Since the beginning of New York State’s Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) license program, the cannabis industry has been familiar with the New York CAURD Coalition (NYCC). The organization seeks to be a force in creating the future of the state’s equitable and inclusive cannabis marketplace. Founded by husband-and-wife team Jayson and Britni Tantalo of Flower City Hydroponics and Coss Marte of CONBUD, NYCC has quickly become a staple of community resources for those looking to learn more about licensing.
Official Free-To-Attend Event Celebrating Rebranding As New York Cannabis Retail Association
But on Friday, October 27th, NYCC will officially rebrand as the New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA), launching its “new look” in a fundraiser at AlphaRoot in Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood. The event is completely free to attend, and features complimentary drinks, plus raffles and recruiting opportunities, but guests do have to register before arrival. (Click the link here to reserve your spot!)
“We are dedicated to fighting for the rights of retailers and making sure their voices are heard,” the soon-to-be NYCRA team says. “All the contributions from this event will be allocated towards hiring a lobbyist who will be [an] advocate for our cause. One of the things we strongly believe in is collaboration over competition. We believe that by working together, we can achieve great things. And that’s why we want to invite everyone, from all walks of life, to attend this event. Your presence and support will make a difference.”
Who's Sponsoring The New York Cannabis Retail Association Rebranding Event?
So come on down to the NYCRA party! Honeysuckle is proud to be a media partner for the event, which is features sponsors AlphaRoot, Airo Brands, Ayrloom, Staack, Eureka, StupidDope, Honest Pharm Co, Veterans Choice Creations, Zenco Payments, Seibold Security, Flower Guys, LeafLink, Aeterna, Serenity, Dutchie, Heavy Hitters, and Jetty Extracts.
An Interview With New York Cannabis Retail Association Co-Founder Jayson Tantalo
We caught up with the organization’s co-founder Jayson Tantalo for more about what New Yorkers can expect from the NYCRA.
HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: How would you describe the mission of the NYCC/NYCRA and what inspired you to create the organization?
JAYSON TANTALO: Our mission has always been to educate our members and to give them access to resources directly through the business relationships we developed. Last year in Queens, my wife Britni and I met Coss Marte, and after submitting our applications, all three of us found a massive gap in the communication between [New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management] and the CAURD applicants.
From this point it was our mission to find as many of us CAURD applicants to just gather data. What type of data? Well, we wanted to know what the person's application number was and if they [had] heard from OCM with regards to their applications. Once we realized that ZERO information being released from OCM, we just knew something didn't seem right. Literally three weeks later [in November 2022], OCM was hit with an injunction and was forced to stop processing anyone's applications in the five forbidden regions. While the majority [waited] for the first lawsuit to start and finish, this allowed us the time we needed to organize and continue to help build out our members. Not only was there a gap between communication with the regulators, but there were so many other obstacles we faced. Once we realized our problems were bigger than all of us, that's when we started sharing resources. For example, I started sharing my business plan, then others started contributing to the pile of resources not far after.
The journey of legal cannabis has been one crazy road and when we realized that the regulators were betting against us and our coalition, that's when we decided to pivot yet again. Back in June I was told that people in Albany were talking and the chair of the [state’s Cannabis Control Board] was recruiting and lobbying for someone to create a retail association. That's when we called our team and said we need to expand immediately. Once the board approved the expansion, the plan was set into place. From that point we knew we had some serious challenges ahead of us. But the type of people we are, this was a breeze and pivoting to an association wouldn't be that hard to accomplish. In January a friend referred me to Columbia Law. We used them the first time, but I wasn't sure they would help again but… “if you don't ask you can't receive.” They issued us a law student a second time, from NYU. The resources people are willing to give just reminds me that the work we're all doing isn't just for us, it's actually setting up a foundation for others who enter the market for years to come.
Now that New York licensing is open to the public, what is the aim of rebranding from NYCC to the NYCRA?
The thing is, just because we're CAURD doesn't mean that's who we really are; that's the name they gave us. We knew the name would have to change, but we didn't know that it would be before even 95 percent [of licensees] got to execute a store. We knew that the coalition was just a classification of licenses and there were going to be much more to this game then just CAURD. We always knew that we were going to have to protect the retailers, especially when there was zero protection for us even till this very day. I mean, look how CAURD was never codified into statute [AKA law]. If you look at the [Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act, New York’s Cannabis Law], you have all of these classifications and protections, but someone just forgot to mention anything about us retailers. You have other organizations helping fight for their tier in the supply chains and then you have those who are helping consult with OCM, but somewhere they completely left out the most important tier. And that's the retailers! No seat or voice on the CCB, no seat or voice on the [Cannabis Advisory Board], no true guidance from anyone in our own state… You have OCM hiring outside nonprofits teaching licensees how to be retailers… This shit can't be fabricated!
New York State completely failed at this rollout, and we as retailers must be seen and heard as one. By changing our organization from a coalition to an association, this allows anyone from the outside to feel welcome!
What resources does NYCRA provide for its members?
What we have done is kind of unique. We don't charge our members monthly or yearly dues; we have strategic partners who pay into our organization through a business model that helps our organization financially. This model also allows our members to use our partnerships to their advantage, by allowing our members to have select pricing on services from our partners. It's my goal as Vice President of Operations and as a prospective retailer to build opportunities for my members to gain margins back from the deals we strike.
How it works is this… If you are a member and you need insurance or banking, then you can jump into our access portal and find those types of partners directly from your phone. You don't need to email anyone, because literally the business is already sitting on the other end waiting for you to reach out to them. Another great pivot we implemented was when MasterCard stopped all payments [to cannabis businesses], we teamed up with an ATM company to provide cash services in-house. Not only was that deal imperative, but now the retailer will get paid on every transaction as well. We are building so many relationships with companies ancillary to cannabis it's hard to keep track.
What will the NYCRA’s rebranding fundraiser support?
Back in May we teamed up with a gentleman named Vincent Marrone; this kind man helped our organization fight for a bill in Albany literally for free. The bill we lobbied for was called the CAUTA s7045, a bill to help get the CAURD program codified and much more. Now that we are in such a crucial time and so many unknowns are floating, it's time we call on all of our supporters to help fund our lobbying efforts in Albany this [coming] January. Normally services like this can range from $60K to $250K just depending on who you ask, but Vincent said, “Jayson, you tell me what you can afford to give and whatever it is it will be better than last time.”
Not only will we be looking to pay Vince, but during this event we plan on announcing our expanded board of directors. We have some really great people who are going to add extreme value to the organization and we are calling anyone who wants to get involved to come join us. We believe strongly in “You are who you chill with,” so why not come chill with the people who have been working their asses off to help fight for the right to sell legal bud! Even if you don't feel comfortable meeting new people, this is fine! Please understand that not everyone started off confident in this space, but with our family support we know those who enter our world will have a much greater understanding than just trying to follow someone on social media.
What is your hope for the next phase of New York's cannabis industry?
To be honest it's really hard to say anything with regards to the next phases of [the New York] cannabis industry. This market is so volatile and the regulators are so unpredictable we don't know what to expect, but as invested stakeholders it's our job to stay ahead of regulations and try to find ways to be successful in such turmoil. However, if I'm looking at the glass half-full, I would hope that the next phase of legal cannabis sees true equity and those who are stuck in judicial interference will be able to exit successfully and move according to their plans.
How else can people support NYCRA?
People who want to support our movement can send a small donation to our GoFundMe using this link. https://www.gofundme.com/f/donate-capital-to-sustain-the-integrity-of-retail?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer
To register for and onboard to the NYCRA, you can fill out the form linked here.
You can register for the New York Cannabis Retail Association’s rebranding fundraiser event through Eventbrite. The event is free to all, includes complimentary beverages, and takes place on Friday, October 27, 2023 6PM to 10PM at AlphaRoot, 114 East 25th Street in New York City. For more information, visit newyorkcaurdcoalition.org or follow @nycannabisretailassociation on Instagram.
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Featured image: (C) New York Cannabis Retail Association