Legal fight playing out over plans for cannabis dispensary in Harlem

CeFaan Kim Image
Friday, April 28, 2023
Legal fight playing out over plans for dispensary in Harlem
To sell weed, or not to sell weed? That's the big question at the center of a lawsuit looking to block plans for a legal cannabis dispensary in Harlem. CeFaan Kim has the story.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- To sell weed, or not to sell weed? That's the big question at the center of a lawsuit looking to block plans for a legal cannabis dispensary in Harlem.

Smack dab in the middle of 125th Street, in the heart of Harlem, across from the Apollo Theater sits a grey empty storefront surrounded by the hustle and bustle.

But soon it may be booming after it becomes the state's latest cannabis dispensary.

The Harlem Business Improvement District is not a fan however and is now suing the state to revoke the license. Residents have mixed opinions.

"That's the worst thing they can do," Harlem resident Brenda Balthazar said. "Like right now a lot of things are happening on the train, and not only on the train but in neighborhoods."

"I feel like it'll do good," Harlem resident Britney said. "It's two fifth. Everything is lit over here. You got the Apollo. It's very busy over here."

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"There's always been for certain disenfranchised communities this feeling that you can put anything in the neighborhood," Harlem resident Yolanda Sealey Ruiz said.

The Harlem BID isn't opposed to a dispensary in Harlem. It is though, opposed to this location, arguing it will harm the well-being of children.

The Lazarus Children's Clothing Store two doors down doesn't want it here. But the owner of the tattoo parlor right next door is all for it.

"It's going to bring more business to the area," business owner Nathaniel Rodriguez said. "At the end of the day we are here to make money. So, if you want to boost the economy, bring in other people from other places to buy marijuana from right here, it's going to bring more business to these small mom and pops right here."

The lawsuit argues the dispensary would violate the law by being within 500 feet of school grounds, and 47 businesses it says that serve or cater to children, including the Touro College a few doors down which conducts high school classes.

"The bottom line is children are going to find what they're going to find but there's no reason to put it right in front of their doors and make it easy," Ruiz said.

Others say while the location may not be ideal, at least they hope a licensed dispensary will ID minors.

"There's still dispensaries everywhere else. Even close to schools," Harlem resident Bridgette Hickson said. "Even to the point where the little bodegas and the little shops where we get our bacon egg and cheese from also sell to them."

The BID instead recommends putting the dispensary inside the state-owned Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Plaza just half a block away, saying it can utilize its own state public safety resources without draining additional resources that the BID or city would have to commit.


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