This past month the HappyMunkey crew was invited to the Brooklyn Podcast Festival’s live podcasting of “Great Moments in Weed History” at the Bell House in Park slope Brooklyn. The show was hosted by three titans of cannabis comedy. Abdullah Saeed, the host of the James Beard Award-nominated series “Bong Appétit”; David Bienenstock, the former Head of Content at HIGH TIMES, and guest host Ben Sinclair, the co-creator, writer, and star of “High Maintenance”. During the show hosts had us laughing at their quick banter as they took us on an old school journey down New York Cannabis memory lane. An absolutely appropriate theme for the night as the crowd was filled with New York legends young and old, responsible for carrying the torch of New York’s unique cannabis culture.
The story “GMIWH” began to tell was about Michael Ellis Cezar better known as Mickey the Pope, the Pope of Pot, a New York Legend notorious for his pot having nature. As the hosts traced the thread of Mickey’s life we were transported from his birthplace Greenwich Village to the Cannabis holy land that is Amsterdam to learn how the Pope of Dope was first inspired by the magical cannabis plant. Much like the magical Amsterdam trip that inspired our Co-Founders to start Happy Munkey. During Mickey’s time in Amsterdam he and a group of anarchist leaning cannabis lovers made history when they converted a houseboat to cannabis giving wonderland! At the peak of Mickey’s time Amsterdam, event though it was technically illegal to sell flower, he was making $20,000 a day selling cannabis to ever from local governments officials to newly emerging tourist market. Essentially pioneering the modern day Amsterdam cannabis coffeeshop scene the world loves. Mickey however didn’t do this to line his pockets he actually used most of his money helping others.
From the canals of Amsterdam we then follow Mickey back to the streets of New York with his new found love of sharing the cannabis plant. Fast forwarding a bit, when back in New York Mickey starts the legendary underground delivery service named “1-800-WANTPOT”. Sticking to his altruistic nature Mickey made a living selling cannabis but more importantly he gave a lot of it away! Primarily helping individuals dealing with Aids and homelessness. If you would like to learn more about the “Pope of Dope” check out the June 1991 Rolling Stone’s article about Mickey and look out for the full podcast episode from “Greatest Moments In Weed History”!
The Biggest take away from the night was that the New York cannabis culture was forged long before our current cannabis moment. Many brave individuals devoted their live’s work and energy to putting cannabis in the hands of the people that need it regardless of what the laws determined legal. Getting arrested, getting raided, and failing drug tests, are all part of the occupational hazards of fighting for the plant we love. Never let anyone ever tell you different, because a little legal tension never stopped Mickey and it 100% wont stop the movement. Remember cannabis is for the people and will forever will be! Thank you to all those out there fighting for the freedom of the cannabis plant, and keep the good fight going! industry!
Photos by Declan Mulligan