Manhattan's 3rd legal marijuana dispensary opens amid NYC crackdown

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Manhattan's 3rd legal marijuana dispensary opens amid crackdown
Hundreds of smoke shops in New York City were put on notice Tuesday they could face eviction for illegal cannabis sales. Kemberly Richardson has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City's third legal recreational marijuana dispensary opened Monday as the city continues efforts to crack down on illegal marijuana sales.

The new dispensary is called Union Square Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store located at 62 East 13th Street. It's owned by the non-profit the Doe Fund which works with people who have prior marijuana convictions.

New York State is prioritizing giving dispensary licenses to nonprofits and to those with prior marijuana convictions. In fact, the last dispensary to open on Bleeker Street is owned by someone with a prior conviction.

Another legal Manhattan dispensary will open in the next few months.

Governor Kathy Hochul says it's an initiative that'll create jobs for people who've been disproportionately targeted.

The new store opened at noon to customers. The only other legal marijuana shop outside of the city in New York State opened in Binghamton at 4:20 p.m. Monday.

Mar Fitzgerald is chair of Cannabis Licensing.

"They went and said here is what we are doing, how can we come into the neighborhood and be a partner, come in and operate as a benefit to the neighborhood," Fitzgerald said.

They want to counter what is unfolding inside illegal shops. The goal is to squeeze them out and open more regulated licensed operations.

Officials say they'll be keeping a close eye on the shops to make sure all regulations are being followed.

"The way we're running the dispensaries, there's going to be a buffer between each one. So you're not going to get what you have here with five or six of them lined up in the same street. They're all going to be separated, you can't see through the windows, you're going to have security measures, they're going to be carding everybody, and you'll lose your license if you sell to someone under 21. So what we're seeing now is that transferring period between people abusing the system as we work to shut them down and the new dispensaries coming online," said Axel Bernabe, Office of Cannabis Commission.

Authorities estimate there are about 1,400 shops in the city without a license.

Mayor Eric Adams said unregulated smoke shops have become magnets for robberies and often sell products laced with other drugs.

Some neighbors say the legal dispensaries are not being put in diverse neighborhoods, but under the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, a farm-to-store model, roughly 200 additional dispensaries could open up across the state.

"There are no limits in the New York Cannabis law so it's really going to be driven by the market demand," said Tremaine Wright with the New York Sate Cannabis Control Board.

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