Even jaded New Yorkers were excited as NYs first legal weed store opened in the city’s East Village last week.
People lining up for a special event is not an unusual sight on New York’s busy streets. But on Dec. 29, history was being made. NYs first legal weed store opened at Manhattan’s famous Astor Place.
The event had hundreds of people lining up hours before the 4:20 PM opening.
What Took You So Long?
New York has been having some hold ups with legal weed sales throughout the city. Although cannabis was legalized for adults last year, it took months for seller’s licenses to be awarded. This is because the state was taking a social equity standpoint prioritizing candidates who were affected by the war on drugs or whose business would give back to the community.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the nonprofit Housing Works, which is known for opening thrift and bookstores throughout the city and providing jobs and services to the unhoused as well as those dealing with HIV, AIDS and addiction, was the organization behind NYs first legal weed store.
Housing Works is a unionized shop, prioritizing people with prior marijuana convictions for employment. “We see the effects of drug criminalization every day,” said Housing works CEO Charles King. The organization also stated they have plans to launch a program to help “justice-involved” Individuals with drug convictions become licensed sellers.
Does NY Care About Legal Weed?
With all the hustle and bustle New York has to offer, it is no wonder that the residents have access to a thriving cannabis black market industry. So does anyone care about the opening of NYs first legal weed store? With over 2000 people lining up, the huge turnout is a positive sign.
“People were saying New Yorkers didn’t want legal weed. But for safe legal weed, New York will be the place to go,” said Trivette Knowles, spokesperson for the New York State Office of Cannabis Management.
However, it’s possible that it was the excitement of the event rather than its implications that had people waiting in-line. One man who traveled in from Ocean Hill, Brooklyn and was among the first to line up for the event, stated that he had no problem finding weed in the city, legal or not. His reason for coming? “Who doesn’t want to be a part of history?” he stated.
Also in attendance was Joe Pipe, AKA Concert Joe. The NYC resident who is known for making appearances at high profile events stated he wasn’t there to purchase, he was merely there to partake. He lined up with the many would- be customers that were smoking out as they waited for the shop to open. “I’m just here to smoke at 4:20.” he said.
About NYs First Legal Weed Store
Housing Works only had a few weeks to prepare for the grand opening. Their biggest challenge was finding brands that had tested product that could be counted on to provide the desired results.
In the end, they found only six brands with product to stock the store. However, they expect to be adding many more in the coming months. They also confirmed there would be enough stock to meet the demand.
“Part of the problem was the lab controls,” King said. “It’s important but very time consuming.”
And although there isn’t a wide selection among brands, the shop had over 100 different products available for the opening. They included flower, pet treats, pre-rolls, edibles, and drinks.
Prices range from $18 to $130 with 13% sales tax added. An eighth of an ounce was priced between $40 and $60 and a 1-gram pre-roll was listed at $18.
Sales are cash only for the time being although the organization is looking to add debit cards as an accepted form of payment at NYs first legal weed store. Regular hours will be from 4:20 PM to 7 PM. Customers must be 21 and over.
What Does the Future Hold?
The Housing Works store is one of many legal word stores opening in the city in the coming months. Three dozen businesses were granted licenses to sell recreational weed in NY in November.
It is hopeful that these shops will be able to beat out illegal competitors. Countless unauthorized cannabis shops have popped up all over the city since recreational weed was legalized in New York 21 months ago. Some of these are walking distance from NYs first legal weed store.
“We’re not selling adulterated products and we can’t say the same for them. We don’t sell to minors. We’re paying our taxes,” says King.
Implications of N.Y.’s First Legal Weed Store Opening
NYs first legal weed store opening and the legalizing of marijuana in general is not just about giving people the right to freely partake. It addresses New York’s reputation for the racially biased policing of marijuana.
According to ACLU research, marijuana is used equally by both black and white people. But black people have been four times more likely to be arrested to weed possession.
State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat representing the East Side, and a primary sponsor of the Marijuana Regulation Taxation Act, was one of the many city and state officials who spoke at the store opening event. She emphasized the role of NYs first legal weed store opening, and legalization in general, in reducing racial biases in cannabis criminalization.
“This is so critically important because it’s not about whether you’re going to use it or not. It’s about whether people who want to can do so without facing a criminal record,” she stated.
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