Every day we field cannabis questions, mostly about New York and what is legal… We get asked things such as: "Do I need a medical card?", "Where should I be shopping?", "What should I get?", "Why is that corner bodega selling Cali weed?", and even "WTF is Delta 8?".
While we try our very best to answer all of them, one thing is clear: the world of New York Cannabis is complex and confusing for the average New Yorker. So - let me welcome you to our inaugural monthly WTF: NY Cannabis.
WTF: NY Cannabis is our candid and high level recap of things you need to know about New York Cannabis right now. We put this together for regular, casual and prospective partakers alike. We're aware there is a dearth of resources outside of those who live and breathe the New York weed scene and Poplar's here to change that.
If you live / work / hang in New York, we hope you appreciate our WTF: NY Cannabis' first issue.
The Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) was signed into New York law on March 31, 2021, legalizing adult-use cannabis in the state of New York. This essentially made it legal to consume cannabis wherever it is legal to smoke a cigarette. However, there has been no legal adult-use dispensaries up until recently. (Yes, it’s bizarre - we know.) Let's zoom in on that…
As of today, there are only two legal ways to purchase THC cannabis products in New York:
1. Wait in line at the first legal dispensary @HousingWorksCannabis - near Astor Place in Manhattan. It first opened on December 29, 2022 -- at 4:20pm to be exact. (Visit their website here for more information on their assortment and operating hours.)
2. Become a medical cannabis patient in the State of New York. This, of course, takes a lot more time and money.
Yes, where your mind is going is totally correct… It feels like everyone in New York is using cannabis and they're clearly not getting it from the only legal dispensary in the East Village, nor do they have a medical card. So, how the hell is weed everywhere?!
Well, here's the deal… Even while weed is now legal statewide, licensed suppliers have yet to catch up.
Most New Yorkers are still getting their cannabis in one of five ways:
1 - From the "guy" they've been purchasing weed from for years. They've never asked them any real questions about sourcing or testing, but they have an established level of trust about the products because of a long standing relationship. (The illicit market in New York is estimated to be a $3 billion annual market.)
2 - They shop at unlicensed (illegal) stores that can be found everywhere now.
3 - They buy cannabis in other states where legal adult-use cannabis is available and bring it back home.
4 - They're growing cannabis at home.
5 - They take whatever their friends, boyfriend, and/or husband gives them - typically one gummy at a time…
Now, you may be saying: hells yeah, that sounds like me. I got a “guy”. Sometimes I frequent the pop-up dispensary on my corner. And sometimes, I bring a little something-something back from my LA work trip. But for many reasons, these work arounds are not ideal.
New York's Local Cannabis Supply Chain is complete.
New York needs safe and legal local dispensaries and finally, they are coming. Before the end of 2023, there should (and must) be accessible and safe licensed dispensaries. We aren’t there just yet, but we're getting there.
In December, the NY Office of Cannabis Management -- the governmental agency responsible for the New York cannabis market (CBD included) -- issued the first wave of licenses for New York cannabis dispensaries. Now, there are New York farms growing cannabis, licensed processors that are turning the raw materials into products, and stores that can retail these products.
The first set of retail licenses (28 to be exact) were awarded to non-profits and those formerly incarcerated or closely impacted by incarceration because of the failed War on Drugs. New York is attempting to give first-mover advantage to those most negatively impacted by old cannabis prohibitions.
The winners of the first round of licenses were supposed to receive store space, store build out, training, and other support from the State. So far, however, this has not happened. There remains a lot of confusion over whether they will be given support, and if so, how much.
The delayed opening is not doing any favors for the local growers with harvests and products ready to go. For now, those products are sitting, waiting to have a store to go to where they can be purchased by discerning customers.
Everything sold in New York needs to be grown in New York.
Since cannabis is not federally legal, the entire supply chain needs to remain within the state. It's also why you can’t use credit cards at legal dispensaries. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, most national banks will not offer financial services to cannabis companies.
Like Poplar, other small and medium size businesses hope to legally sell cannabis in the near future. We're still waiting for final regulations and a precise go-to-license time-line.
Personally, it will be a game changer. Cannabis is an integral part of my health and wellness routine. It's decreased my dependency on pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medication since 2017 and since then, I've been on a mission to make cannabis as acceptable as botox and chardonnay -- to make it easy for “soccer dads” and “wine moms” to fit cannabis into their lives!
Right now, New York's cannabis industry is a little bit of a cluster, but we remain hopeful of the market to come. Crossing my fingers that there will be a time before the end of year when you can enter a beautiful store and buy high quality, safe and legal cannabis products that rival the west!
Stay tuned for next month's issue of WTF: NY Cannabis. Just like our highly-curated products, our goal is to do the heavy-lifting so you don’t have to…