Legally Buying Weed in NYC For the First Time: A Cannabis Entrepreneur's Experience
On Thursday, December 29, 2022, Housing Works Cannabis Co opened at 750 Broadway in Lower Manhattan as New York City's first adult-use legal dispensary. The inaugural celebration included a star-studded press conference with government officials and a crowd of thousands around the block. We've shown you the highlights from the launch and speakers' remarks - but what was it like for the consumers waiting hours just to enter the store?
Cannabis creator Ken Ahbus decided to find out. Read on to learn what one of our favorite cannabis entrepreneurs experienced in the smoky, plant-loving throng on that momentous day.
The Opening of New York's First Legal Adult-Use Cannabis Dispensary
If you told me that I would willingly wait outside in line for multiple hours on a late December day, I would have laughed at your face. I never understood the people that waited outside for an iPhone or a pair of sneakers for hours and hours just to be one of the first to make a purchase. There’s a reason why my family never went to theme parks together; we don’t do waiting well.
Despite this, I found myself surrounded by thousands of people on a temperate December day in New York City waiting on the sidewalk outside of Housing Works Cannabis Co, the brand-new dispensary at Broadway and Eighth Street. All of us with the goal of purchasing cannabis on the first day of legal sales in New York state. To quote George W. Bush, “Mission: Accomplished!”
Waiting in Line for Housing Works Cannabis Co: 4:20PM
My dumb ass thought I could arrive in line at 3:45pm for a 4:20pm opening. Before I left my apartment, I told my dog that I would be back by 6pm. I was certain that I would be in and out.
I wanted to cry when I walked from the back of the line to the front of the store to check out what sort of queue I was getting myself into.
“It’ll move fast,” I said to myself as I walked to the back of the line. And while it didn’t move fast, the journey to the front of the line was fun. I arrived alone, but it wasn’t too long until I had a few new and old friends surrounding me. While I’m in the industry, I noticed a lot of the people there were just consumers of the plant. It was a great reminder that so many diverse people share a love of cannabis.
In line, there was a constant stream of smoke from vapes, joints, blunts. I think I even saw a few people bring their own bongs to use in the line. While no one told us no, it wasn’t until we were near the front of the line that staff caught us and asked us not to consume in front of the store. Happy to oblige with that!
What If You Get the Munchies Waiting in Line For New York's First Adult-Use Dispensary? 6PM
By 6pm we moved, but I could still see our starting location. I had so many questions running through my head. What if we don’t get in? What if they run out of products? What if we ordered Shake Shack and ate it in line? Which is exactly what we did. We ordered Shake Shack and ate it while waiting in line.
The burgers were the sustenance we needed to continue along with our journey on this snail-like line. When we rounded the corner to the street where Housing Works Cannabis Co is located, we could see the prize. That prize was so close, yet so far away.
Housing Works Cannabis Co: Will There Be Enough Room? 7PM
At 7pm, however, there were some rumblings of trouble. Staff started to tell people in the line that unfortunately, not everyone would be served today. They would have to close soon because of their agreement with the community. There are pros and cons to opening at 4:20pm. One of the pros is that everyone knows what 420 means. The con to opening at 4:20pm is that you don’t have a lot of time to sell weed if you have to close at 7:30pm.
There were dozens of reporters onsite talking to customers and people waiting in line. My little crew and I were even interviewed a few times by TV and news reporters. Maybe you’ll see me on TV or in print!
Making History Inside Housing Works Cannabis Co: 7:30PM
At around 7:30, one of the main staff members came up to the line right next to my group. He said, “If you are behind here, I’m sorry; we will not be able to serve you tonight.”
We just made it! While a few more people squeezed in behind us, most of the line was sent home and asked to return the next day (or better, pre-order so they don’t have to wait in line).
After the back of the line was sent home, we waited outside in line for a little while longer and then we went inside. Finally! Where we waited in another line. But this was the last line! And we were inside!
It wasn’t until I was inside that it all hit me. How historic this day was. How incredible the Housing Works team’s operations had been. How just a few months ago we barely had any regulations for our state’s legal cannabis industry. Kudos to the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) for working to ensure that legal cannabis in NYC happened in 2022.
I got to buy weed legally in New York on the first day that it was possible. I might even tell my grandkids that one day! “In my day, I waited for four hours for one marijuana.”
The inside of the Housing Works Cannabis Co store was clean, with white walls that featured some splashes of color via wall art. “Make love not drug war” was plastered on the walls and their tote bags. In one corner they had some accessories from New York-based companies like House of Puff and Honeysuckle, and the New Jersey-based Buy Weed From Women. They also had some devices like the Dipper from Dip Devices, a solid concentrate device for people who are afraid of butane, like me.
At long last, I was called to one of the half-dozen registers. They had their menu printed at the service area, along with a glass case of samples. Prices included tax, which I appreciated. There’s no worse surprise than owing more to the tax man. I got myself a preroll pack from Florist Farms, thanked the staff, and was on my merry way.
Four hours is indeed a long time to wait for weed, but I’d be willing to bet that you’ve waited a long time for weed at some point in your life. I was exhausted and cold, but at least I took part in history.
Next time I’ll pre-order :)
Ken Ahbus is a New Yorker that loves cannabis and the drama of the industry. He sells clothing sometimes. For more information, visit kenahbus.com.
For more information on Housing Works Cannabis Co, visit @housingworkscannabis on Instagram. To learn more about Housing Works’ advocacy, programs, and other stores, visit housingworks.org.
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New York State Office of Cannabis Management
Sam C. Long
Featured image: The line to get into Housing Works Cannabis Co spanned the entire block and was several thousand people long (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture