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Happy Munkey’s Vladimir Bautista on Legalization and Legacy, The Future for New York | Happy 4/20 from Azuca

Internationally known CEO and co-founder of the popular Happy Munkey lifestyle company in NYC, Vlad Bautista has seen it all. Cutting his teeth in the legacy market, Bautista has used his experiences in the industry to spearhead change in policy and his community, all while offering VIP experiences and parties that connect politicians, chefs, doctors, influencers, athletes and creative artists with each other based on a mutual love of the plant.

This 4/20, Bautista explores how the industry has evolved since he became involved over 30 years ago, and what more needs to be done. Plus, read the latest on Azuca’s partners, legalization updates, event information and more.

6 Questions with Vladimir Bautista, CEO and co-founder of Happy Munkey

Let’s start at the beginning, when was the idea of Happy Munkey conceptualized? How did you create an international sensation in a state that didn’t even have legalization?

Cannabis has always played a role in our lives, and our love story with the plant dates back to the 80s and 90s. Growing up in our neighborhoods at that time was tough, and cannabis helped us to stay focused and optimistic. The real epiphany for the creation of the Happy Munkey brand came when Ramon Reyes, Happy Munkey co-founder, went to Amsterdam and had an eye-opening experience – he saw people enjoying cannabis openly and freely with their communities in public spaces. We had never seen that before, and wanted to bring the experience to New York.

NYC is the highest-consuming city in the world, so we knew we had a community that was looking for a place to gather safely and consume cannabis responsibly and without judgment. There wasn’t a voice for cannabis culture in New York, or any surrounding areas, and we wanted to fill that void. Happy Munkey was born out of our unique life experience, and we’re thrilled that we’re going to finally be able to expand in the legal market. 

New York Governor Kathy Hocul recently announced that legacy operators who were targeted by the war on drugs will be first in line to receive licenses to sell legalized cannabis. As someone who was unfairly arrested 20 times for smoking a plant, what must be done in New York to connect legislators and decision-makers with the expertise of the legacy market to ensure that New York doesn’t make the same mistakes that other states have made?

The War on Drugs has disproportionately subjected people of color to decades of arrests and convictions with long prison terms. To achieve true social equity in cannabis, we must invest in the individuals and communities impacted by the inequities of the justice system and create better access to opportunity. 

Legalization is not the trend; illegalization is the trend. 100 years ago, cannabis use was not regulated at all by the United States. There were very specific political motives attached to its regulation that were specifically intended to fuel fears about Black and brown Americans through their recreational pursuits. As we peel back those regulations, we also need to reflect  on how we can address those harms without perpetuating new ones. 

We’re looking forward to working with the Governor and other voices in the cannabis community in New York, and across the country, to ensure that these businesses will have the supplies and support necessary to succeed long term. 

Legalized cannabis is poised to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the state of New York with everyone wants a piece of the pie. What opportunities does legalization create?

Legalization presents an opportunity to equitably address the harms caused by prohibition. Happy Munkey’s status as a leader in cannabis culture ideally positions it to assist governments in the transition from legacy to legal. 

And the good news is there’s already a thriving career path in the legal cannabis industry. Happy Munkey is proving today that we can create good-paying jobs and careers by moving our community from legacy to legal.  I would strongly encourage people who want to pursue careers in this industry not to wait until full legalization to learn the business and explore your place in it.

April 20th has become an unofficial holiday across the world, and with legalization across states becoming more common, it’s poised to take off in an even larger way. What do you think of 4/20 – how it started, what it is today, and what do you think it could become?

4/20 is a special day. Even before wide-spread legalization began, we celebrated 4/20 amongst ourselves, and that positivity has helped destigmatize recreational use. 

We always have a blast on 4/20, and have curated some incredible experiences like our End of Prohibition party at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse on Wall St. last year. As the cannabis community continues to rapidly evolve, the unofficial holiday has remained a constant in cannabis culture, presenting a multitude of opportunities to introduce cannabis in a fun, civilized way and celebrate the potential of the plant. 

For April 20th this year, we plan to further our support of legacy consumers and operators unfairly targeted by the War on Drugs. On 4/20, Happy Munkey will be partnering with a major non-profit that helps people wrongly imprisoned for cannabis related actions. This campaign will allow the community to raise money and awareness to the plights of our brothers and sisters behind bars.

You’re given the chance to invite any three people, past or present, to your next Happy Munkey party: who are they?

The Obama’s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snoop Dogg.

What is next for Happy Munkey? Where do you plan on taking your brand and following now that cannabis is legal in New York?

We believe cannabis will change the world. This plant has the potential to positively affect so many peopleʼs lives. With our influence in New York, and as people of color, we have the power to make a lasting impact on the direction of this industry.

There is a time to play and a time to work, and this year we are working –  to make big moves and get things done. Our most important goal is to acquire a dispensary and delivery license in New York City. Our goal of equality and inclusion has never wavered. The Governor’s announcement will allow Happy Munkey to partner with community leaders and advocates, as we help create generational wealth for black and brown people as consumers and operators in the cannabis space.

Vladimir Bautista is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Happy Munkey brand, an internationally-known NYC lifestyle company that is synonymous with cannabis culture.

Born and raised in Hamilton Heights, NYC, Vlad and The Happy Munkey are formidable advocates and leaders in the cannabis space. Vlad is widely recognized for his deep relationships with the international cannabis elite and his successful experience in music, hospitality and event production. He provides corporate cannabis access to the authentic NYC cannabis scene. Under Vlad’s leadership, Happy Munkey hosts underground consumption events to mainstream, large-scale popular VIP collaborations. Recent noteworthy events include their groundbreaking “Happy Munkey After Hours” collaboration at the Original Immersive VanGogh exhibit in NYC, End of Prohibition celebration at the upscale steakhouse Bobby Van’s on Wall Street, and more.

Azuca Partner Spotlight

New Mexico’s Everest Cannabis Co. Keeps Up With Adult-Use Sales

Our partner Everest is booming in time for adult-use legalization in New Mexico! Check out their newest location–Montaño Plaza in the westside of Albuquerque–full menu here. All Everest dispensaries carry AZUCA TiME INFUSION™ fast-acting simple syrups and more.

Wana Spectrum Live Rosin Gummies

We can’t get enough of these edibles! The new fast-acting Wana Spectrum Live Rosin Gummies powered by AZUCA TiME INFUSION are the perfect way to chill out this spring. They’re made using fresh frozen (rather than cured and dried) cannabis, which preserves all the plant’s terpenes and other compounds in their living, active state. We dare you to choose a favorite between Watermelon Slushy, sharp-and-sweet Citrus Sorbet, flowery Tropical Smoothie, or one-of-a-kind Berry Gelato. Learn more about the newest line of fast-acting gummies, now available in select Colorado locations, here.

News from Azuca

Azuca is heading to MJUnpacked

Heading to MJ Unpacked in NYC this May? Make sure to stop by the Azuca booth to meet the team and learn about our latest innovations. And don’t miss Azuca CEO and co-founder Kim Sanchez Rael as a panelist for “How do CPG and Retail Brands Translate Coast to Coast?” Click here for more details!

Special Report: Learn The Difference Between Delta-9-THC and Hydroxy-11-THC

Have you ever wondered why smoking and eating the same cannabis strain can provide different experiences? Spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with how you prepare the cannabis plant.

Learn about the difference between Delta-9-THC and 11-Hydroxy-THC and how products made with Azuca’s TiME INFUSION™ let consumers choose for themselves in our latest whitepaper here.

Legalization News

Federal: Two-thirds of House and Senate conferees on the America COMPETES Act have already voted for or cosponsored cannabis banking legislation—and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) listed the reform as among the “priorities” as she heads into negotiations with the Senate.

New Mexico: As retail sales of adult-use cannabis began in New Mexico this month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who listed cannabis legalization as a top priority last year and called a special legislative session to get it done, was among the first in line when retail stores opened across the state. Consumers spent more than $2.7 million before stores closed the first day according to Grisham, and over the full opening weekend, adult-use sales ran to $5.2 million.

New Hampshire: A New Hampshire Senate committee took a historic step this month by approving a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana possession and cultivation for adults 21 and older.

This marks the first time that a cannabis legalization bill has moved through a Senate panel.

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