New York’s second legal weed store opened up on Tuesday – and became the first licensed shop to be run by someone with a cannabis conviction.
Smacked LLC, which has opened on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street, is run by Roland Conner, 50, who was convicted for a marijuana offense in the 1990s.
He was awarded the shop’s license under a scheme that gives priority to applicants who have previously faced justice for crimes linked to weed.
The first store – Housing Works Cannabis Co. – opened on December 29, more than 18 months after pot was legalized for sale in the state.
The first two legal stores join an estimated 1,400 unlicensed shops that were already operating in New York City – a fact that’s highlighted the state’s sluggish progress since the law made weed legal in 2021.
New York’s move to allow marijuana for recreational use continue a trend for legalization across the United States. There are now 21 states where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use.
While advocates say the drug is safe for recreational use and can generate billions in taxes, critics have highlighted concerns around its impacts on mental health.
Conner, who opened the business with his son and wife by his side, was greeted by a large crowd of customers when he launched on Tuesday. Cheers rang out as his son, Darius, completed the first sale.
Conner hasn’t disclosed the full details of his own criminal record for marijuana, but touched on the subject as he celebrated his store’s first sale.
‘This is a beautiful moment,’ said Conner.
‘My son actually really helped put me back into the idea of coming back into type of business – cannabis business – and really if it wasn’t for him and what he was doing in the legacy market, which reminds me of myself 25 years ago doing the same thing that got me in trouble.
‘And so with him, I said to him listen, what we need to do at this point is figure out… how we can do this legally. And we went down this journey and this journey has brought me to actually having him do the first legal sale from legacy to legal.’
Smacked LLC follows in the footsteps of Housing Works Cannabis Co., which made New York’s first legal marijuana sale at 4.20pm on December 29, 2022.
That dispensary is operated by the nonprofit Housing Works – a minority social-service agency that helps those with AIDS and HIV, and those who were formerly incarcerated or homeless.
‘We’re absolutely thrilled to be the first and hopefully setting a model that other folks will have to follow,’ Charles King, CEO of Housing Works said at the time.
Some New Yorkers have complained that the rise in weed shops – both licensed and unlicensed – around the city has prompted a rise in people puffing on pot in public.
The distinct scent of marijuana is now common on streets and sidewalks throughout New York City – at all times of day.
Several pot smokers who light up during the morning commute even claim a joint before work can make them more productive. A 32-year-old assistant at a real estate law firm in Manhattan told the New York Post his morning joint is ‘therapeutic’.
‘It gets me really focused. Anything that I do I’m going to do it right because I’m thinking straight — I’m not thinking about anything else,’ said the man, who gave his name as Samir.
But not all city workers are impressed by the increasingly common sight of cannabis clouds. Matt, 39, a communications executive, said he often smells weed as he walks from the subway to his office near the Empire State Building.
‘I was like, “What the actual f – – k. Does no one have to go to work today?” It’s wild… I thought I might see Cheech & Chong,’ he said.
The policy to allow previously convicted illegal marijuana sellers first dibs on business licenses was implemented by the state’s Democratic leaders.
Officials sought to compensate African-American and Hispanic communities whose members were disproportionately arrested and convicted during the time weed was illegal.
‘Prohibition denied people opportunities, it caused divestment in communities, it broke up families,’ said Tremaine Wright, chairwoman of the control board for New York’s Office of Cannabis Management.
Guerrero said that in the 2000s, the New York Police Department’s infamous stop-and-frisk policy, which disproportionately targeted people of color, meant ‘we couldn’t be outside without getting picked up by the police.
‘It was just living in a constant, constant state of surveillance and harassment,’ she recalled.
City officials say they have also launched a crackdown on illegal sales as the licensed shops open up.
Mayor Eric Adams announced in December that 600 pounds of weed – worth about $4 million – had been confiscated throughout the month. (Full Story)