New York’s First Woman-Owned Dispensary Opens Tomorrow

Called “Good Grades,” the dispensary will also be the first legal cannabis store in the New York City borough of Queens. 

“With the opening of Good Grades in Queens, we’re continuing to build on our progress to create a safe, regulated cannabis industry in New York,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a press release on Monday. “New York is working to support entrepreneurs and ensure that consumers can purchase safe, legal products while supporting their communities.”

Hochul, the state’s first woman governor, has overseen the launch of the state’s regulated cannabis market. Her predecessor, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, signed the bill legalizing recreational marijuana in 2021. 

The state formally launched the new marijuana market late last year with the opening of a dispensary in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. 

Good Grades will open this week as a “pop-up” store, according to the governor’s press release, and the business is supported by the New York State Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, which was a part of Hochul’s 2022-23 budget.

The fund “is a public-private limited partnership that will be formed to position social equity entrepreneurs to succeed in New York’s newly created adult use cannabis industry,” Hochul’s office says, and “will allow the state to invest in a private fund to finance the leasing and equipping of up to 150 conditional adult-use retail dispensaries in New York State to be operated by individuals who have been impacted by the inequitable enforcement of marijuana laws.”

The governor’s office said that, like other dispensaries backed by the fund, Good Grades opening as a pop-up presents “the opportunity to open on a short-term basis to fast-track sales, provide training opportunities for employees and start generating capital for their businesses.”

“After, they will close for final construction and then re-open on a long-term basis,” according to this week’s press release.

“I am thrilled to be opening the doors of Good Grades, the very first dispensary in Queens, New York,” said Good Grades owner Extasy James. 

“We are incredibly passionate about providing greater access to cannabis and breaking down the barriers that prevent so many people, especially those from marginalized communities, from experiencing the benefits of this amazing plant. We understand firsthand the stigma that has been attached to cannabis for far too long, and we are eager to join the thriving cannabis community to help change that. Our dispensary is a welcoming and inclusive space where anyone can come to learn, explore, and find the products that are best suited to their unique needs.”

New York City opened its third legal dispensary last month––not to be confused with the illicit cannabis retailers that have blanketed all five boroughs in the last two years. 

The first dispensary outside of NYC also opened to customers last month.

Earlier this month, the state announced that it would double the number of cannabis retailer licenses, and will now award 300 instead of the originally planned 150.

“With this expansion, more entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the first wave of this industry, allowing them to capitalize on the growing demand for cannabis products,” said Tremaine Wright, chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board. “As more businesses enter this market, the innovation and competition will increase, leading to better quality experiences for consumers. The expansion of New York’s cannabis market will benefit everyone involved in this exciting industry.” 

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Week in Review: Snoop Goes Global; Colorado’s Cannabis Consumption Bus; A Big Chicago First

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” said Matthew Broderick as 1980s’ icon Ferris Bueller. The same can be said for the cannabis industry. There’s always something new happening.

PHOTO Sterling Munksgard

Snoop Inks Partnership With Atlas Global Brands

Snoop Dogg’s eye on global domination took another step forward following an announcement that the entrepreneur and hip-hop legend signed an “exclusive international licensing agreement” with Canada-based global cannabis company Atlas Global Brands Inc.

“Consumers love Snoop, and our collective goal is to deliver premium products in all cannabis categories that will consistently exceed consumer expectations,” Bernie Yeung, Atlas Global CEO, said in a statement.

The five-year agreement will allow Atlas Global to selectively “source, package and distribute directly in Canada and through approved distribution partners internationally,” including medical cannabis products in Germany, Israel and Australia.

This significant deal also gives Atlas Global exclusive rights to the artist’s name, likeness and other intellectual property “to produce, package, manufacture, distribute, sell, advertise, promote and market cannabis flowers, pre-rolls, concentrates, oils and edibles, and personal vaporizers” in legal markets.

“I chose Atlas to represent and launch my new brands because of their innovation and global reach. I am excited to work with their team to select my favorite strains for my brands and fans,” Snoop Dogg said. “You know they’ll be amazing because they’ll be personally approved by me.”

Sarah Woodson of The Cannabis Experience
The Cannabis Experience founder, Sarah Woodson. PHOTO Kush & Canvases

Roll Up and Roll Out on the Cannabis Experience

Toking tourists and weed-loving locals alike can now enjoy the sights of Denver on the country’s first licensed cannabis consumption bus. Founded by local entrepreneur Sarah Woodson, the Cannabis Experience is meant to provide safe, legal cannabis tours, airport transportation and private party buses that are cannabis friendly, as well as visits to cannabis farms and dispensaries. Private party bus rentals will also offer food and art themes such as “Toking and Tacos” and “RiNo Mural Tours.”

The Cannabis Experience is Woodson’s latest foray into cannabis tourism in the city. The former consultant for Marijuana Industry Group also founded the highly popular consumption-friendly cannabis art class, Kush & Canvases, and says she is “helping move the needle forward in the legalization fight.”

“The Cannabis industry is extremely regulated and not diverse. It took us almost a year to become operational, so we’re excited to be the country’s first safe, legal, licensed mobile hospitality business,” Woodson says. “We’re social equity and African American. We’ll have amazing tours, and grow our fleet over the next 24 months and work on expanding into other local cities such as Aurora. We’re proud to be in the cannabis industry.”

Although there have been previous cannabis buses operating in Colorado, they weren’t officially permitted and were all shut down by authorities. The Cannabis Experience, on the other hand, possesses both a local license and a state-issued cannabis hospitality permit. Here’s how to book your seat.

Grasshopper Club founders
Dianne Brewer and her two sons, Matthew and Chuck celebrate the opening of the Grasshopper Club.

The Grasshopper Club Opens in Chicago

A family-owned company just made history as Chicago’s first independent, Black-owned dispensary. Located in Logan Square, in the 2500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, the Grasshopper Club is owned by Dianne Brewer and her two sons, Matthew and Chuck, along with some “minor silent investors.”

“We don’t have a relationship or get support or have an arrangement with one of the large, publicly-owned cannabis companies,” Matthew told ABC 7 Chicago.

“I’m working on the accounting aspects of this business,” Dianne said. “I’m totally excited. I retired 12 years ago and here I am working again.”

For Chuck, the opening is something of a full circle, as he was arrested for cannabis possession a few times in his youth. “For me to be doing this legally with my brother and my mother…it’s priceless,” he said.

When Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act went into effect in 2020, “social equity” provisions were included in legislation to help communities harmed by past drug policies access the economic benefits of cannabis legalization. But, according to Dianne, it’s been a struggle for some, and her family has pledged to support other African Americans to open more independent dispensaries. “They call it social equity, but you’ve got to have the money to be able to open, and many African Americans don’t have that money,” she says.

The Brewer family plans to open a second Chicago-based dispensary this summer.

California cannabis
PHOTO Konrad

Cannabis Sales Drop in California

According to the latest statistics released by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (DTFA), annual cannabis sales in the Golden State declined in 2022 for the first time since its adult-use market launched in 2018, reports MJBiz.

The fourth quarter’s taxable sales fell 8.2% to $5.3 billion from the $5.77 reported in the same period last year, marking the third consecutive quarterly decline. Additionally, tax revenue was close to $1.1 billion in 2022, a 21% decrease from around $1.4 billion in 2021. Despite the decline, California continues to account for about 20% of the $26 billion market.

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Deputy Fends of Five Armed Robbers at Dispensary in St. Vincent

The cannabis industry in the Caribbean mirrors the danger of the U.S. cash-only industry and the lure for criminals given the large amounts of cannabis and cash. In the town of Vermont (not to be confused with the U.S. state) on the island country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the Caribbean, five would-be armed robbers were thwarted on Friday, Jan. 27 by a deputy guard at a dispensary. Due to quick thinking and a fast response, the perpetrators were caught mid-robbery while they were still at the site. 

Green Lava Labs is a medical cannabis company and dispensary in the Queensbury area of Vermont. As one of the first Class-C license holders in the country, a great deal of cannabis and a steady cash flow made it a prime target.

St. Vincent Times reports that five men, one brandishing a gun and another brandishing a “cutlass,” allegedly entered the dispensary at 2:00 am at night forcefully and injured at least one person. The five assailants allegedly attempted to break into the dispensary’s storage area. But a deputy from an armed security agency was quickly dispatched, returning fire and forcing the robbers to flee before they could make off with the loot.

“Our armed security operative engaged the bandits directly, firing several shots, causing the bandits to flee, without being able to break into the building and storage rooms,” Sheriff PSS Inc stated.

A deputy was dispatched to the premises promptly within 15 minutes, while the suspects were still on-site, officials said.

“Operations Control was contacted and our Executive Director Mr. Jason Greene and Operations Commander Mr. Cox responded immediately to provide additional support. The police [were] contacted and responded promptly within 15 minutes,” the release reads.

A caretaker who was on the premises was injured during the incident. 

“The live-in caretaker on the estate was injured during the incident and taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by Sheriff PSS Inc for medical attention,” the report continued.

“Sheriff takes this opportunity to remind the nation that we are serious about asset protection as SVG’s only tactical security agency. We stand ready to serve citizens and the business community as the #1 source for reliable, competent and efficient Asset Protection Agents and Security solutions.”

Government officials at SVG issued the first licenses to cultivate medical cannabis in 2019. 

Green Lava Labs Leader in the Caribbean

Green Lava Labs was launched in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Nov. 15, 2019. Green Lava was among the first companies to be granted a Class-C Medical Marijuana Cultivation license in the country. The license allows them to extract, import, export, dispense, and cultivate up to 25 acres of cannabis.

Green Lava has the capacity of over 8,000 pounds of cannabis per year and future plans to reach the full capacity of its allowed 25 acres that should allow the company to produce over 35,000 pounds of cannabis per year.

The company’s grand opening was significant enough to attract Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves; Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar; a Senior Official of the Medical Cannabis Authority; and officials to attend.

The company offers flower, pre-rolls, CBD-infused products, and more.

The company also has other locations including one in Jamaica.

Business is once again booming in SVG’s medical cannabis industry, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves reported earlier this year. This follows a slow, discouraging period due to COVID pandemic restrictions and devastation caused by the La Soufriere volcano eruption.

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Women First

Lilach Mazor Power, owner of Giving Tree Dispensary in Phoenix, enthusiastically blurts out, “Fuck menopause!” as it goes to the core of the dispensary’s philosophy. “We’re helping the focus and mood of women who are going through menopause. It’s a celebration of being a rebel — that’s what we want women to experience.”

Moving to Arizona from her native Israel a decade and a half ago, Power’s interest in cannabis came about organically as her initial concern was providing an alternative model of healthcare just in time for the Grand Canyon State’s movement toward legalizing medical marijuana was taking root.

“My husband is an emergency room doctor, so I heard about a lot of chronic issues,” she says. “I wanted to offer a holistic approach for people who are looking for solutions, combining eastern and western traditions.” 

Interior of Giving Tree Dispensary.

Giving Tree opened in 2013, three years after Arizona passed its medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 203. Originally a “wellness center” — massage, reiki, yoga — the business also featured cannabis on its menu. But it wasn’t until 2017 that Giving Tree made the fateful decision to focus exclusively on cannabis. And what a game-changing move that proved to be.

To listen to Power talk about cannabis and its healing attributes is to understand that she’s someone who knows exactly what she’s talking about, not always a given in the industry.

“I grew up in Israel, which was more open about cannabis than here [the US],” Power says. “All of this relevant research happened back in the 1960s; so, Israelis know all about the medical properties of cannabis.”

Giving Tree Dispensary is a vertically integrated operation with indoor cultivation and extraction taking place at another location about a mile away from the dispensary. “We have nine flower rooms, and harvest a room every single week,” Power says. “Production comes to 40 pounds per week.”

Giving Tree’s three product lines are currently available at several other dispensaries around Arizona as well as their own store, the first of which is Kindred Cannabis, a capsule CO2-extracted oil offered in 11 varieties with 5, 10, 20 or 50 milligrams. All also come in daytime “Mind” or nighttime “Body” options and different ratios of THC and CBD and are available in 65 outlets across the state. 

Lilach Mazor Power, owner of Giving Tree Dispensary.

“Indica is an ingredient found in the nighttime [Body] option to help people sleep,” Power says. “The daytime is sativa that helps with energy and focus and enhances creativity throughout the day. Mind is a full-spectrum oil, not a distillate, so you get the full cannabinoid profile and all the terpenes that are in a sativa or indica plant.”

Katatonic, named for the company’s lab director Katarina Park, is another proprietary product line. A THCA isolate, this cannabinoid, Power says, produces “a very clear-headed high” and is available as Diamonds (THCA crystals) or Terps on the Rocks (THCA crystals with drops of terpenes). Also sold are THCA pre-rolls, flower from strains such as the popular indica-heavy Death Star sprinkled with THCA crystals.

The most recently launched product line, already garnering the most attention, is Revelry. Revelry was specifically created to help ease conditions associated with menopause and it was developed with the company’s marketing executive Stef Swiergol. A full-spectrum oil in a capsule with equal parts THC, CBD, CBN and CBG, the launch has been a certifiable hit. “We’ve found that Revelry can minimize hot flashes and help with anxiety and mood swings. Women describe it as ‘putting your pink glasses on’ and the world just looks a little bit better.”

The interior of Giving Tree Dispensary is clean and inviting.

The revolutionary Revelry comes in a Day capsule, with equal portions of 2.5 milligrams each of the four constituent cannabinoids, and a Night capsule with 20 milligrams of THC and CBD combined. Power says reports indicate that Revelry also helps with sleep issues and is currently available in 17 stores throughout Arizona. 

“As a woman-owned business, I always knew I wanted to make something that women would find inviting,” Power says. “Our team goes through rigorous training to help people on their cannabis journey—we’re not into the in-and-out, no-customer-service approach. We want to connect with our customers. I want my mom to be able to go into the store and not feel weird about it. I’m a mom, and I want to help women to be better moms without having to take pills or drink wine every night.”

What about other product offerings Giving Tree is serving up to its customers? The dispensary is growing about ten strains, the most popular being Death Star, which is 1% CBD and 28% THC. Others are Golden Lemon, Granola Funk, White Widow, White Dream, and AC/DC. These are used for extractions as well as pre-rolls and flower.  

Exterior of Giving Tree Dispensary.

When voters passed Proposition 207 last year, finally legalizing 21-and-over recreational cannabis use in Arizona, the game, once again, changed dramatically. Adults can now purchase up to one ounce of cannabis at a time, and the race is on for the state’s dispensaries to compete for the multi-million-dollar recreational cannabis Arizona market. Giving Tree was ready.

“We got approval to switch to adult use at end of January 2021, so we’ve been seeing anyone over the age of 21 since then,” Power says. “Our business has now flipped to about 70% adult use and 30% medical.” 

Power also disclosed that Giving Tree has ambitions well beyond Arizona’s borders and is already in a partnership with the Dorado dispensary chain in Puerto Rico, with two outlets in San Juan and two more about to open in Isabella and Aguadilla on the U.S. territory. Power says she got shares in Dorado for relaying to them her knowledge and expertise in the cannabis business prior to their launch on the beautiful Caribbean island.

And Giving Tree isn’t quite done expanding. In fact, the dispensary’s proposed next move may return Power to her native Israel as she’s crafting a similar partnership to the one she has in Puerto Rico with a kibbutz near Tel Aviv, which, in turn, is hoping to jump in on Israel’s burgeoning cannabis business.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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The Ultimate San Francisco Dispensary Crawl

I carried my bike up the stairs up and out of Embarcadero Station in downtown San Francisco. It was a clear and sunny day, although you couldn’t really tell between all of the buildings. I came here looking for a challenge. Which challenge you ask? Visiting some San Francisco dispensaries (best in class, of course) with only the cash I had in my wallet. To be fair, I did grab a $100 bill from the ATM beforehand, but with the cash I already had in my wallet, I ended up with a little more than $120. I was hoping to find some good in-house products or first-time deals to help me stay on budget on my San Francisco dispensary crawl. It had just rained a few nights before and the air felt crisp. I hopped on my bike and headed to my first stop. This was going to be fun.

The Challenge Begins

I rolled up to San Francisco’s main artery, Market Street, and cruised over to O’Farrell Street where I pulled up to Stiizy Union Square. The fourth Stiizy retail location in SF is the first Latina-owned cannabis store to have opened via the city’s Cannabis Social Equity program. Just a short walk from Union Square and Powell Street, and it’s close proximity to Polk Gulch and Chinatown, this is the perfect location for anyone who’s in town to do some sightseeing. The store was cozy but the energy was high. I decide to grab an eighth of an ounce of some sativa house flower, the Lemon Up. The price was right at a tad more than $20 out the door. 

I saddled up and steered back over to Market Street and headed to my second destination, Moe Greens. This mid-market dispensary is known for its frequent and exciting customer appreciation events hosted in its spacious lounge—they even have a dab bar! I knew I would get a beverage at some point since there are a decent amount of affordable high-dose options out there. I ended up grabbing a Kwik Ease 100mg Sativa Shot, one of my favorite products available right now. You already know I had to make sure to stop and have a dab before hitting the road again.

The interior of Stiizy Union Square. PHOTO Stiizy.

Next up was the formidable Mission Cannabis Club. I biked through the South of Market neighborhood (SOMA) and up Folsom Street and crossed over to Mission Street on 23rd. A few blocks past my mark but the trees looked so pretty with their changing leaves, I didn’t mind too much. Here, in the heart of the Mission District and equipped with a consumption lounge as well, the Mission Cannabis Club provides a relaxing space for people who live and work in the area. I kept things simple with a West Coast Cure Pre-Roll and spent some time smoking and winding down in the lounge with a colleague. 

After the much-needed break, it was time to start the real climb. I rode across Valencia Street and up 17th Street towards the Castro District to Flore Dispensary, one of San Francisco’s newest that has deep roots in the medical cannabis scene. The shop was open and vibrant filled with natural elements such as wood and moss that you almost forget you’re in the city. Luckily, Flore was stocked with great, affordable sun-grown house flower that helped me stay on budget. Plus, who says no to Jack Herer? I got a 1g infused pre-roll for being a first-time shopper, too! 

I was losing sunlight but had one last stop to make on my San Francisco dispensary crawl. I follow The Wiggle up to the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park and over to Haight Street to visit Berner’s On Haight. It’s late and the foot traffic has died down. A few tourists stood around and inspected the display nugs on the sales floor. I knew I wasn’t going to get anymore flower so I checked out the edibles shelf but I wanted something cooler. That’s when I saw the Mystery Baking products in the cooler, it was the perfect option. I chose the classic 300mg cannabutter, you can never go wrong with that stuff.

Time to Ride and Reflect

It was getting dark now, turned on my bike lights for safety and hurried back down Market Street towards the ever-popular Ferry Building. It was getting cold, and I was trying to catch the next ferry across the bay. It’s a ride I’ve made seemingly a million times before, it was long and I knew I’d be exhausted by the time I got home. The big bag of weed on my back made me feel better about it though, that’s for sure.

Just another beautiful day in the City by the Bay.

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New York Governor Announces Start of Recreational Weed Sales

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday that regulated sales of recreational marijuana will begin in the state next week with the opening of a licensed retail shop in Manhattan. The dispensary, which will be operated by Housing Works, the nation’s largest minority-controlled HIV/AIDS service organization and largest community-based HIV/AIDS service organization, will begin serving customers at its East Village location in New York City on December 29.

“We set a course just nine months ago to start New York’s adult-use cannabis market off on the right foot by prioritizing equity, and now, we’re fulfilling that goal,” Hochul said in a statement from the governor’s office. “The industry will continue to grow from here, creating inclusive opportunity in every corner of New York State with revenues directed to our schools and revitalizing communities.”

The opening of the dispensary fulfills a pledge to launch retail sales of recreational marijuana in the state before the end of the year. The New York State legislature legalized adult-use cannabis last year with the passage of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which was signed into law by former governor Andrew Cuomo on March 31, 2021. The launch of sales is also a milestone for Hochul’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative, which she announced in March to guide the rollout of New York’s regulated cannabis industry.

The initiative was designed to fulfill the goals of the MRTA “by building an adult-use cannabis industry that offsets the harms resulting from the disproportionate impact of cannabis prohibition.” Under the plan, 280 family farmers have been licensed to cultivate cannabis to provide safe, lab-tested products for New York’s regulated recreational marijuana economy. 

First Retail Licenses in New York Issued Last Month

The Seeding Opportunity Initiative also reserved the first 150 Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses for individuals with past marijuana-related convictions and nonprofit groups serving those harmed by prohibition. The state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) issued the initial 36 licenses to 28 individuals and 8 nonprofit groups last month.

To qualify for a CAURD license, nonprofits also need to have at least one justice-involved board member and create vocational opportunities for those with a conviction for a marijuana-related offense. Housing Works has served justice-involved New Yorkers since its inception in 1990 through direct services and advocacy initiatives. The group’s Justice Initiative tailors the non-profit’s services to meet the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals, including those with marijuana convictions.

“I’m excited that a non-profit like Housing Works, with its support for formerly incarcerated individuals, will lead the way with sales,” said Tremaine Wright, chairwoman of the New York Cannabis Control Board, the state’s cannabis regulatory body. “The start of sales through the Seeding Opportunity Initiative is just the beginning of the robust ecosystem we’re building – the equitable and inclusive market will grow from here with supports throughout to ensure licensees are able to overcome barriers and build this new industry.”

The Housing Works Cannabis Co. dispensary storefront is located at 750 Broadway in the Astor Place neighborhood of the East Village. Spanning 4,400 square feet, the iconic building known as 1 Astor Place was completed in 1883. The new business will welcome patrons with an introductory shopping experience when the dispensary opens next week, with plans to build out an expanded space as cannabis products become more available. All proceeds from dispensary sales will be directed to the parent organization Housing Works.

Brian Vicente, a founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, lauded the progress being made on the rollout of adult-use cannabis in the Empire State. 

“New York continues to blaze a bold trail with its novel approach to adult use implementation,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times. “Allowing Housing Works to make New York’s historic first legal cannabis sales is a stroke of genius, fulfilling the state’s goal of opening adult-use access before 2023 and honoring its commitment to promoting social equity businesses.”

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The Struggle of NYC’s Weed Bus Pioneer

This article was originally published on Cash Only. Sign up for the newsletter here and follow Cash Only on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

Last month, Cash Only linked up with the founder of Uncle Budd’s Bud Bus to learn what it’s like to run a mobile marijuana dispensary in NYC, and the story immediately became more complex than we anticipated. 

As we’ve noted before, weed is now legal in New York, but a regulated retail system is still a work in progress. So technically no one is allowed to sell weed for the time being. 

But since the NYPD is mostly embracing a policy of non-interference, savvy entrepreneurs are taking advantage of this purgatorial moment and setting up a variety of semi-legal cannabis businesses. These include brick-and-mortar pot shops and cannabis speakeasies, as well as weed buses that post up in areas with heavy foot traffic and sell kush out their windows like Marijuana Mister Softee trucks. 

Uncle Budd is arguably the pioneer of this gray market model, embracing a legal loophole by gifting weed (not selling it) in exchange for a donation. At the height of his operation, he oversaw a dozen weed buses, and you could find these de facto mobile dispensaries in SoHo, Harlem, Midtown, and several other neighborhoods. They were hard to miss with their flashing LED signs and unapologetic weed imagery plastered on the sides of the massive cars. 

Courtesy of Cash Only

Then, in early September, nearly two dozen weed buses (including Uncle Budd’s fleet, as well as competitors) were towed by the New York City Sheriff’s office, and it supposedly had nothing to do with the wares they kept onboard. 

“There’s an issue with the selling of products people are not licensed to sell,” an NYC Deputy Sheriff told NBC. “That is an issue, but the main concern today is what’s happening on the streets,” meaning registration and parking violations.

All the buses were returned within days of being confiscated… except Uncle Budd’s Bud Bus. Over two months later, 11 of their buses are still impounded. They got one back after paying $5,000 in fees, but its electrical system is no longer functional (and it was working fine prior to being confiscated).

We wanted to get some insight into why Uncle Budd’s competitors got their buses back while his were still being held by the city. So Cash Only linked with the impresario in Harlem and visited one of his office-traps to chop it up.

Then, while getting some background details, we noticed framed lyrics on the wall and asked Uncle Budd what the deal was. It turns out he was incarcerated for 21 years, and the lyrics were from the Staind song “Outside,” which Uncle Budd said kept him from losing his spirit while locked up.

The future remains uncertain for Uncle Budd, but the man is passionate, experienced, and deeply connected to Harlem. We also think it’s questionable (to put it lightly) that a victim of the War on Drugs, as well as a person of color, isn’t being given a leg up in New York’s impending recreational cannabis retail market. And furthermore, why haven’t the Uncle Budd Bud Buses been returned while his competitors who ripped his model got theirs back?

The Uncle Budd story is still playing out, and we’ll be filming follow-up interviews with him in the coming months. Stay tuned for more.

Photo by Zach Sokol
Photo by Zach Sokol

Visit Uncle Budd’s Website Here.

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Canadian College Campus Is First to Get Weed Dispensary

The University of British Columbia is set to be the first college in Canada to host a cannabis dispensary with the recent approval of a Burb retail store to open at the campus. The new location will be the eighth licensed cannabis retailer in British Columbia for Burb Cannabis Corp., bringing the company to the regulatory limit on the number of recreational dispensaries that can be operated in the province by one licensee.

Burb is an international cannabis brand with a stated mission of bringing British Columbia’s “BC Bud” culture to the world through a network of retail shops, cannabis products, apparel, and accessories. The company also owns and produces the podcast Light Culture hosted by David Hershkovits, the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Paper Magazine.

Burb’s dispensary planned for the University of British Columbia, which actually sits just off campus, was approved by the Metro Vancouver Regional District (MVRD) Board of Directors, the local governing body for the area surrounding the university. The approval came despite vocal opposition from members of the local community, which included an online petition that garnered nearly 1,900 signatures.

“This was a big victory for us after a contentious debate around public safety and community fit,” John Kaye, CEO and co-founder at Burb, said in a statement from the company. “Despite concerns grounded in age-old stigma from nearby residents, many of whom were off-shore residential owners, the Board made an informed decision that aligned with the overwhelming voice of the student body as well as the tenets of legalization in our country. We’re beyond excited to bring Burb to campus and provide safe access to students and residents this fall.”

Neighbors Opposed Plan for Campus Dispensary

Neighbors opposed to locating the dispensary near the campus argued that the store would be too close to a nearby high school and two elementary schools and launched a campaign to oppose approval of the shop. An online petition posted by local resident Connie Chen suggested the store would attract people to the area for purposes “unrelated to the university,” according to a report from CBC News.

“By allowing cannabis retail to exist in this business plaza, we are putting vulnerable children at a high risk of exposure to substances they are too young for,” the petition stated.

The proposed cannabis shop was supported by the university’s Alma Mater Society (AMS)‚ the organization representing more than 56,000 students on campus. A competing online petition in favor of the dispensary posted online by Sean Safaei, who is with Burb, received more than 2,000 signatures.

“Since the AMS was in support of the project right from the beginning, it’s definitely good news for the students,” AMS president Eshana Bhangu said of the application approval.

“We just think the UBC student body really deserves to have a safe space nearby where purchasing cannabis is accessible and provided in a stress-free environment,” she added.

Bhangu noted that without the dispensary located nearby, students at the university would have to walk or take a bus more than 2.5 kilometers (slightly more than 1.5 miles) to the nearest cannabis retailer. The only other option would be to buy from illicit dealers.

“Locations like these really do reduce illegal activity and we don’t think that this is going to have any risk to families and underage youth,” said Bhangu.

Burb maintains the new dispensary will not only be the first to be located at a Canadian college campus, but the first in the world, as well. With the company reaching the maximum number of stores allowed in British Columbia, Burb is looking outside the province to continue its growth. A recent expansion to the United States marked the premiere of the British Columbia cannabis strains Beaver Tail, Butter Tarts, and Zyrup to the California market.

“We are west coast OG and breathe the rich history of BC Bud into all extensions of our brand,” said Kaye. “British Columbia has gained worldwide notoriety for breeding and cultivating premium, award-winning craft cannabis strains. We’re honored to bring this legacy, experience and passion to California through careful curation and proprietary innovation.”

Burb Expanding Into U.S. Markets

In May, the company announced its expansion in California’s competitive adult-use cannabis wholesale market, with Burb’s products gaining exposure on dispensary shelves at retailers including Cookies, Dr. Greenthumb, The Pottery, and Mainstage. The company also has plans to expand into Florida’s growing medical cannabis economy.

“We’re delighted to partner with TRP, the wholesale division of Cookies Retail Group, to bring our Los Angeles grown premium flower products to the state of California and look forward to launching in the state of Florida this fall exclusively through Cookies retail stores,” said Kaye.

The Burb brand is under license to TRP for both California and Florida and is working with Los Angeles-based cultivation partner Green Label, headed by Jason McKnight, to provide premium indoor flower supply for the brand.

“We’re innovating with Jason, working with amazing genetics providers and doing our best to bring the flavors we know and love to the California market,” said Kaye.

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Miami Finally Gives OK to Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

More than five years after Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2016, city leaders in Miami finally relented and have voted to allow a business to pursue opening a medical dispensary within the city limits. With a 3-2 vote on Thursday, the Miami City Commission ended its de facto ban on medical cannabis retailers and cleared the way for businesses to begin applying for permits to operate.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla said at Thursday’s meeting, according to a report from the Miami Herald. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Medical Cannabis Legalized in Florida in 2016

Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with the approval of a constitutional amendment ballot measure in 2016. The amendment passed by voters gave local governments the authority to ban or regulate medical pot dispensaries, but the Miami city government failed to pass measures to take either step.

The passage of the amendment prompted entrepreneur Romie Chaudhari, a Los Angeles-based real estate investor, to apply for a permit for his business MRC44 to open a medical pot dispensary at a site in downtown Miami. Chaudhari was denied a permit for the dispensary, with the Miami city attorney arguing that the ballot initiative is in violation of the federal prohibition of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

Chaudhari and MRC44 then sued the city of Miami in federal court for a permit to open a medical dispensary. The judge sent the case to state court but ruled that the city had “failed to act” by not banning or regulating dispensaries.

Miami’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board ruled in favor of Chaudhari’s plan to open a dispensary, but the city zoning director appealed that decision in April 2021. On Thursday the city commissioners voted to deny the appeal, clearing the way for Chaudhari and MRC44 to continue its quest to gain the proper permits and license to operate.

Commissioner Ken Russell, who is a registered medical cannabis patient and has publicly voiced his support for cannabis policy reform, voted to deny the appeal and allow Chaudhari to seek approval for the dispensary.

“I believe the state constitution is clear that we had the right to ban this use in our city and we have not done that,” Russell said, as quoted by the Miami New Times. “[Chaudhari has] applied in earnest under the lack of that ban, and I believe therefore we should grant their certificate of use.”

He said that it is time for the federal government to catch up with state and local governments that have legalized cannabis for medical use.

“Florida voters decided that it should be accessible in our state,” Russell added. “Because of the conflict between state and federal law, however, our City Commission had to settle the dispute as to whether our residents would get that access. We voted that they will.”

Regulations Still To Come

Russell was joined in Thursday’s vote by City Commissioners Alex Díaz de la Portilla and Christine King, who said that the city government was on the wrong side of the issue. Díaz de la Portilla said that the will of the voters should be respected and that the city should regulate medical cannabis dispensaries to avoid a proliferation of the businesses.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” he said. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes voted against the measure, arguing that the city should first implement a plan to regulate medical pot dispensaries to prevent a mass influx of the operations.

“I’m of the opinion that before we move forward in voting on this we need to establish our ordinance that what are the procedures and guidelines for someone to open up such an establishment,” Carollo said at Thursday’s meeting of the city commission. “Otherwise, we’re kind of making this into a sort of Cheech and Chong free-for-all.”

Reyes echoed his colleague’s sentiments, saying “You know how it is. They are going to be all over.”

“Wherever you go and they are permitted, you see people smoking pot in the streets,” he said.

Diaz de la Portilla agreed that the commission should act to regulate dispensaries.

“With the understanding that we are going to address the issues because Commissioners Reyes and Carollo are correct that we have to have a policy so we don’t have a proliferation of these dispensaries throughout our city,” Diaz de la Portilla said as he seconded Russell’s motion to vote in favor of Chaudhari.

An attorney representing MRC44 declined to comment after Thursday’s vote.

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Canadian Airport Could Get Cannabis Dispensary

Travelers visiting Prince George Airport in British Columbia this summer could score some weed for their trip at a licensed dispensary, a sign that cannabis continues to be normalized in Canada since legalization in 2018. 

The Prince George City Council recently gave preliminary approval for Copilot, a cannabis dispensary planned by American business partners Owen Ritz and Reed Horton with the support of airport regulators. The venture was first announced in January by the Prince George Airport Authority (PGAA), which said that Copilot is “pioneering cannabis for travel.”

“The company approached us in early 2020 with a proposal to open the first cannabis dispensary in an airport terminal worldwide, to our knowledge,” PGAA CEO Gordon Duke told the Prince George Citizen. “We feel strongly that having Copilot here at YXS will enhance our services our other business partners provide to our passengers and the people of our region,” he added, using the airport code for the Prince George travel hub.

Reaching Consumers Where They Are

Cannabis was legalized in Canada in 2018, and each province has since established its own regulations for recreational cannabis retail sales. Ontario had more than 1,100 licensed dispensaries at the end of 2021, jumping from only 183 in a year. Joanne McNeish, a Ryerson University professor specializing in marketing, said that the competition is beginning to concern some dispensary owners.

“The whole industry completely misunderstood what would happen because they thought the only barrier is legalization and once we’re legal, people will just buy,” said McNeish, who added that locating businesses in new locations such as airports and shopping malls could make it easier to reach customers.

“For a user, it could make it that much more convenient,” said McNeish.

As the retail environment for recreational cannabis continues to become more crowded, companies like Copilot are looking for novel location to reach consumers.

“Our goal from day one has been to create a differentiated retail experience that stands out from any store you might see downtown,” Ritz told the Canadian Press last week.

Canadian law allows air travelers to carry up to 30 grams of pot or the equivalent in other cannabis products on domestic flights. To accommodate travelers, many airports have already established areas where consumption of cannabis is permitted.

“One in four Canadians have already traveled with cannabis,” Ritz noted.

In a presentation to the Prince George City Council, Ritz and Howard explained that Copilot staff will check customers’ boarding passes to ensure that they are booked on a domestic flight. The business will not sell cannabis to international travelers or those employed by the airport or airlines. The partners said that they believe the airport in central British Columbia is the ideal location to launch Copilot.

“We felt Prince George was the best place to start because of the size of the airport and the community culture,” Horton said. “We felt the airport was large enough to have enough passenger traffic and enough flights to test out the different aspects of the business model but small enough where we would develop a community feel, and it wouldn’t necessarily feel like our retail store was in a sea of other stores or that it was an overwhelming experience for other passengers given that is a very new concept.”

“If all goes as planned, we are opening the first cannabis retail store in an airport right here in Prince George this summer,” said Ritz.

Airlines Opposed to Planned Airport Dispensary

Locating cannabis dispensaries in airports, however, is facing opposition from the air travel industry, including Canada’s two largest airlines. Air Canada director of local and provincial government relations Serge Corbeil said at a public hearing in February that the measures taken to ensure customers are not traveling internationally may not be effective in cases where passengers have more than one boarding pass. 

“This could be highly problematic,” Corbeil said. “(And) while rare, there are instances where a flight may be domestic, but be diverted into the United States.”

Additionally, the airline industry is concerned that allowing cannabis sales and consumption sites at airports may lead to more intoxicated passengers in the skies. WestJet director of government and regulatory affairs Jared Mikoch-Gerke noted in a written statement that the International Air Transport Association recently reported a 55% increase in unruly behavior in the span of one year.

“WestJet, similarly, has also seen a significant increase in unruly behavior of passengers, and in many cases, the underlying cause is found to be intoxication,” Mikoch-Gerke wrote. “Unruly behavior onboard an aircraft is a fundamental safety issue, where the most severe cases see passengers physically assaulting crew members or other passengers, and, in some cases, attempting to open cabin doors or emergency exit windows and resulting in the diversion of aircraft. An aircraft cabin is not an appropriate place to be intoxicated.”

But Prince George City Councilor Cori Ramsey says that the fact that airports already have cannabis consumption areas and businesses that sell and serve alcohol makes dispensaries located at airports appropriate.

“To me, the precedent has already been set that this is an acceptable land use for an airport,” Ramsay said. “I know it’s strange going first. (But) looking 10, 15 years down the line, I can see cannabis stores available in most airports in Canada.”

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