Brooklyn Cannabis Dispensary Restores Biggie Mural After Backlash

Like an artistic resurrection, it was there, it was gone, and now it’s back. In the last week, the owners of the new Emerald Dispensary in Bushwick painted over a large mural depicting the late Brooklyn rap legend Biggie Smalls as a baby, which had watched over the corner of Suydam Street and Evergreen Avenue for years. After the mural’s covering drew immense anger both locally and online, the dispensary restored the painting in a “blast-off” event this Saturday, February 17.

Brooklyn street artist Huetek painted the B.I.G. mural on the side of 85 Suydam Street in late 2020, and it was an immediate hit. The tribute painting was loved by the community and left untagged throughout its three-year run. However, Emerald Dispensary owners Christina De Giovanni and Ray Roman mistakenly believed that the mural could violate the State’s Office of Cannabis Management’s (OCM) established advertising regulations and prevent them from opening their business on time.

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The dispensary owners used removable anti-graffiti paint in order to preserve Huetek’s mural, which peeks out slightly beneath the layer. (photo Elaine Velie/Hyperallergic)

“Regardless of the mural’s subject matter, we’re bound by the regulations set forth by the Office of Cannabis Management for the state of New York, which prohibits ANY artwork outside licensed retail stores,” said De Giovanni and Roman, according to Patch. Emerald Dispensary has not responded to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment.

Local residents who felt Baby Biggie’s absence immediately lamented both online and to local news outlets about what a loss it was for the community. Several threads on the Brooklyn subreddit took off, spawning debates about gentrification and culture versus abiding by the law.

Luckily, Emerald Dispensary had painted over the mural with black anti-graffiti paint in the hopes of working with the OCM to adjust the restrictions and get the mural back some day.

Though the negative attention dampened part of the business’s grand opening, it did lead to the OCM clarifying its terms on artwork and advertising. On February 15, the OCM issued a statement to News 12 indicating that “New York Cannabis Law does not regulate murals or artwork that don’t advertise a cannabis business or entice youth to enter an adult-use dispensary.”

Biggie’s Brooklyn fans can now rest assured that the mural will continue to overlook the Bushwick intersection for the foreseeable future.


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