(CTN News) – More than a year after the state legalized marijuana and amid delays in creating the legal market to aid those formerly imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses, the first licensed marijuana shop in New York finally opened its doors on Thursday.
A non-profit dedicated to battling AIDS and homelessness, Housing Works founded the dispensary in New York City’s East Village.
The state granted a marijuana retail license to the non-profit organization last month, making it one of the first 36 organizations or people to get one.
Inside a packed press conference held at the shop, Chris Alexander, the first executive director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, said, “We’re prioritizing correcting damage, the harm that’s ever been done by the state’s own rules.”
It’s no coincidence that a disproportionate number of Black, Latino, or Latina inmates are locked up for narcotics possession and selling.
When New York lawmakers legalized marijuana in March 2021, they stipulated that licensed retailers could only sell it to adults over the age of 21 and that the first licenses would be given to businesspeople who had previously been arrested or convicted for marijuana-related offenses.
This gave them an advantage over corporate retailers in the lucrative market. Retailers are also limited to selling marijuana grown and processed by approved New York growers.
In its early promises, New York said that it would provide ready-to-open storefronts and business loans for the first licensees and that non-profit organizations that assist formerly imprisoned individuals, like Housing Works, may be eligible for certain licenses. But the procedure took longer than anticipated.
In the meanwhile, a grey market has grown, with unlicensed dealers selling cannabis illegally out of shops and slickly branded trucks all across New York City.
Democratic mayor Eric Adams has said that unlicensed merchants would not be accepted.
Marijuana is Still Illegal
The state’s director of marijuana, Alexander, said that municipal and state law enforcement had been informing gray-market merchants about the licensing requirements, sending them cease-and-desist letters as a result, and, more recently, confiscating goods.
The fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law while being fully authorized in 20 other states might make it difficult for sellers to get business loans and other banking services.
Some of the smokable flower, which goes for $20 to $30 for an eighth of an ounce (or 3.5g), and the pre-rolled joints at Housing Works is made from marijuana that was grown by Florist Farms in Cortland in upstate New York.
The co-founder of the farm, Karli Miller-Hornick, said this would revolutionize their business. “We’ll be able to employ additional employees.”
The 13.5% tax on marijuana sales in New York will fund public housing, schools, addiction treatment centers, and mental health services.
On Thursday, the East Village’s Peggy Pliscott, a 50-year-old hairstylist, celebrated opening the dispensary.
People can support themselves, she remarked. “What people need may be lawfully purchased. It seems to be a win-win situation.”
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