Last December, New York’s first legal cannabis dispensary opened its doors in Greenwich Village. Now, close to a year later, there are still just 11 licensed dispensaries in the city and only 27 statewide.
That number could soon spike dramatically.
“This is a significant moment,” said Chris Alexander, the executive director of the state Office of Cannabis Management.
During a brief emergency meeting Monday, the Cannabis Control Board, the state’s oversight body, approved a settlement in a lawsuit that had effectively blocked the legal industry from moving forward for months.
It was welcome news for those with retail licenses, some of whom were ready to open months ago and have taken a huge financial hit.
“We do not have external investors at this time, so everything’s been financed out of our family savings, for myself and my partners,” said David Nicponski, a licensee who plans to open a dispensary, Freshly Baked NYC, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. “So it has been exceedingly stressful for the last four months.”
“We’ve been paying employees,” said John Ruggiero, who has been unable to open his fully built-out dispensary, Elevate Cannabis, in Mount Vernon. “We had groups of people ready to work, shifts ready. We had employees ready. So it’s been very rough.”
Alexander says there are at least two dozen dispensaries across the state ready to open immediately.
“We’re hopeful that folks get out the gate running,” Alexander said. “We want to have a lot of openings as quickly as possible.”
The state awarded the first dispensary licenses to those with a past marijuana conviction or their close family members. But a group of veterans with disabilities sued, arguing they should have received equal priority under state law.
They won an injunction in early August, putting more than 400 license-holders in limbo and derailing some of their plans.
“Losing spaces, investors backing out,” said Nubia Ashley, who hopes to open a dispensary in Tribeca by February. “It’s been a very tough couple of months.”
The delay has also devastated cannabis growers. Now the hope is that the pipeline will quickly get flowing again, though many licensees remain cautious.
“I think until I get the first sale in the cash register, there’s no relief,” said Jennifer Tzar, whose dispensary, Dagmar Cannabis, will be located on West Broadway in lower Manhattan. “But I feel hopeful.”