal space years ago.” - Shiest Bubz
When issues come across his desk, Bubz said he acts in the best interest of the culture—mentoring street legends, vulnerable artists, and corporate sharks to keep the peace and focus on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity legal weed presents to everyone.
“I’m not here to shun anybody or discredit anyone,” Bubz explained. “It’s only been legalized in New York for two years. The adult use market is just getting rolled out. So it’s a clean slate for everyone. It’s a chance for everyone to do something positive.”
I try not to play favoritism too much. I have open arms for most people who are in cannabis, because I look at it as a whole culture that I’m a leader in.
- Shiest Bubz
Giving himself flowers
“I’m looking for accolades for my hard work that I put in,” Bubz said while wrapping up another day as Grand Marshal in his Harlem residence. He’s never needed anyone to give him his flowers—as in credit—or flower—as in cannabis. But titles like Grand Marshal force him to reflect on the legacy he’s built with more intention than ever before.
While chewing on his grand new title, Bubz explained, “I’ve been in the game for so long, I’m looking for accolades for my hard work that I put in—that they’re trying to make billions off of. At least give me some credit. So at least when I put my resume in for the next play that I want to do, I have a nice resume.”
“I try not to play politics. I try to be a moderator of so-called peace in the game… Unless somebody robbed somebody or stole something then it’s not really that serious. It can always be talked out.” - Shiest Bubz
At this point in his Hall of Fame career, the new highlights on his resume aren’t for employers. They’re proof for new partners. Like Dr. Sha-Ron Pierre, Bubz’ teammate on a New York cultivation license. She’s a Columbia University PhD who checks all the boxes that even Shiest can’t fill. A rare pairing for the multi-faceted creator.
With his team assembled and legacy preserved, the New York cannabis community is hereby on notice. There’s a new Grand Marshal in town.
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