Stay-at-home dad Kenneth Woodin’s cannabis dispensary in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village was first in line. He said he wanted to be part of history after he was arrested on marijuana charges in Houston, where he formerly lived.
After waiting more than four hours, he finally went in and bought two bags each filled with one-eighth ounces of suckable flowers called Gorilla Glue for about $90.
Such transactions used to take place out of sight. But sir. Woodin’s purchase Thursday came on the first day of recreational marijuana licensed sales since the state legalized recreational marijuana last year.
“It’s part of history,” Mr. Woodin, 33, said. “I don’t want to feel like a criminal anymore.”
Thursday’s sale at a dispensary run by Housing Works marks the start of the state’s transformation from decades of criminalizing marijuana to a sanctioned industry expected to generate $4 billion over the next five years.
The state passed an unprecedented law in March 2021 that prioritizes those adversely affected by the enforcement of marijuana laws for early business opportunities in the new industry. But the rollout has been slow, and until Thursday, consumers were unable to legally buy the products despite a plethora of illegal stores and vendors.
The atmosphere at the Housing Works Cannabis Co. dispensary at Broadway and East 8th Street is festive and triumphant. At the morning ceremony, activists cheered regulators and lawmakers as they delivered speeches to mark the day.
“New York is leading the way,” Chris Alexander, executive director of the Office of Cannabis Regulation and the dispensary’s first customer, said before the doors opened to the public at 4:20 p.m. That. That’s what we’re doing.”
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By noon, there was a line of customers that stretched from the corner storefront to Astor Place and Lafayette Street. Inside, a DJ plays upbeat tunes as guests enjoy hors d’oeuvres and fruity drinks. Store managers said they expected more than 2,000 visitors on Thursday and sold out on Saturday.
At 7 p.m., closing time, the store manager cut the line, and dozens of customers who were lucky enough to be cut were still inside the store an hour later waiting to buy their items.
Even as proponents finally celebrated the start of legal sales, the development of this new industry dragged on. Gov. Kathy Hochul had predicted 20 stores would open by the end of the year, but Housing Works Cannabis Co. would be the only one for a while.
More stores are expected to come online early next year, but resources promised to them by the state have fallen short and legal challenges have stalled progress in areas like Brooklyn and Buffalo.
In November, state regulators awarded 36 of the 175 available retail licenses to businesses owned by people convicted of state-level marijuana crimes and to nonprofits caught in the dragnet of drug enforcement. A non-profit organization that organizes services.
But the state failed to deliver on a promise to provide storefronts and start-up loans to the first 150 businesses to receive retail licenses, forcing regulators to ease some restrictions and businesses to revise their plans. Since the license was issued, regulators have said businesses can secure their locations and start deliveries before opening storefronts.
The New York State Housing Authority, a state agency tasked with securing locations and raising money to help finance leases and loans, has so far declined to say how much space it rents or how much money it raises.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, the lead sponsor of the Senate legalization bill, acknowledged that the state may need to make some changes to its marijuana program, but said delays are a natural part of the process, not a sign of failure.
“Who can start a major business without a hiccup?” she said. “I’m fine with hiccups because I still think we have the best car in the country. We’re going to get it up and running.”
Housing Works Cannabis offers products from six New York brands, ranging in price from $16 to $95. An eighth-ounce smokable pot costs between $40 and $60 before taxes, well above street prices but about the same as some illegal dispensaries.
Charles King, the president and chief executive of Housing Works, defended the higher prices, pointing to the safety of the product and where the tax goes.
“We don’t sell adulterated products,” he said.
gentlemen. Kim said he would like to bring more products, but the suppliers can’t sell him yet because their lab tests haven’t been completed.
Chief Operating Officer Andrew Greene said it was difficult to find the right space and a landlord willing to lease it to the pharmacy, and the 750 Broadway location — formerly a Gap location — was a last-minute find.
At the dispensary on Thursday, customers said they came for the big occasion and to check out the marijuana.
Peter Alba, 62, of Queens, said he wanted to show his support for the legal profession and even applied for a budget job at Housing Works earlier in the day. In the afternoon, he was waiting to make his first legal purchase. But he said his purchases didn’t quite replace the cheaper stuff he got from “my friend on the corner”.
“You’re going to charge me $80 for something I usually get for $40, and if it’s really good, you’re going to charge me $40,” he said. “But listen, I’m here. I don’t mind spending more A little money to pick some quality flowers, but that’s not the order of the day.”