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Weed has been legal in New York state since 2021 but the first dispensary is set to open — finally — in Manhattan

Pop-up marijuana storeA pop-up cannabis dispensary operating out of a mobile camper in Brooklyn, NY.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images

  • Marijuana has been legal in New York State since March 2021, but there are still no licensed dispensaries in NYC.
  • The first legal dispensary in New York State will be opened by an HIV/AIDS nonprofit in Manhattan on Dec. 29, Gov. Hochul announced.
  • Illicit weed businesses are all over NYC, and they’re putting consumers in danger due to a lack of regulation.

Cannabis tourism has become a billion-dollar industry, but up until this week visitors to New York City couldn’t find licensed dispensaries to buy weed despite the drug’s legal status.

According to the governor’s official site, on Thursday, Housing Works, a New York City-based HIV/AIDS nonprofit, will become the first nonprofit in the state to legally sell cannabis products when it opens the doors to its new store in the East Village of Manhattan. 

In March 2021, cannabis was legalized for recreational use in New York state.  Last August, Gov. Kathy Hochul said her goal was to open 20 legal dispensaries by the end of 2022, digital news platform The City reported.

All sale proceeds at Housing Works will go toward the organization’s efforts to provide “job opportunities, legal advocacy, and comprehensive housing and health services,” the governor’s site reads. 

“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,” Hochul said in statement. 

Prior to this announcement, how and where to legally obtain weed in New York City was a confusing matter. There had been no way to legally purchase recreational marijuana in New York City, although using the drug is permitted by law for those ages 21 and older.

The first 36 retail licenses were issued in November to 28 businesses and eight nonprofits out of 900 applicants statewide, NBC New York reported. However, cannabis has been available through illicit businesses already, threatening the success of future legal dispensaries, according to CNBC.  

Weed found in bodegas, brick-and-mortar stores, and pop-ups can easily be purchased, but the products are unregulated and often untested for contaminants.

CBD Kratom storefront in Queens, NY.CBD Kratom has numerous locations in New York City and advertise THC and CBD candies for purchase although it’s unclear if the products have undergone the appropriate tests.

Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A November survey by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association found that THC products purchased from 20 illicit marijuana businesses in New York City tested positive for E. coli, salmonella, pesticides, and heavy metals.

“These shops are masquerading as safe, legal entities,” Trivette Knowles, a press officer at the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, told CNBC. “But there are currently no licensed sales happening right now in the state of New York.”

According to CNBC, city officials are cracking down on the reported tens of thousands of illegal businesses in New York City as licensed retailers prepare to open their doors. Data experts estimate the national market for illicit businesses is worth around $60 billion while the legal industry is half that, the report reads.

“We will not let the economic opportunities that legal cannabis offers be taken for a ride by unlicensed establishments,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said in a news conference.

Harlem in upper Manhattan is expected to be home to the first for-profit retail location in New York state after the lease was inked with just three weeks left in the year, according to The City’s report. It’s unclear when the dispensary will open or which business will operate the location.

Read the original article on Business Insider