New York State will finally see its first legal recreational sales next week — and the first cannabis store to open its doors will be run by an HIV/AIDS housing non-profit. Housing Works is one of eight non-profits that received a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CUARD) license from the state and will also kick-start one of the country’s most lucrative weed markets.
The 4,400-square-foot store, called Housing Works Cannabis Co, will soft open on December 29 at 750 Broadway, and its shelves will be stocked exclusively with products from women- and BIPOC-owned brands.
And it sounds like there will be much more going on there than just weed sales.
“When we are fully launched, we plan to have some educational things going on in the basement of our dispensary, and then eventually, when we get the right to consume in-store, we’ll have a smoke-and-paint and things like that,” said Sasha Nutgent, the store’s manager, to TimeOut.
She also wants the store to play a role in helping develop employees’ entrepreneurial skills.
“We’re taking people who are marginalized and bringing them into the cannabis industry, teaching them a lot of things and sparking interest to maybe open their own dispensaries in the future.”
This is not Housing Works’ first foray into legal weed to provide housing and other resources to the seropositive community. It also operates a chain of popular thrift stores, whose sales go to support its mission.
"This opportunity will not only give our team the resources to further our overall mission but to feature and elevate products coming from LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and women-led cannabis brands across the state,” said Housing Works CEO Charles King.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul was also present at the press event announcing Housing Works’ historic role in the state’s cannabis roll-out. She said the non-profit’s sales typify NY’s focus on social justice within the cannabis industry, in accordance with the Seeding Opportunity Initiative.
"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,” remarked Hochul.
New York made headlines in March when it announced that the first 100 to 200 cannabis business licensees would be given to people with a non-violent cannabis-related offense on their criminal records or who have a family member who does.
Officials say this first round of 36 retail licenses also went to community-minded (soon-to-be) weed dealers.
“We’re looking for established community leaders or those who have a strong track record of creating opportunities for others in their communities,” said the Office of Cannabis Management’s chief equity officer Damian Fagon.
New Yorkers may well be stoked that regulated weed is coming their way. Recently, the state’s Medical Cannabis Industry Association reported that 40 percent of weed products that the organization tested from the wave of recently opened, unlicensed pot shops contain harmful levels E. Coli, salmonella, or lead. Safe access to clean, legal cannabis couldn't come sooner.