Crowds Swarm as New York’s First Legal Pot Shop Opens
New York kicked off 2023 as the latest U.S. state to legally sell recreational cannabis. The first licensed marijuana dispensary to open in the state, “Housing Works Cannabis Company,” actually opened its doors on December 29, 2022. (Source: “NY’s 1st Legal Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Manhattan Today: What to Know,” NBC New York, December 30, 2022.)
To say the launch of legal recreational marijuana sales in New York was a success would be an understatement. The Housing Works dispensary in New York City served as many as 500 customers in its first few hours of business. The crowd was so big that the dispensary had to turn away hundreds of customers by the time it closed at 7:00 pm.
To show just how much the retail landscape has changed, the 4,400-square-foot dispensary was once a “Gap” store.
“It is extremely surreal, there’s a lot going on,” said Sasha Nugent, retail sales manager at Housing Works. “I think it is an adjustment period…” (Source: Ibid.)
When Housing Works Cannabis Company opened, it was the first of 36 licensed dispensaries to begin selling marijuana products in New York State. Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level in the U.S., the business is cash-only.
Over the coming months, New York state is expected to issue another 139 licenses, with roughly 900 additional applicants waiting to find out if they will win the marijuana license lottery.
“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,” said Kathy Hochul, New York’s governor.
In 2019, New York State decriminalized cannabis. In March 2021, the state’s governor at the time, Andrew Cuomo, signed a bill greenlighting recreational marijuana across the state for adults 21 years of age and older.
Majority of Americans Want Recreational Pot Legalized
Cannabis stocks rallied in the months following President Joe Biden’s November 2020 election win. Not only had the federal Democrats said they wanted to decriminalize marijuana, but all five states that had marijuana initiatives on their election ballots (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) passed them.
In 2021, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, and Virginia approved measures to legalize recreational cannabis. On April 1, 2022, New Mexico started legally selling recreational marijuana. In May 2022, Rhode Island became the 19th state in the U.S. to regulate recreational marijuana.
Connecticut has also legalized recreational cannabis, but legal dispensaries aren’t yet open in that state.
During the November 2022 midterm elections, voters in Maryland and Missouri indicated that they wanted their states to join 19 other states and D.C. in legalizing recreational cannabis. Pot legalization ballot initiatives in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota weren’t successful, though.
2023 could be very busy for the recreational marijuana industry.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt set a March 7 election date to ask voters if they want to legalize recreational marijuana. The governor said he’d vote against the measure, but chances are good it will still pass.
Oklahoma is already home to one of the country’s most robust medical cannabis programs. About 10% of the state’s residents have state-issued medical marijuana cards, allowing them to buy, grow, and consume pot.
Ohio could be the next state to vote on marijuana legalization. Minnesota could legalize pot in 2023, and Hawaii could also pursue cannabis legalization this year.
On top of that, there could be citizen-led ballot initiatives on the topic of marijuana legalization in Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, and Wyoming, as well as the three states where ballot measures failed in 2022.
The growth of pot legalization at the state level isn’t a total surprise. According to a survey conducted in October 2022, a record number of Americans (88%) are in favor of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana. Just 10% are opposed legalizing the drug. (Source: “Americans Overwhelmingly Say Marijuana Should Be Legal for Medical or Recreational Use,” Pew Research Center, November 22, 2022.)
The U.S. marijuana-industry landscape has changed drastically since 2012, when Washington and Colorado became the first states in the country to legalize recreational cannabis. Fast-forward a decade and 21 states have legalized recreational pot, while 38 states have legalized medical marijuana.
According to federal legislation, however, cannabis is on the same level as other drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, but research suggests otherwise. The states that legalized marijuana 10 years ago have experienced more benefits than drawbacks.
Now it’s just a matter of time that other states and the federal government get on board with marijuana legalization.