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Housing Works Cannabis Co
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

A first look inside New York’s first-ever legal recreational cannabis dispensary

It opens to the public at 4:20pm today.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

History was made in NYC on Thursday morning: New York’s very first legal cannabis dispensary for recreational use opened and made its first sale. The purchase at Housing Works Cannabis Co made by Councilwoman Carlina Rivera is the very beginning of a budding industry and a milestone in the decades-long fight to legalize marijuana.

The dispensary at 750 Broadway was one of the first entities in New York State to get a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CUARD) license this November, meaning it now has permission to sell recreational cannabis. It was one of the first 36 licenses the state issued and one of eight nonprofits to receive a license. 

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Housing Works Cannabis Co welcomed a mass of advocates, media, politicians and supporters on Thursday morning to mark the opening ahead of its 4:20pm opening, so we got a sneak peek and witnessed the first legal purchases in the state.

“It has been a long road for us to get here,” said Chairwoman of the Cannabis Oversight Board Tremaine Wright. “There’s been a lot of fits and challenges and a lot of people who didn’t think we were going to hit the goal of quarter four 2022 opening a store. Now I can say hallelujah, we’re here together. [Housing Works] is a great partner to start with … I am proud to say not only did we start the program but we lived up to our equity goals. We are truly committed to making sure cannabis and reinvestment in New York State happen simultaneously.”

Here’s what you can expect from the first-ever legal cannabis dispensary in New York:

1. It’s incredibly accessible

750 Broadway Housing Works Cannabis Co
Photograph: courtesy of Wikimedia/Beyond My Ken

Housing Works Cannabis Co at 750 Broadway (or 1 Astor Place) is across the street from the Eighth Street subway stop in Greenwich Village and around the corner from the Astor Place stop. The 4,400-square-foot store is in a former Gap store, so it has great foot traffic potential. Inside, there’s a ramp up to the store, too. So long as you’re 21 or older, you can make a purchase here.

2. It sells products from BIPOC and women-owned companies

Housing Works Cannabis Co
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

There will be a focus on smaller businesses (no corporate monopolies here!) owned by BIPOC and women, including Florist Farms, Back Home Cannabis Company, Aryloom and Lobo Cannagar. You’ll find vapes, edibles, flower, prerolls and more from these brands in addition to apparel and literature about smoking, cannabis, the mission of Housing Works and more. You can peruse its full menu here.

3. The money from your purchase will go back into the community

Housing Works Cannabis Co
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

Housing Works says it’ll put the generated revenue back into the community that it serves.

Since 1990, it has been an advocate for those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and has provided lifesaving services and has done that through entrepreneurial businesses, including its 10 thrift stores and bookstore/cafe in Soho. The dispensary will be its 12th shop in NYC and one of many dispensaries it has planned.

“We have seen firsthand the ravages of the War on Drugs … particularly the most marginalized people—low-income people and its no accident that disproportionately people incarcerated for possession and sale of drugs are people who are Black and Latino,” Housing Works CEO Charles King said at the opening. “We intend to use the proceeds from what will not just be one retail outlet to ameliorate circumstances for other people who have been incarcerated as well as those affected overall by the War on Drugs.”

“The revenue generated here is going to support their work for homeless New Yorkers formerly incarcerated ppl living with HIV, that is equity—that is what this first site represents,” added Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.

4. It’s big with space for future cannabis activities

Housing Works Cannabis Co
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

Sasha Nutgent, the retail manager at Housing Works, tells us that Housing Works Cannabis Co plans to put on some educational programs in the shop’s basement and eventually when it gets a license to consume products in-store, it’ll have activities like a smoke-and-paint.

“We really are like a very entrepreneurial business,” she says. I think this is just another way to feed into that … we’re taking people who are marginalized and bringing them into the cannabis industry, teaching them a lot of things and sparking interest to maybe open their own dispensaries in the future.”

5. All of its products are tested 

Housing Works Cannabis Co
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out New York

From the moment you face the store, there will be markers telling you it is a legal dispensary with tested products. A QR code on the facade confirms its legal status and inside, its products have their own QR codes you can scan to get information—a Certificate of Analysis (COA), test results and where the product came from.

“When you buy here, you know the product has been regulated, that it is safe, you’re going to be buying brands that are led by New Yorkers of color and marginalized communities,” Mark Levine added. “Here in the store, you’re going to be served by a workforce that is unionized, with good jobs with good pay and decent benefits. This is empowerment for our community and our city. We’re making history!”

Housing Works Cannabis Co, located at 750 Broadway in Manhattan, will be open seven days a week, 11am to 7pm.

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