The Big Apple is going up in smoke.
Hell Square – the section of the Lower East Side known for its late-night drunken revelry – is ground zero for storefront weed sales in the city, with at least 13 pot purveyors in a four-block area.
One little problem: Selling pot is still illegal.
New York legalized recreational weed last year, but the state Office of Cannabis Management has yet to roll out its regulations and licensing system, which could arrive by the end of 2022.
Some businesses within “the Green Mile” of Hell Square have found clever loopholes to get bud to customers while other shops brushed off the law entirely and dove head first into the marijuana market.
Granny Za’s on Orchard Street is technically an art dealer where customers pay $75 for a digital image from a local artist — and are then “gifted” a quarter-ounce of the green stuff on their way out.
Empire Cannabis Club on Allen Street – which resembles the Genius Bar at an Apple store more than a pot pub – requires a membership before customers can purchase strains of weed including Gorilla Glue, Grandaddy Purple and the ever-popular Sour Diesel.
Smokers Only down the street sells pre-rolled joints, no questions asked.
The Post asked employees at all four stores if the products were made from actual marijuana and will get you high, and they said yes. The Post was unable to independently confirm this representation.
Whether or not it’s all done by the book, some New Yorkers are against the city’s burgeoning pot market.
“People don’t like the smell,” Massimo La Rocca, who owns a hair salon on Orchard Street, told the Post. “I lost some customers because everybody (in the neighborhood) is smoking around here.”
One man who wouldn’t provide his name and has lived on the Lower East Side for 40 years said he hates constant smoke clouds wafting into his apartment.
“My apartment would fill so full of marijuana smoke I would actually gag,” he said. “I’m smelling it too. I don’t like it. I don’t think that’s fair. It’s basically forcing me to breath it.”
Others see legal weed as a potential economic boon for New York. The state expects $1.25 billion in new revenue from legal marijuana sales during the next six years.
“It’s a good idea for tax reasons. It’ll bring more money in for the state, and hopefully it’s used correctly,” said Zackary Martin, manager of the Sock Man, a clothing store on St. Marks Place.
Experts said current weed policies have clouded people’s perception of the law and how much it should be enforced.
Retired NYPD officer and John Jay College professor Eugene O’Donnell said selling weed illegally highlights a breakdown of order.
“You think everyone is just going to wait until the ‘I’s are dotted and the ‘T’s are crossed (before they start selling)? That’s just not reality,” he said. “The reality is elected officials, by trashing the police and blurring the lines of the law, have themselves eroded the rule of law.”
He continued: “You’re staring down into a potentially very troubling abyss in which the law is just inconsequential.”
One employee at the Smoke Shop on Orchard Street told The Post that a cop saw his stash a few weeks ago but just look the other way.
“He never even said anything or give me bad eye contact,” the employee said.
Dmitriy Shakhnevich, a criminal justice lawyer in Manhattan, said though sale are prohibited, ticketing all these shops would be a heavy burden on prosecutors.
“They don’t want to be put in a position where they prosecute a bunch of these cases and then ‘X’ number of years down the line they have to implement initiatives and programs to vacate these convictions,” he told The Post. “They don’t want to flood their offices with cases that will go nowhere.”