New York City’s Bodega Owners Want to Get In On the Legal Weed Business
NYC is on track to legalize recreational cannabis, and the Big Apple’s numerous corner store owners want a piece of the pie.
Published on February 25, 2019

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If you’ve ever lived in or even visited New York City, you know the importance of a bodega — the one-stop shop for breakfast sandwiches, cooking supplies, soap, batteries, candy, beer, and everything else under the “convenience” umbrella. Now, with cannabis legalization on the horizon in the Empire State, bodegas want to add another product offering to their awnings: legal weed.

According to concurrent reports from New York’s ABC 7 News and the New York Post, United Bodegas of America spokesman Fernando Mateo announced the group’s intentions to lobby for legal weed sales at a press conference held last week outside of Anthony’s Mini Market in the Bronx.

“Rather than drug peddling outside of these bodegas, we want to bring them inside,” Mateo said. “All this money should not go to white-owned businesses. It should not go to corporate America. It should be shared with the underdogs." 

Most of New York City’s bodegas are independently and locally run, with many of them selling cigarettes, beer, pornography, and other age-restricted products. Mateo and Radames Rodriguez, president of United Bodegas of America, argue that bodegas like theirs would be ideal to dispense legal cannabis to adult users.

“We have battled with people selling marijuana for decades in front of our stores. We have seen thousands being arrested for selling marijuana in front of our businesses,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “Bodega owners need increased revenue to survive; we have paid our dues.”

New York is currently home to a highly-regulated medical marijuana marketplace with a relatively short list of qualifying conditions. Currently, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made legalization one of his top priorities, with initial plans to fully legalize the plant by April 2019 already in the works.

Asked at the press conference about bodegas that have been caught selling illegal products like synthetic marijuana and loose cigarettes, Mateo said that those wrong actors should not be allowed to sell any restricted products, including cannabis.

“Any bodega that is selling loose cigarettes should lose their license. There’s always going to be someone who is corrupt. We all know that,” he said. “What we need to do is weed those people out.”

Union leaders said that they have drafted and will soon send a letter to Gov. Cuomo outlining their proposal for future bodega pot sales.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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