From celebrity appearances to sneaker releases, New Yorkers are used to standing in very long lines. But yesterday afternoon in Manhattan’s Astor Place, something new brought hundreds of people to the streets: the state’s very first legal recreational weed sales.
Though cannabis possession and (limited) public consumption were OK’d for adults by the city last year, the first licenses took months to be awarded. This was partly because the state approached the new market from a social equity standpoint, giving first dibs to candidates who had either been directly affected by the war on drugs, or who were set up to give back to that community. So it made sense that longtime nonprofit Housing Works — which operates thrift and bookstores throughout the city, providing jobs and services to the unhoused as well as people suffering from addiction or HIV/AIDS — was responsible for opening the city’s first legal dispensary. “We see the effects of drug criminalization everyday,” Housing Works CEO Charles King tells Rolling Stone, adding that they plan to start a program to help “justice-involved” individuals with drug convictions get licensed for the new industry.
As for the question of whether or not New Yorkers — who currently have access to the most robust cannabis black market in the country, if not the world — would be willing to pay a premium for legal weed, those at the event saw the turnout as a good sign. “People were saying [New Yorkers] didn’t want legal weed,” says Trivette Knowles, spokesperson for the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. “[But] for safe, legal weed — New York will be the place to go.”