There are last minute preps going on at Housing Works Cannabis Company for a grand opening the likes of which even New York City hasn’t seen before.
That’s because it will be the first legal dispensary for recreational marijuana in New York to open on Thursday, marking a long-awaited launch of a marijuana industry that could become one of the country’s most lucrative.
“It is extremely surreal, there’s a lot going on,” said Sasha Nutgent, the retail sales manager at Housing Works. “I think it is an adjustment period, a lot of people are like, ‘Is this OK?’…But we are going to tell people it’s legal, everything has been tested.”
New York’s first legal dispensary for recreational marijuana is set to open Dec. 29. The opening of the Manhattan dispensary will mark the long-awaited launch of a cannabis industry that will certainly become one of the country’s most lucrative. NBC New York’s Andrew Siff reports.
Customers will find a range of prices and products, from $20 for an edibles container to a “flower” or plant — which you can roll into a joint — for between $40-$95. Cannabis vape kits will also sell for $95.
“All proceeds from purchases go back to fund our services and advocacy, which include housing, health care and people living with HIV and chronic illness,” Housing Works Creative Director Elizabeth Koke. “So many communities have suffered under cannabis criminalization.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Dec. 21 that Housing Works, a minority-controlled nonprofit in Manhattan that serves people with HIV and AIDS, will be the first of 36 recently licensed dispensaries to begin selling cannabis to the general public — even though dozens of illegal shops have been in operation for many months.
“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. “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 4,400-square foot corner building at Broadway and Astor Place, which used to be a Gap store, was the winner of the first location — the very first place in New York State where people can legally purchase recreational marijuana.
“They were just the first to get their paper in order there’s a bunch of others right behind them,” said Chris Alexander of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management.
The announcement was made one month after the state’s Cannabis Control Board took a monumental step in establishing a legal marketplace for marijuana by issuing the first round of licenses, in which it greenlit three dozen businesses. In the coming months, the state is expected to issue an additional 139 licenses, with about 900 applicants waiting to learn their fate.
“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,” Hochul said in her announcement.
New York legalized recreational use of marijuana in March 2021.
After plenty of legal red tape, New York will at last be capitalizing on recreational marijuana, after the first round of retail licenses distributed. NBC New York’s Andrew Siff reports.
Housing Works, which also serves homeless and formerly incarcerated people, was one of eight nonprofits among the initial licensees. The dispensary will be open every day starting Dec. 29, from 11 am to 7 pm It will start with a VIP opening in the morning, then begins with public sales in the afternoon.
“There’s definitely going to be a line, we are prepared with crowd control things in place,” said Nutgent.
“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,” said Charles King, chief executive officer of Housing Works.
The state reserved its first round of retail licenses for applicants with marijuana convictions or their relatives, plus some nonprofit groups. It also planned a $200 million public-private fund to aid “social equity” applicants.
But it has been a slow process to get legal weed off the ground, which has left dozens of cannabis growers (many upstate and in the Hudson Valley) in limbo. They’ve grown tons and tons of product, but had nowhere to sell it —until now.
“It’s a step in the right direction but practically for us it doesn’t mean much because it’s just one,” said Alex Keenan of Hudson River Kemp.
Growers have also been facing illegal competition from shops that have been selling marijuana even though the state hadn’t yet given the green light. State officials said consumers should not trust what they find at unlicensed trucks, bodegas or stands on the street.
“You wouldn’t go to a barber shop selling milk. You’d have questions about where that milk is coming from and how fresh it is,” said Alexander. “Not going into a bodega, where you don’t know what that product is — instead there’s a place where you have a tested and safer product.”
In a one-on-one interview with NBC New York, Mayor Eric Adams addressed the importance of the new legal marketplace.
“Cannabis — if it’s done correctly, we go after the illegal collection — then it’s an economic boost,” Adams said. “I think it’s a real win, but done correctly.”
State officials told NBC New York that other dispensaries, including locations in the other boroughs and around the state, can open in January.