Lawmakers buy New York’s first legal cannabis products

Customers are lining up in downtown Manhattan to take part in the historic moment as the state celebrates its first day of regulated adult sales.

New York’s first legal cannabis products were not sold to the average consumer. Chris Alexander and Tremaine Wright, the leaders of the state’s cannabis legalization effort, made the ceremonial first purchases just after 11 a.m. Thursday after a press conference at Housing Works, New York’s first legal adult weed store in Greenwich Village, NYC.

“It’s been a long road for us to get here. There were many pits and challenges. And many people didn’t think they’d hit their fourth-quarter goal for 2022, which was to open a store. I have to say Hallelujah, we are here.”

Tremaine Wright, Chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board(Meg Schmidt / Leafly)Tremaine Wright, Chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board (left) and Chris Alexander (right), Executive Director of the NY State Office of Cannabis Management on Thursday, December 29, 2022. (Meg Schmidt / Leafly)

Wright bought edible gummy bears, while Alexander snapped up gummy bears and an eighth of homegrown flowers. Alexander said he plans to roll up with papers later.

“For us, legalization was never just about liberating the plant. [We] recognized the early intersectionality of this issue, the way we could use this struggle to raise other voices. And not just major criminal justice reform [and] access to health care, but also [to] Make sure we create opportunities in new ways, prioritize, and repair damage – damage even caused by state policy.”

Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York Cannabis Office

Just in time

(Meg Schmidt / Leafly)(Meg Schmidt / Leafly)

Optimism and relief filled the air as regulators and lawmakers celebrated a successful opening day, held at just one retail location. When New York legalized adult-use cannabis in March 2021, the state promised an 18-month window until regulated adult weed stores opened.

Housing Works in one of eight nonprofits licensed to sell cannabis in New York. As such, it was the first physical location to open its doors, while other licensees continue to expand their brick-and-mortar storefronts and manage delivery-only services. Housing Works currently offers six brands including pre-rolled flowers from Lobo Cannagars and edibles from Florist Farms.

The state will continue to open more stores through 2023. No other licensed retailers have yet confirmed their opening dates. The Housing Works is closed on Thursday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm, after which doors open at 4:20pm for legal sales. The store expects more than 2,000 first-time buyers who have previously confirmed.

justice above all

(Meg Schmidt / Leafly)A little taste of New York’s first legally grown flower, grown by Florist Farms. (Meg Schmidt / Leafly)

Ahead of the celebratory launch sales, legislators and regulators shared their passions and vision for a just cannabis industry in New York.

“New York State is not the first state to introduce legalized cannabis,” said Mark Levine, president of the Manhattan Borough Bureau. “A few dozen went ahead of us. But we are the first state to build justice into the DNA of the program,” Levine said, before denouncing the failures of other states.

“Every single state that has done this before and paid lip service to this idea has had a rhetoric of justice. But when the program started, the big corporations ended up dominating. We can’t let that happen in New York, we won’t let that happen in New York, because of the leaders that are here, because of the way the program was designed.”

Mark Levine, President of the Manhattan Borough BureauCarlina Rivera as Meg Schmidt/Leafly

Carlina Rivera, New York City Councilwoman for Lower East Side Manhattan, observed the negative effects of cannabis criminalization in her community growing up. Now she’s thrilled to smoke legally while knowing that the profits go to benefit those who need it most.

“The day is finally here. I know many of us have been waiting. I mean, I’ve waited since I was a teenager.”

Carlina Rivera, New York City Councilwoman for Lower Eastside Manhattan

New York wants small cannabis brands to thrive

(Meg Schmidt / Leafly)

Current regulations governing the New York cannabis industry prohibit the presence of verticals in the emerging market. The state has expressed that it wants the legal cannabis industry to resemble the alcohol and wine markets, where small retailers choose the brands shoppers love and big corporations can’t buy undue influence like premium shelf space.

“It is extremely important that the first pharmacy is not a large corporate operator. It is run by a wonderful non-profit organization, Housing Works. So, the proceeds raised here will support her work for homeless New Yorkers, for New Yorkers ex-incarcerated, and for people living with HIV. That is justice.”

Mark Levine, President of the Borough of Manhattan

Ken, a Leafly fan from Houston, Texas, stood first in line outside Housing Works and smoked a bowl of green crack at 4:20 p.m. in anticipation of that first sale.

“I don’t trust my local weed dealers. They always tell me [there’s] so much pesticide and stuff on it,” Ken told Leafly between puffs while waiting in line. “I don’t have to worry about my lungs getting polluted. I’m cool with all the unregulated deals. It’s all good for me. But I’d like to go buy some shit, it doesn’t hurt. Colorado, it’s about 60 to 100 an ounce, so I’d like to see more of that here.

“I definitely prefer legal pharmacies because I like regulated stuff. I’m just cool when people do what they want. But my personal preference is if I can afford to be regulated, then by all means.”

Ken, who recently relocated to New York from Houston, Texas, and was the first to purchase legal weed from Housing Works.

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