New York Approves Bill Legalizing Overdose Prevention Center

A New York Senate committee passed a bill authorizing the establishment of a state-sanctioned overdose prevention center (or OPC, also referred to as supervised consumption sites or safer consumption spaces). Safer consumption spaces are supervised places to use illegal drugs under medical supervision. The legislation, Senate Bill S399A (the enactment of the Safer Consumption Services Act, or SCSA), would require the New York State Department of Health to authorize at least one supervised consumption site. While OPCs already exist, this bill will make it easier for harm reduction workers to do their jobs and solidify the work that is already happening. 

New York City opened the first city-authorized safe consumption sites in late 2021. The advancing legislation will provide a sterile environment for people to use pre-obtained substances (they won’t provide you with any), giving them a safe alternative to bathrooms or other sites frequented. In addition, the prevention center will also keep medical workers on site to ensure folks are administering the drug more safely. Such sites also offer protection that’s not available when using the drug in a non-monitored establishment, as medical workers will be there to treat any overdoses properly. Naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses will be at the safer consumption site. On-site workers will also educate participants on safer consumption practices and information on treatment. While the site can collect aggregate data on its participants and their experiences, participants and the staff at the safer consumption site will have immunity from prosecution for the sanctioned activities. 

For some history, in 2015, IDUHA (the Injection Drug Users Health Alliance) released a memo essentially directing Harm Reduction agencies to act on the assumption that people using their bathrooms would likely be using opioids and therefore be at risk of overdose, a New York City harm reduction worker explains to High Times. However, most agencies have a policy wherein anyone using the bathroom gets a knock on the door every few minutes, and staff can access the bathroom and provide overdose support (including naloxone and rescue breaths and contacting EMS) when the occupant is unresponsive. “On average, my team responds to one overdose a month in our bathroom, with several utilizations a day not resulting in overdose. We have to wait for someone to stop breathing and stop responding to a knock at the door, at which point they may have been not breathing for several minutes,” our source says. “The SCSA is an important bill because it acknowledges work that is already happening—harm reduction workers and people who use drugs and their peers are already on the front lines of the overdose crisis.” 

The Senate Health Committee passed the harm reduction legislation from Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D) in a voice vote on Tuesday, and it will now go to the Finance Committee for consideration. The Assembly companion version of SCSA, sponsored by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D), cleared the chamber’s Health Committee in March.

“Harm reduction works. Harm reduction is a modality—a way to approach dealing with an issue which assumes, first, that a person who uses drugs is a person, and that they have to be met where they are,” Rivera said at the hearing. “Fact number two, criminalization has not worked.”

“Over decades of the drug war, it is pretty clear that we have lost said war,” he continues. “The notion that we could arrest our way out of addiction—that we could arrest our way out of overdoses and deaths—has been proven to be a lie based on all of these years of experience. Criminalization does not work.”

It marks a milestone in harm reduction history. “Today, the Senate recognized the dire situation New York is in because of the overdose crisis and failed War on Drugs era policies,” the advocacy group VOCAL-NY said in a press release on Tuesday. “New York is one step closer to seeing Overdose Prevention Centers authorized across the state,” the group’s Users Union leaders elaborated. “The legislature needs to keep the momentum and pass the Safe Consumption Services Act out of both houses by the end of session.”

However, the New York City harm reduction worker High Times spoke with explains that this bill may be simply securing what already exists, thanks to the hard work of passionate harm reduction groups. “Every OPC will be placed in already existing harm reduction agencies. In a very real way, the bill will not change much. Last week I went to Albany with a cohort of workers and participants at VOCAL-NY, Housing Works, and OnPoint to speak to legislators who had not signed on yet. When we met with [New York State Senator] Tim Kennedy’s legislative director, I told her: we are already doing this, but because we can’t acknowledge it, we have to keep the bathroom door closed. Let us leave the door open—that’s all we’re asking.”

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New York Governor Signs Legislation To Reign In Illicit Weed Market

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed legislation to reign in the state’s illicit marijuana market that includes penalties for unlicensed cannabis retailers of up to $20,000 per day. The legislation, which increases civil and tax penalties for the illicit sale of cannabis in New York, was signed into law as part of the state budget for the 2024 fiscal year.

Hochul first proposed the new measures to address New York’s underground cannabis market in March as a way to prop up the emerging industry for recreational marijuana, which was legalized by state lawmakers in 2021. Regulated sales of adult-use cannabis began in the closing days of 2022, but so far, only a handful of licensed dispensaries have opened statewide. Meanwhile, free from the threat of criminal penalties, unlicensed dispensaries have proliferated, with a law enforcement task force study conducted earlier this year identifying at least 1,200 illicit pot shops in New York City.

“As New York State continues to roll out a nation-leading model to establish its cannabis industry, these critical enforcement measures will protect New Yorkers from illicit, unregulated sales,” Hochul said in a statement on May 3. “Unlicensed dispensaries violate our laws, put public health at risk, and undermine the legal cannabis market. With these enforcement tools, we’re paving the way for safer products, reinvestment in communities that endured years of disproportionate enforcement, and greater opportunities for New Yorkers.”

Law Gives New Enforcement Powers

The new legislation provides additional enforcement power to the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the state Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) to enforce regulatory requirements and close stores engaged in the illegal sale of cannabis. The new law allows the OCM to assess civil penalties against unlicensed cannabis businesses, with the “most egregious” illicit operators facing fines of up to $20,000 per day. The law also makes it a crime to sell cannabis or cannabis products without a license.

The legislation also gives the OCM new powers to conduct regulatory inspections of businesses selling cannabis and cannabis products, including so-called gifting shops that provide cannabis in return for inconsequential merchandise. The agency will have the power to seize untested cannabis products from unlicensed businesses and will seek court orders to close unlicensed shops and evict commercial tenants engaged in selling cannabis without a license.

Additionally, the DTF is now empowered to conduct regulatory inspections of businesses selling cannabis to determine if the appropriate taxes have been paid and levy civil penalties on businesses not paying taxes. The legislation also establishes a new tax fraud crime for businesses that willfully fail to collect or remit required cannabis taxes, or knowingly possess for sale any cannabis on which tax was required to be paid but was not.

“Strengthening tax laws as they pertain to the cannabis industry and providing for robust and fair enforcement will help the industry to be successful over the long term,” said New York State Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Amanda Hiller.

Elliot Choi, counsel and chief knowledge officer at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, said that while the new measures passed into law are good news for the regulated cannabis industry, some of the governor’s measures will likely not have an immediate effect on illicit operators.

“Illegal dispensaries continue to proliferate in New York, especially in the City, so any movement on enforcement is welcome,” Choi wrote in an email to High Times. “The enforcement legislation in the state’s budget includes the ability for the Department of Tax and Finance to levy some hefty fines. We suspect those fines will have a deterrent effect on new illegal dispensaries. However, the tax department is going to need time to staff up and the Office of Cannabis Management will need to draft some regulations before there is a crackdown on existing ones.”

Hochul’s efforts to protect licensed cannabis retailers also include measures to lessen the demand for illicit marijuana. Last month, she unveiled a consumer ad campaign to encourage consumers to purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

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Littered Joint Roaches Wreak Havoc for Dog Parents in New York City

A growing chorus of dog parents are complaining about the scourge of joint roaches littered on New York City streets, less than six months into adult-use cannabis sales.

KTLA 5 reports that dog parents and veterinarians are concerned about dogs eating littered roaches throughout New York City, which they say is a public nuisance.

Dr. Amy Attas, a New York City veterinarian, told KTLA 5 that she’s been getting more and more calls about concerned dog parents when their dogs sniff up and eat roaches left on the sidewalk.

“The reason we’re seeing so many cases is that people are using marijuana on the street and then discarding the unwanted ends of their joints,” Attas said. “And that’s a real problem because dogs will eat those.”

According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center, (APCC) recreational drugs including cannabis are part of the organization’s annual list of top toxins for pets, which was announced during National Poison Prevention Week last March 19-25.

In 2022, the APCC team received nearly 11% more calls related to potential cannabis ingestion than in the year before, and they have seen a nearly 300 percent increase in calls over the past five years. “To me, it is unbelievable how prevalent this now is,” said Attas.

According to the APCC, most calls involve pets ingesting edibles which are more dangerous than ingesting plant material, sometimes combined with ingredients like chocolate, another dog toxin. Eating edibles can result in symptoms such as stomach upset, urinary incontinence, and ataxia in pets like dogs.

Colleen Briggs is one of the dog parents in New York who is concerned about roaches on the sidewalk, after her 8-month-old toy poodle ate some cannabis. “He was just doing his usual—exploring everything, sniffing everything,” Briggs told KTLA 5.

Sue Scott, whose 9-month-old pug ate a roach, is also concerned. “I don’t know if you know pugs—they’re constantly on the lookout for their next morsel,” said Scott. “But sometimes it’s pretty tough to control them because they are so fast. They’ll just dart at something.”

CBD, not THC, for Dogs

While THC is considered a toxin for dogs, as their bodies are generally believed to be too small to handle the compound, CBD may have a different outcome. 

Dr. Helen Rudnick of Austin Urban Vet told High Times in 2018 that anecdotal reports suggest CBD can be beneficial for dogs. One claim is that CBD can be helpful for dogs suffering from seizures, as it has been reported in children.

Professional British Boxer Anthony Fowler, for instance, posted a video of a dog having a seizure and how fast CBD oil stopped the dog from shaking. Another viral video shows CBD oil stopping a seizure in another dog in less than one minute.

In 2022, the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) launched a petition against Idaho’s ban on CBD for animals. The NASC believes CBD bans are more dangerous because CBD products need certificates of analysis and need to be vetted under a regulatory program. 

So the NASC called people to action on the Council’s website and launched a petition on 

What to Do with Roaches Instead of Littering

There are several ways to salvage the weed leftover in a joint roach.

You can make a grandfather joint, using emptied out roaches and re-rolling several of them into a new joint. The cannabis left in roaches typically contains extra resin that is collected while the original joint was smoked.

First or second generation roach joints are best, though some users say they’ve smoked five-generation roach joints before. Another option is getting a roach clip so you can smoke all the way to the end.

Another option is to make roach butter, or infuse the leftover weed into a butter using the same general guidelines you’d use with unused cannabis. Most likely the weed has already been partially decarboxylated. 

If you don’t want to smoke roach weed, then throw it out somewhere so that it won’t end up on the sidewalk where dogs will inevitably sniff them down and eat them up.

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Battle Erupts Over Harlem Dispensary Across the Street from Apollo Theater

A battle is underway to fight a new dispensary from opening in Harlem at a site known for its place in music history.

CBS2 reports that plans are unfolding to open a dispensary in a building on 125th Street, across the street from the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.

The 125th Street Business Improvement District (BID) filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court. “We’ve taken this action to really create transparency and to create a channel of communication to understand why this location,” Mukaram Taheraly, chairman of the 125th Street BID, told CBS2.

According to the BID, state regulators colluded in secret in order to avoid pushback from the Harlem community, especially considering the importance of the location. “We just wanna know why the decision was taken really without consulting us,” Taheraly said.

The lawsuit also accuses the state of violating its own regulation barring dispensaries from opening within 500 feet of a school. In this case, they say the dispensary is too close to Touro College, a high school-aged school in the area. The lawsuit lists a total of 47 businesses that serve or cater to minors.

For a solution, the BID recommends that the dispensary opens inside the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building, which is owned by the state, so patrons can have a secure and a safe environment.

Crain’s New York Business reports that a sign hangs at the proposed location, indicating it was recently a COVID testing center.

Residents Recognize Apollo Theater in Music History

The Apollo Theater is no ordinary location: Since the swing era, it’s been synonymous with legendary Black musicians and performers. 

Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and comedians like Richard Pryor performed often at the theater. Other artists’ careers launched at the theater including Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., Diana Ross & The Supremes, Parliament-Funkadelic, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Jackson 5 and later Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, The Isley Brothers, and the list goes on.

This could add to the reasons locals don’t want a dispensary directly across the street.

Some residents gave a balanced response when asked about the dispensary location. 

“They will have customers that feel like this is an establishment I can really go in and feel safe,” Harlem resident Breeze Fabre said.

“If they’re giving people jobs, I might come there and work,” another Harlem resident said.

“This is perhaps [a] situation where there is no right answer, but before we go forward, I think all the major stakeholders, their positions, should be considered,” Harlem resident Muna Heaven said.

Other residents are not so happy. “That’s the worst thing they can do,” Harlem resident Brenda Balthazar told ABC7. “Like right now a lot of things are happening on the train, and not only on the train but in neighborhoods.”

While the location is a few doors down from the Lazarus Children’s Clothing Store, there is also a tattoo parlor next door, and no one’s complaining about that.

The New York Cannabis Control Board approved 99 new licenses on April 3, increasing the total provisional retail dispensary licenses for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries (CAURD) to 165.

The Cannabis Control Board wrote in a press release that the “licenses included four for Western New York, one for Central New York, five for mid-Hudson, and three for Brooklyn, marking the first provisional licenses to be issued in these regions following last week’s modification of a court injunction that had prevented the Board from issuing them.”

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Jon’s Stone-Cold Cop List #36: Live from New York

Happy belated 4/20 y’all! I hope you enjoyed the special print version of the Cop List that went up last week. That one originally ran in the magazine but I figured since it was the holiday, and I didn’t want to rush a new one out just yet, that was a safe one to let rip. We could call it 35.5 – it was intended to have a more national feel, focusing on products rather than dank specifically, but I’m not pretending that was a suitable replacement for this month. We’re back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

Last week, for the second year in a row, players from across the country (and globe, even) descended on New York City to celebrate our favorite holiday. Just like last year, this was another one for the record books. Between the East Coast’s Zalympix unbelievable showing at Terminal 5, to First Smoke of the Day’s Family Ties Brunch, Zushi’s Lower East Side Pop-Up Store, to the classic Washington Square Park celebration, I’m still trying to recover from the marathon of events that went on across the city. We sesh’d in an abandoned mall in Chinatown, ate insane meals at 2:30 AM regularly, and even watched them film a scene for the new Penguin show for HBO Max. It was pretty excellent by just about every measure.

So, in honor of the trip, #36 is compiled entirely of dank I found last week while stumbling around the city and it’s various events. I mentioned on social a few weeks ago that I wasn’t going to bring any bud with me on the trip, and the city more than provided. Shouts out to all the homies that came up to me throughout the week with some flavors to try, or just some kind words about our efforts over here. I was not expecting as many of you to recognize me as you did, and I’ll be honest, the love you showed in the city that raised me was incredibly special. Thank you. Also to Sasso – appreciate your hospitality as always my guy!

Like usual, you don’t gotta be a stranger. Finding the flame takes a village, and I want to hear what’s getting you up too. Hit me on just about any platform here: @joncappetta

Green Gold Collective

Courtesy Green Gold Collective

I’ve been hearing rumblings about this guy for awhile now, so imagine my surprise when I run into bro on the other side of the country, outside the Player’s Ball – I mean, the First Smoke of the Day Brunch. My homie CGO (who you’ll hear more about soon) was talking to him while I was waiting for the car, and called me over to check it out. While there are a lot of people growing great weed right now, I could immediately see why so many heads were pointing me in that direction. These flowers are special. Although I only got to check out their Pink Lemonade, which was clearly outstanding, I’m declaring right now that I’m going to make a dedicated trip to wherever they are once I get back to California to stick my nose in more of their bags.


Courtesy Marijuantauk

I’m not going to lie, I’m abnormally rooting for these hometown heroes. Cultivating out on Long Island, where I spent most of my formative years, not only are these guys sweethearts, but the flower they’re cultivating really shows they not only know what they’re doing, but that they care about the details. They got a trophy at the East Coast Zalympix for having the Heaviest Hitting cut in the competition, with their rendition of Cap Junky, but it was their Biscotti – which I’m affectionately referring to as the ‘Barbecue cut’ because the nose has these hints of almost woody-ness that reminds me of an outdoor BBQ (not the chip flavor) – that really hooked me. I’ve smoked a LOT of Biscotti in my day, and it’s an excellent strain to begin with, but this rendition rekindled that obsession with what feels like a whole new swag.

All Kings

Courtesy All Kings

Another true New York brand, All Kings were a totally new name for me, but boy am I glad we met. Actually grown in the state, they had two cuts to show me: their OG and a ‘Grape Head’. While the OG was definitely a dope varietal, it was the Grape Head that I’ve got to let you know about. This had exactly the nose you’d expect from a cut with grape in it’s name, but the taste of the smoke gave pure grapeade, which I wasn’t expecting. I’m talking that sweet artificial grape flavor, and just like the OG cut this one seriously drooped my eyelids.


Courtesy Torrone

A new discovery from the homies at Good Pizza and his breeding partner Exotiks916, I’m really excited about this stash of Torrone I got blessed with last week. Although these guys are based out West now, GP’s a native New Yorker like me, and about as Italian as they come, so all of his cultivars have some sort of Italian American theme – like his initial Carmela, affectionately named after the Sopranos matriarch. This new cut, named after the honey almond treat popular in the motherland, is delicious. While I have no idea how much it actually smells like the dessert, it’s got this wonderful pine-y menthol nose that I can’t get enough of, and it smokes like a dream. 

The Book Club

Courtesy The Book Club

This is another one whose name had reached me before the flower, and I’m happy to report that from my perspective, the hype here is real. The second chapter in the Book Club Cannabis’ story (although I admittedly missed the first one), Osi illustrated to me that this is truly a connoisseur driven brand, with a cut that hits from pretty much every angle. And while you often hear me rave about the nose and flavor, it was really the effect on this one that shined. It genuinely felt heavy – which is appropriate, as it was on Trevy’s page that I saw it first. It’s worth acknowledging here that basically anytime Trev says something’s worth checking out, you should listen.

The Mechanic x Doja

Courtesy The Mechanic

If you’ve read even one of these in the past you’re likely aware I’m a big fan of Doja and the flower he brings to market. I’ve raved about several cultivars, as well as his parties, but perhaps his most impressive move yet has been the developments he’s made out of state. While having pumped out some truly next level gear out of Michigan already, his latest collaboration with The Mechanic in New York has me super geeked. You see, The Mechanic’s been popping several of Doja’s beans, and while I foolishly missed the tasting party and didn’t get to see the majority of the new cuts, the Cherry Runtz he grew is as good as I’ve ever seen it – Cali or otherwise. 

Dallas Growers Club

Courtesy Dallas Growers Club

While these guys are not from New York, they’re also not from Dallas. Well, at least not that Dallas. Hailing out of Oregon, these guys pride themselves on cultivating ‘uncommon cannabis’ and I’ve got to say, they’re true to their tagline. I got to see four different varietals from them, and while they were all delicious tasting, both their Pure Michigan and Strawberry Driver were worth writing home about. My favorite of the crop was definitely the Michigan cut, as it had this weird almost cheese kush nose on it. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s a descendent of Mendo Breath, and the flavor is consistent, so if you remember that, add just a bit of sweetness to it. What’s not to love?

Surf’s Up Exotics

Courtesy Surf’s Up Exotics

Another out-of-towner in for the holiday that I met this trip was Surf’s Up Exotics, and they had their new star, ‘The Wave,’ in tow. I instantly saw what they were excited about, as both the nose and look of these buds were certainly top tier. That said, it was actually the flavor of the Wave that ultimately hooked me. Though the nose was initially a sort of minty runtzy expression, this one’s got an almost licorice undertone in the smoke, and it gets stronger as the joint progresses. It’s just a delightful smoking experience you’ll continue to crave long after it’s cashed. The high’s pretty great too, and not as drag-y as you’d expect from something that dark and candy, but the flavor!


Courtesy Gotti

I can’t complete this list without mentioning the big winner of the East Coast showdown, Gotti. Bringing home the 1st place trophy for the best overall, 1st place for best tasting, and 3rd place for best smell, their Zkittlez x Zoap selection deserves all the praise it’s receiving. I will admit this is my first time hearing of these guys, so while they’re clearly off to a great start, this is a brand I will certainly be keeping a close eye on as the market develops. Their flower smelled exactly how you’d expect it to, but the judges were right to award it so high on flavor – it’s probably the most delicious tasting smoke from a Zoap cross I’ve ever tried.


Courtesy Conchiss

Out of all the new brands I met last week, this one was probably the most unexpected, and weirdly exciting out of the bunch. Dubbed Conchiss, this guy’s got some really good weed, but it’s the uniqueness of the whole experience that really resonated with me here. With insane cultivar names like ‘Green Eggs & Ham’ (shouts to the Dr.) and ‘Cape Cod Saltwater Taffy’, it was his ‘Pineapple Chroma’ that stopped the show for me. With a true pineapple nose that also holds this weird menthol behind it, this was one of the best tasting new flavors I found this trip. I didn’t dislike the crazy sounding strains either, but the Pineapple, man… there’s some real magic there.


Courtesy DeLisioso

Now I can’t front and pretend this is the first time I’ve heard of DeLisioso. Founded by America’s longest-serving nonviolent cannabis prisoner Richard DeLisi, and his son Rick, DeLisioso is the American Dream version of turning lemons into lemonade. Launching the brand less than a year after Richard was freed, this was my first time getting hands-on with their flower and I’ve got to say, I’m very stoked on what they’re working with. I tried two cultivars (the purple and yellow bag, although they weren’t labeled beyond that) and while they were both delicious, there’s something really special in that yellow bag. I don’t even know how to describe the nose because it’s just so different from the majority of the market right now, but the smoke was incredibly clean and the high motivated me to knock out half of this list immediately!

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New York Governor Launches Campaign Urging Consumers To Buy Legal Weed

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday launched a new statewide campaign to encourage consumers to purchase cannabis from the state’s regulated recreational marijuana market. New York legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021, and regulated sales of recreational marijuana began at the state’s first licensed dispensary in Manhattan in late December 2022.

“To bolster the public health and safety of all New Yorkers, we are providing them with information they need to make informed decisions and enjoy cannabis responsibly,” Hochul said in a statement from the governor’s office. “As we continue to build a healthier and more equitable cannabis market, I am proud to launch this important public education campaign to promote safer, legal purchases of cannabis from licensed dispensaries throughout our state.”

Campaign Launched In Time For 4/20

The new campaign, dubbed “Why Buy Legal New York,” came as the state’s limited number of adult-use cannabis retailers prepared for the legal industry’s first 4/20, the high holiday of weed culture. The initiative focuses on three points including protecting public health, promoting social equity and community reinvestments, and features licensed cannabis operators extolling the virtues of regulated marijuana businesses and their products.

“We are excited to launch this campaign to promote safe and legal purchases of cannabis in New York,” said Tremaine Wright, chairwoman of the New York Cannabis Control Board. “By supporting licensed dispensaries, consumers can be confident that they are getting safe and accurately labeled products while supporting their local communities.”

The mostly digital campaign will attempt to explain the potential risks associated with cannabis from the unregulated market, which does not require products to be lab tested for safety and potency. The ads in the campaign will also highlight how purchasing cannabis from the regulated market supports the state’s social and economic goals for communities across the state of New York. The initiative, which is targeted at cannabis consumers 21 years old, includes educational materials including “The Guide to Safer Cannabis Consumption” and information on how to find legal dispensaries in New York. The campaign’s materials and safe consumption tips are also available online.

“We want to make sure that New Yorkers are informed about the potential risks and benefits of using cannabis,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. “Our goal is to empower consumers to make informed decisions and to ensure they have access to the safest products available. New York has some incredible dispensaries across the state, and I encourage cannabis consumers and the canna-curious to visit these shops and see for themselves.”

PSAs Feature Licensed Cannabis Operators

The Why Buy Legal New York campaign features licensed cannabis operators including Jasmine and King, cultivators focused on the community-centered and wellness properties of cannabis. Howard is a licensed processor focused on modern safety practices and education efforts to produce safer cannabis products, while Damien is a licensed retailer focused on social justice reform and community reinvestment, bringing over five years of experience as a business owner to New York’s regulated cannabis industry. And Eddie, another licensed processor, incorporates his experience from more than five generations of family farming to produce safer cannabis products for the regulated market.

Lyla Hunt, deputy director of public health and education campaigns, said that the Why Buy Legal New York initiative is “critical to educating New Yorkers about the importance of purchasing cannabis legally from licensed dispensaries.”

“These PSAs are designed to offer a striking contrast to the exaggerations and incorrect messaging so many experienced during the prohibition of cannabis. By emphasizing the health and safety benefits of buying legally, we hope to build trust in the regulated cannabis industry and encourage New Yorkers to make informed decisions regarding cannabis consumption,” added Hunt. “This campaign is also an opportunity to address historical harms and promote community reinvestment while providing valuable information about the regulated cannabis space. We are excited to launch this campaign and believe it will make a significant difference in the lives of New Yorkers, supporting a safer and more equitable cannabis industry for all and furthering New York State’s education first approach.”

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Judge Lifts Ban on Dispensary Licenses in Brooklyn

A federal court in New York on Tuesday cleared the way for state regulators to begin issuing adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses to prospective business owners in Brooklyn and elsewhere. 

The New York Times reports that the the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan “lifted part of an injunction that prevented cannabis regulators from issuing licenses for recreational dispensaries in some parts of New York, removing a major obstacle for the state’s rollout.”

“The court’s decision allows regulators to issue 108 dispensary licenses in the regions that are no longer under the injunction: Central New York, Western New York, Mid-Hudson and Brooklyn. But 18 licenses in the Finger Lakes region remain tied up in the lawsuit,” the Times explains.

“New licenses could be approved as soon as Monday, April 3, when the Cannabis Control Board holds its monthly meeting. At least 18 licenses in the affected regions have been ready for approval since November, the Office of Cannabis Management said at the time.”

New York launched its regulated adult-use cannabis market late last year with the opening of a licensed retailer in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. 

Two more have opened in Manhattan since then, while the first cannabis retailer in Queens opened on Thursday.

But New York City’s most populous borough, Brooklyn, has thus far been shut out following an injunction in November by a federal court in Syracuse, New York.

The ruling by that court came in response to a lawsuit filed by a Michigan cannabis company that challenged New York’s licensing requirements.

But this week’s partial removal of the injunction also paves the way for other highly populated areas in New York state to join the regulated weed market. 

The New York Times has more:

“The removal of the injunction paves the way for dispensaries to open in some of the state’s most populous areas, including Buffalo, Syracuse and the Hudson Valley, giving farmers and manufacturers — who have been sitting on a mountain of inventory — more places to sell their weed. But getting from licensing to opening is a process that can take several months. Since November, regulators have issued dispensary licenses to 56 businesses and 10 nonprofit groups. So far, only five stores have opened, in Manhattan, Ithaca and Binghamton; two more are scheduled to open this week, in Queens and Schenectady.”

Tuesday’s ruling by the federal appeals court comes three weeks after the state of New York announced that it would be doubling the number of dispensary licenses

“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,” Tremaine Wright, chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board, said at the time. “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.” 

The first dispensary that opened in Queens this week also has the distinction of being the first woman-owned cannabis retailer in New York

That weed shop, known as Good Grades, will begin as a pop-up.

“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.”

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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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New York Governor Unveils Plan To Address Illicit Pot Shops

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday unveiled new legislation to combat the state’s persistent illicit cannabis operators. The bill, which already has the support of dozens of lawmakers in the New York Senate and State Assembly, also provides increased authority for regulators including the Office of Cannabis Management and the Department of Taxation and Finance to enforce regulations and close stores engaged in illegal cannabis sales.

“Over the past several weeks I have been working with the legislature on new legislation to improve New York’s regulatory structure for cannabis products,” Hochul said in a statement from the governor’s office. “The continued existence of illegal dispensaries is unacceptable, and we need additional enforcement tools to protect New Yorkers from dangerous products and support our equity initiatives.”

New York Legalized Recreational Weed In 2021

New York legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021 and the first recreational marijuana dispensary opened its doors in Manhattan late last year. But so far, only four Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) retailers have opened statewide. Meanwhile, the number of unlicensed pot shops has skyrocketed, prompting operators in the nascent licensed cannabis industry and others to press state officials for action against illicit operators.

Under the proposed legislation announced by Hochul on Wednesday, New York’s tax and cannabis laws would be amended to enable the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) and local law enforcement agencies to enforce restrictions on unlicensed storefront dispensaries. The legislation does not impose new penalties for cannabis possession for personal use by an individual and does not allow local law enforcement officers to perform marijuana enforcement actions against individuals.

“This legislation, for the first time, would allow OCM and DTF to crack down on unlicensed activity, protect New Yorkers, and ensure the success of new cannabis businesses in New York,” the governor’s office wrote. “The legislation would restructure current illicit cannabis penalties to give DTF peace officers enforcement authority, create a manageable, credible, fair enforcement system, and would impose new penalties for retailers that evade State cannabis taxes.”

The bill clarifies and expands the OCM’s authority to seize illicit cannabis products, establishes summary procedures for the OCM and other governmental entities to shut down unlicensed businesses, and creates a framework for more effective cooperative efforts among agencies. 

Violations of the law could lead to fines of $200,000 for illicit cannabis plants or products. The legislation also allows the OCM to fine businesses up to $10,000 per day for engaging in cannabis sales without a license from the state.

Elliot Choi, chief knowledge officer at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, hailed the use of financial penalties instead of jail time to help reign in New York’s illicit cannabis market. 

“Governor Hochul’s proposed legislation is very much welcomed as prior efforts to combat the illicit dispensaries haven’t appeared to have much of an impact,” Choi wrote in an email to High Times. “We support the use of fines as opposed to incarceration to avoid recriminalization and a return of anything that resembles the prior failed war on drugs.” 

In addition to fines for unlicensed cannabis operators, Choi said that penalizing property owners who rent to unlicensed businesses would also be an appropriate tool for the state’s cannabis regulators and called for an increase in funding for state agencies tasked with controlling underground operators.

“Landlords should not have any incentives to rent to illegal operators and should be financially punished for doing so,” said Choi. “Finally, both the OCM and the Department of Taxation and Finance need additional resources to enforce as the OCM already has enough on their plate getting the regulations finalized and corresponding licenses issued in a timely fashion.”

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New Lawsuit Against New York Cannabis Agency Filed

The New York-based Coalition for Access to Regulated & Safe Cannabis (CARSC) recently filed a lawsuit against the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) on March 16. CARSC is an “unincorporated trade association” that includes a handful of organizations, including Acreage Holdings, PharmaCann, Green Thumb Industries, and Curaleaf, all of which sought to apply for a dispensary license in New York.

The lawsuit is requesting a judge to declare Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) as unconstitutional, and state that the OCM and Cannabis Control Board (CCB) have overstepped their authority.

The lawsuit was filed with the Albany County Supreme Court by Feuerstein Kulick, claiming that the 2021 Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act required both the OCM and CCB “the initial adult-use retail dispensary license application period … for all applicants at the same time.” Both agencies made the CAURD, which created a new license class, and allowed specific groups to apply for it, rather than “all applicants.”

“Rather than perform the tasks required by the MRTA—which would promote a safe and regulated cannabis industry for medical patients and adult-use consumers alike—CCB and OCM have improperly assumed the role of the Legislature to impose their own policies over those of New York’s elected officials and, by extension, their constituents,” the lawsuit states, according to

The lawsuit alleges that the CCB and OCM didn’t complete the requirements of the MRTA, and instead abused its power to create the CAURD. CAURD originated from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Seeding Opportunity Initiative that was announced in March 2022, which “position individuals with prior cannabis-related criminal offenses” to earn one of 150 licenses, and an additional 25 to nonprofit organizations. It requires that an applicant must have been convicted of a cannabis crime in the state of New York, and also must have a “significant presence.”

The lawsuit alleges that a 20-month delay in proposed cannabis regulations is a violation of state law, among other evidence, including having cultivators grow thousands of pounds of cannabis without having retail businesses set up to sell it all.

In July 2022, OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander spoke with NY Cannabis Insider about the threat of a lawsuit such as this one. “I don’t have a concern about the challenge towards the retail opportunity, because the board has the power to create additional licenses,” Alexander said. “We think about legal challenges that may come to the program, but that’s why we stay as close to the law and the powers that law has given us as possible.”

One month before the CAURD application window ended in October 2022, a different lawsuit was filed that prevented the OCM from issuing licenses in five out of 14 areas: Finger Lakes, Central New York, Western New York, Mid-Hudson, and Brooklyn. The lawsuit alleges that CAURD violates the Dormant Commerce Clause, which “refers to the prohibition, implicit in the Commerce Clause, against states passing legislation that discriminates against or excessively burdens interstate commerce.”

Another lawsuit filed by Variscite NY One, a Michigan-based company, was denied a license because it is 51% owned by an individual who has no “significant presence” in New York, and has a cannabis conviction in Michigan, not New York. states that 66 CAURD licenses have been issued so far, with the CCB announcing in March that it plans to increase the pool of licenses to 300. 

Sen. Jeremy Cooney, who co-sponsored the MRTA, addressed the concerns of the lawsuit in a statement to NY Cannabis Insider. “When we passed the MRTA, there was an understanding that the rollout of adult-use recreational cannabis and expansion of New York’s medical cannabis program would be complex, and encounter obstacles,” Cooney said. “While a potential lawsuit is undoubtedly a new challenge, we must not allow it to become a roadblock to progress. We must continue our efforts to deliver for operators, patients, and consumers as the legal process unfolds. We are committed to increasing patient access for the medical program and creating equity in the recreational market.”

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