Why I Want to Open a New York Marijuana Dispensary

In March 2021, then-Governor Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in the law. Suddenly, the green rush for dispensary licenses was on. A year later, Governor Hochul announced a unique plan to prioritize licensing of business owners who had been impacted by the war on drugs. “Even for the smell, we were harassed by the police,” says Hector Guerrero, a cybersecurity analyst who was arrested for possession of marijuana at the age of 17. Nube, the Guerrero family business, is one of 36 outlets that were approved last time. months to open physical dispensaries. (The Cannabis Control Board expects to issue a total of 175 licenses in the coming months.). Here, some candidates on their high hopes.

Photo: Chris Buck

Roger Thomas, 52, and Earl Jones, 58
Receptionist and electrician
Our Dispensary: Mello Tymes, the Bronx

Roger: I didn’t know anything about the business or the law or anything like that. A few days before the law was passed, my fraternity brother Earl called me and said, “New York is about to live and legalize cannabis. We should seek to obtain a dispensary. I’m like, “What? We don’t stand a chance. Dispensaries are normally only for rich white men. We’re two black people, we have no money, we’re broke. I started researching Google and I found out about the social equity program. I got arrested and convicted, and my friend said, “Rog, you suffered back then. Let’s go get one of those licenses.”

Wherever an Office of Cannabis Management event takes place, we are there. If they’re in Brooklyn, I’m in Brooklyn, learning. If they’re in Queens, I’m in Queens, learning. Manhattan, here I come. Wherever Tremaine Wright — chairman of the New York State Cannabis Control Board — is, I’m there. She even joked, “You’re stalking me.” I was like, “No, I just want this license. I want you to remember me. When my application hits your desk, just stamp “approved”, okay? »

Photo: Chris Buck

Eliz Cruz Irby, 42
Owner of a grocery store
My Dispensary: Lyfe Charmz Inc., The Bronx

When I heard that dispensaries were becoming legal, I thought it would be the doctors, the rich, the people with millions and billions who would get the licenses first. I never thought that I, a girl from the Bronx, could have my own dispensary. Then my husband told me about this whole program and what was going on, and I was like, “Oh my God.

Photo: Chris Buck

Coss Marte, 36 years old, gym owner
My Dispensary: Conbud, Manhattan

I have a company called Conbody, where we hire ex-prisoners as trainers. In nine and a half years, I have hired more than 50 people coming out of the prison system and I have a zero recidivism rate. I want the store to tell our story. Perhaps ask buyers to take their passport photos and hang them on the wall. I even want the Conbud design to mean something. Therefore the Bwe made it look like a #13 to represent the 13th amendment.

Photo: Chris Buck

Juancarlos Hunt, 38, and Sean McKenzie, 38
Entrepreneur and real estate agent
Our Dispensary: Black Seed, Manhattan

Juan Carlos: Our vision is to have the coolest New York heritage brands and products and for our store to be a tribute to New York culture. Cali and Colorado don’t have their own culture. New York is like a nuclear fusion reactor. We only hire women of color. We only carry women of color brands. And everything will be authentic. This is our whole concept for our dispensary. We are “New York or fuck you”.

Photo: Chris Buck

Brian Garrido, 34
Lyft driver, videography student
My Dispensary: Ideal Cannabis, Manhattan

In my late teens, I got caught up in my first drug charge. It made the newspapers. I put my family through this adversity. The police raided my mother’s apartment, and they fired me. I know it was hard for my mother to say, “You can’t stay here” and not know if I would be okay. But difficult times have helped strengthen our bond. When I told her I was applying, she was excited. After saying so many times “I don’t want this shit in my house”, she changed her perception of the plant. She doesn’t beat me for it anymore.

Photo: Chris Buck

Malone from Kenya, 45, and Andrea Spyke, 55
NYCHA mason and financial analyst
Our Dispensary: Solomon’s Garden, The Bronx

Kenya: I’m the one with the story. Six arrests, two convictions. I pleaded guilty to both just for getting in and out. I used to say to the policeman, “For a bag of weed?”

Andrea: And you are one of the lucky ones. There are many more people who have been refused employment because they had convictions on their record. Now the social equity program is giving convicts a chance to make money with a dispensary. We want to create a modern, chic, welcoming and friendly shop.

Photo: Chris Buck

Howell Miller, 52
Service provider
My Dispensary: Two buds, the Bronx

From the age of 10, I packed marijuana around the house with my stepfather. Then I stole it, I sold it on the street. I just wanted to buy a minibike or a scooter. Later, I needed capital for my outsourcing business and did not qualify for a conventional loan. So I said, i will do what i have to do. I ended up serving 119 months and just got out in January. The service time was the hardest part. But if they give me the permit, then it’s bittersweet. I will feel like it was all worth it.

Photo: Chris Buck

naiomy guerrero, 31, and Hector Guerrero, 33
PhD student in art history and cybersecurity analyst
Our Dispensary: Nube, the Bronx

Naomi : Cloud is Spanish for “cloud”. We are applying with our father, a taxi driver for more than 30 years. He always educated us on cannabis – “Use it; don’t let him use you” — which is unusual, because in Dominican culture weed is taboo.

Hector: They are two different worlds, yesterday and today. We used to be arrested by the police almost every day. At 17, I spent three or four days in prison for a bag. Now I don’t even smoke anymore and it’s everywhere.

Photo: Chris Buck

Llewellyn “Lew” Cruz, 48
Rent cars from Uber drivers
My Dispensary: Wild Leaves, Manhattan

I studied the game for ten years before I got into it. By the time my cousin and I started our delivery service in the 90s, we knew how to get around. We wanted to come out of the dark and into the light. New York finally gives us the opportunity to do so without being persecuted. I would like to hire people with disabilities, anyone who is willing to work. We are here to train you and show you how.

Photo: Chris Buck

Jasmine Jones, 29
Contract supervisor for a utility company
My Dispensary: Royo Jays, Rockland County

When I was 17, I got pulled over and had marijuana in the car. I was charged with possession, which was later reduced to driving under the influence. I was fresh out of high school and really didn’t want to tell my parents, but I needed a lawyer. I did not have money. My parents were so disappointed. Now I’m trying to open the business with my mom, which is crazy. She had daycare while I was growing up, and I’m in charge, so together we’re trying to get things done. Her maiden name is Royal, and I’m the Jay.

Photo: Chris Buck

Hector Bonilla, 42
Taxi driver and Uber
My Dispensary: Diamond Dispensary, The Bronx

When I do Uber, there’s a scale for what type of driver you are: Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. How you are rated is everything from professionalism to customer service, how you treated the person, how clean your car was, everything. That’s why I called it Diamond Dispensary.

Photo: Chris Buck

Gregory Pereira, 62, and Melissa Antomattei, 34
Owner and trainer at a harm reduction company
Our Dispensary: Blaze420, the Bronx

Gregory: When I was young, I made my living selling weed. This is how I survived. My mother was a heroin addict and my stepfather had come back from Vietnam and he was psychologically damaged. So I had to fend for myself. I worked at McDonald’s and the manager used to give us weed to sell for him. When I was 15, I had a furnished room and I was supporting myself by selling marijuana.

I became addicted to heroin, crack and alcoholic. Now I’ve been in recovery for 27 years and work in harm reduction. I know recovery models, I know public health models, and I want to teach people about responsible use. This will be my slot if I am selected.

Photo: Chris Buck

Alelur “Alex” Duran, 39, and Alex Hall, 38
Gym Owner and Program Director at Galaxy Gives
Our Dispensary: Sovereign NY, Manhattan

Alex Hall: We met on Rikers Island; we only knew each other by chance. And we reconnected in 2013, when we were both at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility and Dijuan, our other business partner, was there as well. We all ended up together in the Bard Prison Initiative, and we studied together, and most of us were in the same classes.

Alex Duran: We were in the union of the debate. You may have heard of it, the big story when we beat Harvard. So we all got together and we graduated from Bard with a bachelor’s degree and everything. We broke our butts all the time, whether in prison or on the streets. Even if the demand for social equity was vast and the process a little complicated, we are convinced that the State will do what it says it will do, which is to put in place the resources, give us a location and be a partner with us in this area. It is the least the state can do after criminalizing our communities for decades.

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