The era of legal, recreational weed sales begins in NYC: What you need to know


With weed shops seemingly on every corner, the novelty of buying marijuana at the store may have already worn off for some New Yorkers. But the Housing Works dispensary opening at East Eighth Street and Broadway at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday offers something totally new: New York’s first completely legal weed-buying experience (at least, for those who don’t have a prescription for pot).

Here’s what to know before you go.

Where is the shop located and when can I visit?

On opening day, Housing Works Cannabis Co. will have abbreviated store hours from 4:20 p.m. to 7 p.m. After that it will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours may be adjusted in the coming weeks, said Breanna Lopresti, a Housing Works spokesperson.

The shop is located at 750 Broadway in the East Village.

Do I need ID to get in?

Yes, marijuana can only be sold legally in New York to those over 21. Housing Works will check ID at the front door and again at the cash register.

What products will be for sale?

Smokable flower, pre-rolled joints, vapes and edibles will all be for sale. If your pet needs to mellow out, the shop will have CBD treats for them as well. The store is still building up its inventory and will initially stock 75 to 100 different products from about a half-dozen brands, Housing Works CEO Charles King told Gothamist.

How much will I pay?

The price of an eighth of an ounce of weed will range from $20 to $35 – on the cheaper end of what’s available at unlicensed shops in the area – while a pre-rolled joint will go for $16 to $25, according to Lopresti. The products will be subject to a 13% sales tax.

What payment methods will be accepted?

The store will be cash-only — at least initially, Lopresti said. So, be sure to hit up an ATM on the way there.

What’s the difference between the products sold here and the ones sold at illegal shops?

Licensed dispensaries in New York can only sell products that were grown and processed by regulated, in-state operators following state protocols designed to minimize the industry’s environmental impact. State cannabis officials have admitted that bud grown outdoors on Long Island may not meet the expectations of some experienced cannabis consumers, at least in these early growing seasons – although any differences will be masked in products such as edibles and vape oils.

At unlicensed dispensaries, the origins of the merchandise are a lot murkier – even if a product has a label claiming it comes from another legal state like California. While unregulated marijuana has long been the norm, it’s worth noting that illegal grow operations in parts of the country that may supply New York’s underground market have recently faced growing concerns about human labor trafficking.

Licensed dispensaries also have to test their products for safety and verify that the labels are accurate with regard to potency (although getting the potency of an edible exactly right can be challenging, even for legal companies).

A small survey of the wares at unlicensed shops found that some products are contaminated with E. coli or salmonella bacteria, and may not contain the amount of THC indicated on the label, according to a recent report commissioned by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association. The group represents medical marijuana license holders who will soon have the opportunity to transition into the broader cannabis market.

How will I know if I’m at a licensed dispensary?

Gov. Kathy Hochul has developed a special seal for licensed dispensaries to put in their windows. Each comes with a QR code so customers can verify that they’re real.

And while unlicensed shops may have outlandish decorations and products in colorful packaging that can mimic popular snacks, licensed dispensaries will have to package and market their wares in a way that does not appeal to those under 21 – meaning no bubble letters, neon colors or cartoons.

Why has it taken so long for New York to open its first licensed dispensary?

The first legal, recreational dispensary opens about two years after New York legalized marijuana for adult use in March 2021.

Part of the delay came from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s failure to organize the state regulatory body that would develop specific regulations around the new industry and distribute licenses. Once Hochul took office in August 2021, she was quick to establish the state Office of Cannabis Management and appoint members to its Cannabis Control Board.

But the board still had a lot of work to do to set up the supply chain for the new industry piece by piece, while adhering to the social justice provisions laid out in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The law aims to prioritize smaller, local entrepreneurs and those who have been impacted by the war on drugs.

New York started by issuing the first cultivation licenses to local New York farmers who were already growing hemp, a form of cannabis that is federally legal because it has a very low amount of THC, the ingredient that gets people high. The first batch of dispensary licenses – which are reserved for those who have been convicted of a marijuana offense and their family members – were just awarded in late November.

When will other licensed dispensaries start doing business?

So far, the state has handed out 36 retail licenses to individuals and nonprofits. Thirteen of the individual licenses are for businesses in New York City, including three in the Bronx, four each in Manhattan and Queens, and two in Staten Island. Brooklyn will be without dispensaries for now, due to an ongoing lawsuit that is preventing the state from issuing licenses in certain jurisdictions.

The other licensed dispensaries will start operating in the coming weeks, although there aren’t any specific dates yet. The Doe Fund said it is planning to have a soft open for its dispensary, which will be located a few blocks from the Housing Works shop, in late January. Some retailers are likely to launch in the coming weeks with just deliveries, until they get their brick-and-mortar shops up and running, according to Trivette Knowles, a spokesperson for the state Office of Cannabis Management.

The state will open retail license applications to the broader public in early 2023, without any cap on the number of licenses issued. Many more businesses could flood in after that.


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