Governor Kathy Hochul announced today that sales of legal, regulated adult-use cannabis will start on December 29 at a dispensary in Manhattan, operated by Housing Works, the nation’s largest minority-controlled HIV/AIDS service organization and largest community-based HIV/AIDS service organization. The non-profit, based in New York City, operates a range of direct and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS, the homeless, formerly incarcerated, and justice involved individuals. It also operates a network of charitable retail storefronts.
“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,” Governor Hochul said. “The industry will continue to grow from here, creating inclusive opportunity in every corner of New York State with revenues directed to our schools and revitalizing communities.”
This historic event will mark a critical milestone in the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which was designed to set New York on a path to fulfilling the goals of New York’s Cannabis Law by building an adult-use cannabis industry that offsets the harms resulting from the disproportionate impact of cannabis prohibition.
Announced by Governor Hochul in March, the Initiative has provided for the licensing of 280 family farmers to grow the first adult-use cannabis in New York State. These tested, safer cannabis products will be sold by the first licensed adult-use dispensaries in New York, which are either owned by successful business operators, or a close family member, who have a cannabis conviction (justice involved); or non-profit organizations that provide services to individuals who have been harmed by the unequal enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
To qualify, nonprofits, such as Housing Works, also need to have at least one justice-involved board member and create vocational opportunities for those with a marijuana conviction. Housing Works has served justice-involved New Yorkers since its inception in 1990 through direct services and advocacy initiatives. Today, Housing Works’ Justice Initiative tailors the non-profit’s services to meet the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals, including those with marijuana convictions.
Cannabis Control Board Chairwoman Tremaine Wright said, “I’m excited that a non-profit like Housing Works, with its support for formerly incarcerated individuals, will lead the way with sales. The start of sales through the Seeding Opportunity Initiative is just the beginning of the robust ecosystem we’re building – the equitable and inclusive market will grow from here with supports throughout to ensure licensees are able to overcome barriers and build this new industry.”
Cannabis Control Board Member Jen Metzger said, “New York is taking the right path in building its legal cannabis industry, with the state’s first retail dispensaries operated by entrepreneurs and non-profits dedicated to serving their community and prioritizing public health. At the same time, we are strengthening the linkages between our urban and rural communities to the benefit of consumers, stocking the shelves of these first dispensaries with sustainably grown, high-quality, sun-grown cannabis that was cultivated on New York’s small and family farms.”
Cannabis Control Board Member Jessica Garcia said, “Positioning justice involved individuals, and the non-profits that support them, as the first to make sales is putting New York on the right track to meet the goals of the New York Cannabis Law while providing protections to workers in the industry by creating pathways to union cannabis careers. This is a big, first step forward for the cannabis industry we’re building in New York – it’s an important one and it’s only the beginning.”
Cannabis Control Board Member Adam Perry said, “This is history in the making as we work to address the harm caused by cannabis prohibition and fully implement the goals of New York’s Cannabis Law. This is the right start for the industry, and I look forward to continuing to work with our team to support all license types to ensure we’re not only delivering licenses to social equity entrepreneurs, but also setting them up for success over the long-term.”
Chris Alexander, Executive Director for the Office of Cannabis Management, said, “I’m proud of the supply chain we built from the ground-up through the Seeding Opportunity Initiative by relying on family farmers and justice involved individuals and the non-profits that support them, and I’m thankful to Governor Hochul and the Legislature for their support in bringing it to fruition. Not only have we ended the prohibition in New York, but we’re showing the nation, and the world, how to build a market that’s truly equitable and inclusive, and works to undo the harms caused by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition. Every dollar spent in this growing industry will help support independent businesses, our schools, and our communities.”
State Senator Liz Krueger said, “I am gratified to see the start of the adult retail cannabis sales, and that Housing Works will be launching the first store. Their decades of work with marginalized communities make them a perfect partner in the effort to ensure that New York’s Cannabis market provides meaningful opportunities to those most impacted by the failed cannabis criminalization policies of the past.”
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “Today’s historic announcement is a monumental development in establishing a cannabis economy in New York centered on justice and equity as envisioned by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and the Seeding Opportunity Initiative. I am excited for Housing Works and the other justice involved individuals and non-profits that will soon be opening their doors to the public for the purchase of safe and reliable cannabis products. This initial completion of New York’s first home grown cannabis supply chain is just the beginning of what is sure to become a thriving and equitable new industry.”
Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, said, “At our core, we’re a healing community dedicated to providing housing, healthcare and vocational programs for New Yorkers. 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.”
Sasha Nutgent, Store Manager of Housing Works Cannabis Co, said, “This is a once in a lifetime moment. That said, our nonprofit’s mission remains as urgent as ever. We are eager to take the lead as a social equity model for America’s cannabis industry, specifically with our hiring practices and continued support of individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by the unjust War on Drugs.”
The storefront operated by Housing Works is located at 750 Broadway in the Astor Place neighborhood. All proceeds from dispensary sales will be directed to parent organization Housing Works, Inc., founded in 1990 to address the dual crises of HIV/AIDS and homelessness. The self-sustaining nonprofit provides job opportunities, legal advocacy and comprehensive housing and health services funded, in part, by revenues from its thrift stores, SoHo bookstore and now its cannabis dispensary. With a focus on compassion and dispelling stigmas, Housing Works endeavors to move the cannabis industry forward by supporting the practical needs of their community through an equity-driven and harm reduction approach.
Spanning 4,400 square feet, the iconic building where the dispensary will be, known as 1 Astor Place, was completed in 1883. Housing Works Cannabis Co will welcome patrons with an introductory shopping experience upon opening, with plans to carefully build out an expanded and thoughtfully curated space as cannabis products become more available.
Housing Works Cannabis Co, located at 750 Broadway in Manhattan’s Astor Place neighborhood, will be open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours will adjust in the coming weeks. Learn more here.
To date, the New York State Cannabis Control Board has approved 36 Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary Licenses, including 28 for qualifying businesses and 8 for non-profits. Earlier this month, the Office of Cannabis Management released guidance to support retail businesses in starting their operations with delivery service to help jumpstart sales.
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