On Thursday, New York State made history by opening its first legal cannabis dispensary. This marks a major milestone in the state’s pivot from decades of criminalizing marijuana to the start of a sanctioned industry projected to generate $4 billion over the next five years.
The dispensary, Housing Works Cannabis Co., is operated by Housing Works, a nonprofit that supports people living with H.I.V. and AIDS. The state passed a first-of-its-kind law in March 2021 that gave priority to people adversely affected by the enforcement of marijuana laws for early business opportunities in the new industry.
The mood inside the dispensary was festive and triumphant. At a morning ceremony, activists cheered on regulators and lawmakers who gave speeches celebrating the day. Chris Alexander, the executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management, was the dispensary’s first customer before the doors were opened to the public at 4:20 p.m.
The opening of the dispensary is a major step forward for the state of New York. Not only will it generate much-needed revenue, but it will also provide opportunities for those who have been adversely affected by the criminalization of marijuana. This is a major victory for social justice and a sign of progress for the state.