Those garish green Weed World vans have been popping up around the French Quarter and the CBD for a few years now, but have evidently become a more common sight recently.
The vans are emblazoned with pictures of marijuana plants and are stocked with candies bearing names, such as Lemon OG Kush and Purple Haze, that ring an instant bell with stoners. The prices — $5 for a lollipop, for instance — reinforce the impression that this confection will give you more than a sugar rush.
Thus Mayor Latoya Cantrell's flack says she is looking at ways to get the vans off the streets. One way might be to enforce the law. If Weed World products really are infused with ganja, that's distribution of a controlled substance. If the whole thing is a con, a license is still required for hawking candy on the streets, and Weed World doesn't have one either here or in New York, Chicago and other cities where green vans ply their trade.
Since openly selling drugs on the street is asking to be sent to prison, it stands to reason that Weed World candies are just that. The company's employees have been busted several times in New Orleans for unlicensed selling, but no marijuana has ever been found in the gummy bears or brownies they offer. Two Weed World guys were arrested in New Orleans last month when smoke wafted from their van, but obviously they were not sampling company wares. You'd have to be pretty far gone to try lighting a lollipop.
A Google search reveals that Weed World's owners are Bilal Muhammad, aka Dro Man, and Judah Izsraael, although the possibility cannot be discounted that none of the names is real. An alias makes a lot of sense if your business is illegal.
Weed World was founded at the turn of the millennium in New York and claims to have more than 20 green vans spread around the country. Its purported mission is to campaign for the “legalization and decriminalization” of marijuana, but there would be some long faces around Weed World if that happened nationwide. The green vans would disappear from the streets if real dope could be bought at the store.
Meanwhile, business appears to be brisk, so brisk that fines for illegal selling or parking are regarded as part of Weed World's overhead, according to NOPD, quoted in the press. Presumably, if the green vans are to be run out of town, citations will have to be more frequent and penalties more severe.
Since Weed World pays no sales taxes, and sets its prices so high, however, it may be in no danger of running out of money any time soon. Ruthless and sustained law enforcement might do the trick, but NOPD is chronically understaffed and fake weed is far from the biggest challenge facing Cantrell.
Still, it is unlikely that many people would buy Weed World wares if they didn't expect a greater sense of euphoria than they are going to get from a gummy bear. And even cinemas charge less for gummy bears than Weed World.
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Every drunk tourist who patronizes a Weed World van in the French Quarter is liable to feel ripped off. But pretty much everything in the French Quarter is a rip-off, so the effect on the tourist trade will be minimal. If the green vans spoil the tout-ensemble of the Vieux Carre, moreover, T-shirt shops aren't exactly easy on the eye either.
And while Weed World candies are clearly overpriced, visitors to the French Quarter at night will wind up spending much more than, say, the $20 that will get them five lollipops. Indeed, one of the reasons for Weed World's success is that its vans crop up in areas full of tourists who have already spent heavily on booze.
Another reason might be that most people would figure the authorities here and in other cities should be able to stop an unlicensed business selling overpriced wares on false pretenses without paying a dime in taxes.