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Daily Life In New York

Source: NurPhoto / Getty

The long wait is over as New York City has opened its first legal marijuana dispensary, with more slated to open within the next few months.

On Thursday (Dec. 29), the first legally licensed recreational marijuana dispensary in New York State will open in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The Housing Works Cannabis Company is preparing to open its doors after being given the go-ahead by Governor Kathy Hochul December 21.

“We set a course just nine months ago to start New York’s adult-use cannabis market off on the right foot by prioritizing equity, and now, we’re fulfilling that goal,” she said at a press conference announcing the decision at the time.

New York Housing Works, a minority-controlled non-profit organization serving those afflicted with HIV and AIDS, is the first of 36 dispensaries that have been licensed to sell cannabis to the general public. The state’s Cannabis Control Board is on track to issue another 139 licenses within the next few months as another 900 applicants are awaiting a decision. The operating hours will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and the dispensary will be open to the general public at 4:20 p.m. after the VIPs have their chance to patronize the place in the morning.

The opening of Housing Works Cannabis Company comes as New York City Mayor Eric Adams has issued a directive to crack down on the numerous smoke shops and bodegas selling unlicensed cannabis products that have sprung up around the city within the past year. Quality and pricing are the main reasons why these places will present stiff competition to legal dispensaries, with the unlicensed stores also drawing customers in with more colorful displays and decorations.

“Either way you can get marijuana on each block you go on, so it’s going to be the same,” said Ron, a store employee at a smoke shop in the East Village. Housing Works CEO Charles King notes that the financial disparity in operations is a concern. “Because we have to pay taxes in three different jurisdictions, we also have to charge more for our product than the illegal market does,” he said in an interview.

The listed prices for some of their products are on par with what customers would find in unlicensed shops, with an ounce of weed priced at $20 to $35 and pre-rolled joints retailing for $16 to $25 – before the 13% sales tax. But others feel this opening won’t deter the underground market that much.

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