A host of cannabis industry players, along with a handful of curious consumers, lined up on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village on Tuesday morning to be the first visitors at the state’s second recreational dispensary: Smacked LLC.
Smacked's public opening didn’t garner anywhere near as big a crowd as the debut of the state's first shop, which was opened by the nonprofit Housing Works last month. But the store fulfills a key piece of the social equity promise state cannabis officials made when they began building the new industry: It’s the first dispensary in New York to be owned and operated by someone with a past marijuana conviction.
Perhaps because this opening took place in the morning rather than in the late afternoon, only about 35 people had lined up when the doors were set to open at 10 a.m. By contrast, hundreds of customers turned out to the Housing Works opening.
First in line at Smacked was Coss Marte, a Lower East Sider who applied for his own license through the state’s Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary program and is still awaiting a determination.
“I feel like everybody that's been impacted by the justice system should be out here supporting,” said Marte, who has also served time for marijuana charges. “I feel like we deserve this chance to be first.”
The first official purchase was a symbolic one. Roland Conner, the owner of Smacked, bought some weed from his son, Darius. The elder Conner said he had previously been arrested on marijuana charges and didn’t want his son to go down the same path.
“It’s an opportunity to right the wrongs” of the past, he said. “This is a beautiful moment for me and my family.”
Industry players showed up to lend their support – but also to network and sketch out future plans. Jim Amend, the vice president of expansion operations at a cannabis company called Mammoth Distribution, was there representing a Los Angeles-based brand called Heavy Hitters, which makes products ranging from vapes to pre-rolled joints and edibles.
“We hope to be on every shelf as the [dispensaries] open up,” said Amend, adding that the brand is already working with licensed cannabis processors in New York to bring its products here. “We believe that we have a product that will fit well within the New York marketplace.”
Others who lined up on Tuesday morning said they were just consumers who prefer to buy from licensed dispensaries, where they have a better idea of what they're getting because the products have to be tested and labeled.
Barry Booker, 67, traveled from Dutchess County to visit the store. Some shops outside of the city have received licenses but have yet to get up and running.
“I'm just not going to take the risk” of going to one of the unlicensed shops, Booker said. He added that he was happy to pay the 13% sales tax that comes with buying regulated cannabis. “That this money is ultimately going to go for a good cause is also a plus,” Booker said.
Prices at Smacked range from about $53 to $63 for an eighth of an ounce of weed, before the tax – a little steeper than at Housing Works, where the cheapest eighth goes for $40. Smacked also sells weed-infused beverages, vapes, edibles and pre-rolled joints.
Marte, for his part, sampled a range of products, including two eighths of flower, a bag of gummies and a pre-rolled joint, all of which cost him a total of $208.
He said he had already tried products from Housing Works and acknowledged that legally grown New York weed may have a long way to go before it catches up to the quality seen in the underground market or in other legal states. All of the cannabis sold in New York’s legal dispensaries must be grown in-state.
“The edibles you can't go wrong with,” Marte said. “Some of the flower is OK. I think it could get better, but it’s a good start.”
Smacked, located at 144 Bleecker St, will be open as a pop-up shop for about a month. Afterward, it will close for renovations and reopen at the same location.
State cannabis officials initially said they were planning to award about 150 dispensary licenses through the CAURD equity program, but have only given out 36 so far. Of those, 28 have gone to people with past marijuana convictions and their family members, while eight have gone to nonprofits.
The state’s Cannabis Control Board is expected to grant another 30 dispensary licenses through the equity program at its meeting Wednesday. About half of those dispensaries will be located in New York City, spread across the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan. Brooklyn is the only borough so far where a dispensary license has not been granted, due to an ongoing lawsuit barring the state from authorizing retail shops in certain areas.