Today, there are 3 legal adult-use dispensaries open in NYC, and I went to visit all of them in one day!
All are in downtown Manhattan, namely Smacked Village, House Works Cannabis, and Union Square Travel Agency. There's also one outside of New York City – Just Breathe in Binghamton – but I have yet to visit!
I was throwing a Pot Party so I, of course, needed provisions! As I was planning to go on a little shopping spree/dispensary tour, I suddenly had an aha moment. I realized the best way to share details on the emerging legal retail landscape with you is to visit all three NYC retail locations – on the same day, with the same set of expectations – and share my thoughts as a “regular” customer.
So, without further ado, in no particular order other than the order in which I visited, here's an honest account of legal pot shopping in NYC today:
First up - Smacked Village - @ 144 Bleecker Street
What makes Smacked Village special is they are the first NY dispensary opened and operated by someone with a cannabis conviction and jail time served. This was a major goal of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act or MRTA.
Smacked is the second retail dispensary to open in New York and their location is prime! However, unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by the shopping experience. The assortment, both what was displayed and what was in stock, was minimal. For example, they only had one edible option, Ithaca Organic Fruit Chews, which I passed on because there was minimal information about the strain used.
The outside of the shop or the store-front windows also leave room for improvement. I appreciate they are working to adhere to the regulation that no cannabis may be visible from the street... but I do encourage them to find a more creative option. I almost missed the shop, even when I was looking for it! When I did try to open the door, I thought I was in the wrong place and questioned whether they were open.
An additional challenge is that Smacked is only accepting cash payments. While there are ATMs front and center, cash only (vs cash and debit card) must limit the average order size. It did give me pause.
With all of that said, however, I did make purchase two eighths of flower and I am very excited to try it! I asked for flower “with an upper feeling” that would not make me paranoid. The budtender suggested a strain and commented that even though it is an indica (a type of cannabis that's associated to deep relaxation), it’s strong limene terpene profile would leave me uplifted.
There is currently no pre-order or delivery. However, there are signs advertising delivery coming soon.
I must also mention, that this shop is a “pop up”. Smacked's leadership has been clear that they rushed to open and have grand plans for the official layout. There are renderings of the to-be design hanging on the wall as art.
In summary, I would certainly go back and give Smacked another try. However, I am afraid that other, less understanding customers, may just to judgement.
Next stop – Housing Works Cannabis Co. - @ 750 Broadway
About a 10 minute walk “uptown”, I ventured into Housing Works Cannabis Co! Their claim to fame is that they were the first adult-use NY dispensary to open... And, you guessed it, they are also operated by the nonprofit Housing Works.
Walking into Housing Works was a pleasure! The gentleman who checked my ID was warm and friendly – and appropriately named Diesel. Diesel directed me to a short line and kindly told me to wait my turn. I was about fifth in line behind a man in a business suit.
When it was my turn, the budtender and I got to work! He was knowledgeable and patient. Together, we even walked to the new accessory section and explored some new arrivals. I gave him my non-stoner cannabis explanations and he was able to guide me – which I think is key! For example, I asked for items for a giggly high, something to take before I need to buckle down and get shit done, and a non-sleepy chill for movie night.
Lucky for me, Housing Works accepts cash and debit card. They also offer pre-orders and delivery. Clearly, their back-end is more sophisticated than Smacked. However, there is still room for improvement (which I am sure they are also working on). I did wait for what seemed like a long time for my order to come out – but my order was also sizeable…
One of my favorite things about the store is that they have some cool branding slogans displayed on the walls. I think they should lean into that even more. Maybe the posters should be for sale as prints or stickers?!?! The shopping bags are not branded, even just adding a sticker there would be a nice touch IMO.
Overall, the customer experience (in large part thanks to Diesel and my budtender) was totally nice. New York weed aside, I would recommend that someone in the area visit Housing Works Cannabis Co.
Last stop – Union Square Travel Agency - @ 62 East 13th Street
My third and final stop was Union Square Travel Agency – majority owned by the non-profit, the Doe Fund. This is the third dispensary in NYC to open and seems to have the most custom vibe of the three.
The windows are interesting and the waiting room is certainly designed to set a tone. They play on the travel agency in several store moments such as wishing you a “good flight” upon exit; kitchy and cute. The location makes it a perfect stop pre-Union Square movie theater outing.
Side note – pretty crazy that in a HUGE metropolitan city like New York City, the only 3 legal dispensaries are so very, very close to each other…
Union Square Travel Agency has the most technology forward shopping experience. When you walk in, you are directed to a large touch screen and encouraged to place your order. There are many strolling sales people (budtenders) who will help but this was the most help yourself format of the three.
Personally, I find the touchscreen ordering clunky if I am ordering more than one or two things. And – one of the accessories I wanted wasn’t yet in the system… I am sure the kinks will be worked out but the tech definitely has some limitations.
Union Square Travel Agency accepts cash and debit card. They created the cutest little ATM corner – it almost made me want to take out cash!
From my perspective, Union Square Travel Agency had the most robust recognizable brand assortment. On the cannabis side, they were selling Cann – which I was super pumped about. And the accessories section prominently featured personal favorites like Yew Yew, Honey Suckle, Gossamer, and Tulip.
Full disclosure: the product layout is a little crowded. It was tough to figure out the ideal customer journey/flow, but rumor is this is also just phase 1 of the store. So I am eager to experience phase 2 whenever it is ready!
I appreciated that my order was handed to me in a childproof branded pouch – super sleek – black with white branding. However, they did not have any shopping bags to offer that fit the drinks. Note to whoever orders the supplies – this is a miss. It was a b*tch to schlep around my purchase for the rest of the day.
But in general, I give Union Square Travel Agency a thumbs up. I will definitely return to shop soon... with my own totes in tow.
So there you have it – three adult use dispensaries in New York City, essentially within a mile (or less) from each other, and three wildly different store experiences... And I cant wait for more.