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New York’s First Recreational Marijuana Shop Will Open Next Week, Governor Announces

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The governor of New York announced on Wednesday that the first adult-use marijuana sales in the state will take place next week, fulfilling regulators’ pledge to launch the recreational market by the year’s end.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said that the first cannabis storefront, which will be located in Manhattan, will start serving adult consumers 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,” the governor said in a press release. “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.”

Housing Works, a non-profit organization that provides HIV/AIDS services, will be the first in the state to start recreational marijuana sales. It’s one of 36 organizations to receive Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary License (CAURD), which were approved by the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) late last month.

“At our core, we’re a healing community dedicated to providing housing, healthcare and vocational programs for New Yorkers,” Housing Works CEO Charles King said. “This opportunity will not only give our team the resources to further our overall mission, but to feature and elevate products coming from LGBTQ+, BIPOC and women-led cannabis brands across the state.”

Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) Executive Director Chris Alexander separately announced the December 29 opening at a CCB meeting on Wednesday. He’s repeatedly talked about the state’s plans to launch adult-use sales this year.

“Not only have we ended the prohibition in New York, but we’re showing the nation, and the world, how to build a market that’s truly equitable and inclusive, and works to undo the harms caused by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” Alexander said. “Every dollar spent in this growing industry will help support independent businesses, our schools, and our communities.”

The dispensary will be 4,400 square feet in an “iconic building” at 1 Astor Place. Housing Works Cannabis Co “will welcome patrons with an introductory shopping experience upon opening, with plans to carefully build out an expanded and thoughtfully curated space as cannabis products become more available,” the press release says.

In addition to that announcement, regulators also approved additional marijuana cultivator and processor licenses at Wednesday’s meeting.

The retailer opening represents a key fulfilled promise for the administration, which has emphasized the importance to establishing a regulated market that puts equity front and center.

That said, questions are already being raised about potential federal ramifications related to having non-profits sell adult-use cannabis, with at least one lawyer arguing in a column for New York Upstate that it could jeopardize their 501(c)(3) status that makes them tax exempt.

“I’m excited that a non-profit like Housing Works, with its support for formerly incarcerated individuals, will lead the way with sales,” CCB Chairwoman Tremaine Wright said. “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.”

New York Sen. Liz Krueger (D), who championed legalization in the legislature, said that she’s “gratified to see the start of the adult retail cannabis sales, and that Housing Works will be launching the first store.”

“Their decades of work with marginalized communities make them a perfect partner in the effort to ensure that New York’s Cannabis market provides meaningful opportunities to those most impacted by the failed cannabis criminalization policies of the past,” she said.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), who also led the fight to pass legalization, said that today’s “historic announcement is a monumental development in establishing a cannabis economy in New York centered on justice and equity as envisioned by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and the Seeding Opportunity Initiative.”

“I am excited for Housing Works and the other justice involved individuals and non-profits that will soon be opening their doors to the public for the purchase of safe and reliable cannabis products,” she said. “This initial completion of New York’s first home grown cannabis supply chain is just the beginning of what is sure to become a thriving and equitable new industry.”

Last week, Hochul separately unveiled a marijuana business and product verification tool, with plans to post a QR code on licensed cannabis retailers and a universal symbol label for authorized cannabis products.

Officials also recently selected 10 teams of firms to build out about 150 turn-key storefront facilities for social equity marijuana retailers to operate out of once the market officially launches.

Most of the newly licensed business will be run by justice-involved people who’ve been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, while others will be operated by nonprofit organizations that have a history of helping people reenter society after having been incarcerated.

Meanwhile, Hochul signed a bill late last month aimed at expanding the state’s hemp market by promoting collaborative partnerships to identify more opportunities to utilize the crop and its derivatives for packaging, construction and other purposes.

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