It's a dynamic time to be a cannabis consumer - and entrepreneur - in New York City. The Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) has legalized cannabis throughout New York State, and this week NYC's Mayor Eric Adams announced the launch of the city government's small business support initiative for the industry. Called Cannabis NYC, this suite of services to support the equitable growth of the cannabis industry will be housed at the Office of Small Business Services (SBS) and will include numerous projects to address cannabis workforce development, technical assistance, and sustainable economic opportunities for employers and employees alike.
But the biggest news of this week for cannabis pros? The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has officially opened the application portal for Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary licenses! Known as the CAURD license, this first category of retail licenses will go to New York applicants who have cannabis convictions or are directly related to people with cannabis convictions. (Are you eligible to apply? Find out here.)
This further step toward an operational regulated market is huge. Now it's got veteran cannabis professionals, like creator Ken Ahbus, wondering: "Am I the only person in NYC not selling weed?"
Am I The Only One In NYC Not Selling Weed?
In 2022 New York City smells like a combination of roasted nuts, piss, garbage, the best food you’ll ever have, and most importantly marijuana.
I moved (back) to New York in March of 2021 after a 7-year hiatus. I drove from Denver to New York the week that cannabis legalization was signed into law through the MRTA, and I want to think I had a hand in that.
I was walking down the street last week when suddenly it occurred to me.
Am I the only one in NYC that isn’t selling weed!?! Because it seems like I’m the only one not selling weed right now.
Who Is Selling Weed in NYC?
While technically a no-no, the NYPD has turned a very blind eye to cannabis sales in NYC. Adult use licensing has begun, but we are currently in that lame duck period before sales are legally allowed. Soon you’ll be able to legally purchase cannabis in lots of places throughout New York City if you are 21+. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on weed at many places around the city. If that sounds confusing, let’s go through some of the ways cannabis is being sold in NYC while I try not to be a narc.
Cities like New York cannot function without delivery. New Yorkers want their cannabis delivered just like they want their pad thai delivered. You can’t walk more than a block without seeing a sticker with a QR code that links to a menu for delivery or a phone number to text. Personally, I prefer to vet my delivery services from friends, but if you are without a plug, scanning one of these QR codes might not be a terrible option.
In NYC (yes, boroughs count) there are currently 12 dispensaries where you can get legal cannabis if you are a medical cannabis patient. That’s it. These dispensaries aren’t selling adult use yet and will not until the state says they can.
I like to tell people that they can find cannabis in the squares of NYC. Union, Washington, Times, and Madison Squares all have a high probability of having cannabis vendors. Usually, they have a little table to display their goods near the entrance or if there are other vendors next to them. The days of someone whispering, “Hey, you want some bud?’ are gone. We’re out in the open now.
Without statistical evidence, I suspect that half of bodegas sell cannabis, especially those in young, nightlife areas. Just ask the clerk for a pre-roll and if they don’t have any, just move on to the next bodega.
With an ever-growing number of headshops are opening up in hopes of getting a license, some headshops are saying “fuck it” and selling weed anyway. I have a lot of thoughts on these new headshops – they all look alike, are overpriced and all go after the same demographic. I predict a lot of these newer headshops will close shortly after all the dispensary licenses are given out in New York because the market doesn’t need a headshop on every corner.
There are a number of trucks parked in populated areas in NYC that sell cannabis. I won’t name them by name, except for Weed World. Fuck Weed World. Stay away from them. Everyone but Weed World is okay in my book. From a business standpoint, I like these trucks because they have low overhead and are great for the New Yorker on the go. Sometimes going into a store is too much and New Yorkers want to get their cannabis like they get their street food.
Go to Eventbrite or EventHi or type into Google “cannabis events in NYC,” and you can make your social calendar the envy of socialites everywhere. Typically there is an entrance fee to the event, which will then have vendors from whom you can make a separate purchase. I’ve also been to events in which the entrance fee includes a nice gift bag so you don’t have to make an extra purchase. In NYC you can find everything from a weed comedy show to a weed Broadway show to a weed-infused pizza party.
You may see a place that looks like a dispensary. Unless it’s on the official Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) list, it’s an underground, grey-market, whatever you want to call it storefront. They say they operate on loopholes; I say they operate because the state is too lazy to shut them down. In my opinion, they are attracting the wrong attention and I’ve never purchased from one.
Consumption clubs typically operate on a monthly membership fee. Members get access and discounts on products. Unlike fake dispensaries, these places try to keep a low profile. Some have storefronts where you use a code. Others are tucked away in commercial high rises. A number of these clubs will be going for consumption licenses with the state.
So yeah, everybody is selling weed but me :(
Ken Ahbus is a New Yorker that loves cannabis and the drama of the industry. He sells clothing sometimes.
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Featured image: (C) Oto Godfrey, courtesy of Creative Commons