“People better pay attention and not sleep on us women,” says Britni Tantalo. “We know how to be moms and run businesses. And women are the largest growing consumer demographic for cannabis.”

Who Is Britni Tantalo, Co-Founder Of The New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA)?

As co-founder of the New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA, formerly the New York CAURD Coalition), Tantalo epitomizes the journey of those fighting for the plant in the Empire State. Born and raised in a small town upstate, she remembers being negatively targeted as one of the few mixed-race children in her neighborhood. When she was arrested for cannabis use as a teenager, it was published in the local paper, further ostracizing her.

“A big part of my pursuit in elevating women and women of color is because I experienced that in such a traumatic way,” Tantalo admits. 

Britni Tantalo, co-founder of the New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA). Courtesy of Britni Tantalo.

How Did NYCRA Start?

Today, Tantalo is an advocate, educator, and entrepreneur striving to create an equitable legal cannabis market in New York. Based in Rochester, she and her husband Jayson, a 25-year veteran of the legacy space, own the cultivation supplies store Flower City Hydroponics. But when the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced its Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) license for people criminalized by the War on Drugs, the couple knew they wanted more. 

Though they still have yet to be granted a license, the Tantalos formed the CAURD Coalition in late 2022 with Coss Marte of CONBUD and Jeremy Rivera of TerpBros. They wanted to unite all entrepreneurs in the legal market, providing resources and a community to aspiring retailers, cultivators and processors. Over the past year, the organization has connected 200-plus members, forged strategic ancillary partnerships that empower licensees - such as an ATM company whose cash solutions helped fill the gaps when MasterCard stopped all payment processing for cannabis businesses - and coordinated numerous support efforts as its community was devastated by the New York Supreme Court’s injunction. In the wake of the legal proceedings, which halted all CAURD operations, the Coalition recently rebranded as the NYCRA, embracing a vision for a more universal industry. 

Britni Tantalo On Bringing Upstate And Downstate New York Together

“We’re trying to provide access,” Tantalo states. “Cannabis is a real opportunity to completely change and revitalize my city. Rochester is extremely high in homicide and violent crime, and a lot of that is tied to poverty. The legal cannabis space and community reinvestment can do so much for smaller towns… New York City has great ambiance and [many] retailers now, but the majority of our cultivators and processors are upstate. I think it’s important that upstate and downstate work together synergistically for longevity. We are different environments, but we can learn together from a business perspective and make New York State cannabis stronger.”

Some of the NYCRA’s upcoming goals include a movement to codify CAURD through the State Senate, and to strengthen the positions of small social equity businesses that are facing a market which will soon see the entrance of large corporate operators. Tantalo also applauds the group’s Women’s Committee, chaired by Venus Rodriguez with co-chair Jillian Dragutsky, which promotes allyship among the industry’s female business owners - as she likes to say, “Collaboration over competition.” 

Courtesy of Britni Tantalo.

Britni Tantalo On Being A Woman In Cannabis

“My favorite thing about being a woman in cannabis is that I get to pursue something that heals people, whatever facet that might be,” Tantalo asserts. “I’ve also met some of my best friends, canna sisters, through this journey of legalization, when I’ve seen the times where there weren’t many women or welcoming spaces for them. When we show our unity, it encourages the younger generation and every other woman to be like, ‘Oh, they’re onto something.’ I have a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. I would love for my daughter to someday go into an industry where she didn’t have to combat others. I experienced that when I worked in corporate, where you realize you’re never going to be given the same access to things because you’re not a man.”

Recalling her own experiences, Tantalo also thinks of her mother, who passed unexpectedly two years ago. “She was in the construction industry and broke a lot of glass ceilings. That’s a big part of who I am, and why my heart is so full of helping and seeing other women as allies. It all comes from how my mother raised me, how she treated people with compassion, and it’s my only way to honor her.” 

That compassion is Tantalo’s greatest hope for New York’s legal industry, and why she still fights for everyone harmed by prohibition to reclaim their power. “We’re all human,” she notes. “If we really got to know everybody, we’re all similar people. We can’t forget that.”

For more about Britni Tantalo and the NYCRA, follow @newyorkcannabisretailassociation on Instagram, or fill out the form linked here to onboard as an NYCRA member.

*A version of this article originally appeared in Honeysuckle's 17th print edition, featuring Havoc of Mobb Deep. Get your copy now at dispensaries nationwide or click here to order!

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Britni Tantalo

New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA)

Jayson Tantalo

Coss Marte


Jeremy Rivera

Venus Rodriguez

Jillian Dragutsky


Featured image: Britni Tantalo, co-founder of the New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA). Courtesy of Britni Tantalo.