New York Governor Announces Start of Recreational Weed Sales

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul hailed the start of the state’s retail adult-use cannabis market on Wednesday, announcing the first retail recreational dispensary will open next week in Manhattan’s East Village.
New York

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday that regulated sales of recreational marijuana will begin in the state next week with the opening of a licensed retail shop in Manhattan. The dispensary, which will be operated by Housing Works, the nation’s largest minority-controlled HIV/AIDS service organization and largest community-based HIV/AIDS service organization, will begin serving customers at its East Village location in New York City on December 29.

“We set a course just nine months ago to start New York’s adult-use cannabis market off on the right foot by prioritizing equity, and now, we’re fulfilling that goal,” Hochul said in a statement from the governor’s office. “The industry will continue to grow from here, creating inclusive opportunity in every corner of New York State with revenues directed to our schools and revitalizing communities.”

The opening of the dispensary fulfills a pledge to launch retail sales of recreational marijuana in the state before the end of the year. The New York State legislature legalized adult-use cannabis last year with the passage of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which was signed into law by former governor Andrew Cuomo on March 31, 2021. The launch of sales is also a milestone for Hochul’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which she announced in March to guide the rollout of New York’s regulated cannabis industry.

The initiative was designed to fulfill the goals of the MRTA “by building an adult-use cannabis industry that offsets the harms resulting from the disproportionate impact of cannabis prohibition.” Under the plan, 280 family farmers have been licensed to cultivate cannabis to provide safe, lab-tested products for New York’s regulated recreational marijuana economy. 

First Retail Licenses in New York Issued Last Month

The Seeding Opportunity Initiative also reserved the first 150 Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses for individuals with past marijuana-related convictions and nonprofit groups serving those harmed by prohibition. The state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) issued the initial 36 licenses to 28 individuals and 8 nonprofit groups last month.

To qualify for a CAURD license, nonprofits also need to have at least one justice-involved board member and create vocational opportunities for those with a conviction for a marijuana-related offense. Housing Works has served justice-involved New Yorkers since its inception in 1990 through direct services and advocacy initiatives. The group’s Justice Initiative tailors the non-profit’s services to meet the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals, including those with marijuana convictions.

“I’m excited that a non-profit like Housing Works, with its support for formerly incarcerated individuals, will lead the way with sales,” said Tremaine Wright, chairwoman of the New York Cannabis Control Board, the state’s cannabis regulatory body. “The start of sales through the Seeding Opportunity Initiative is just the beginning of the robust ecosystem we’re building – the equitable and inclusive market will grow from here with supports throughout to ensure licensees are able to overcome barriers and build this new industry.”

The Housing Works Cannabis Co. dispensary storefront is located at 750 Broadway in the Astor Place neighborhood of the East Village. Spanning 4,400 square feet, the iconic building known as 1 Astor Place was completed in 1883. The new business will welcome patrons with an introductory shopping experience when the dispensary opens next week, with plans to build out an expanded space as cannabis products become more available. All proceeds from dispensary sales will be directed to the parent organization Housing Works.

Brian Vicente, a founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, lauded the progress being made on the rollout of adult-use cannabis in the Empire State. 

“New York continues to blaze a bold trail with its novel approach to adult use implementation,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times. “Allowing Housing Works to make New York’s historic first legal cannabis sales is a stroke of genius, fulfilling the state’s goal of opening adult-use access before 2023 and honoring its commitment to promoting social equity businesses.”

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