Governor Hochul Announces Opening of First New York Cannabis Dispensary Owned by a Justice Impacted Individual

Major Milestone for New York State's Cannabis Industry with January 24 Opening in Manhattan

Supported by the New York Cannabis Social Equity Investment Fund, Dispensary Provides Opportunity to Fast-Track Sales and Build Initial Capital for Licensee

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the first Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary license in New York State owned by an entrepreneur previously criminalized by cannabis prohibition and supported by the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, will open at 144 Bleecker Street in Manhattan on Tuesday, January 24 at 10:00 AM. This store opening helps advance New York's goals of equity in cannabis licensing, which prioritizes providing licenses to justice-involved individuals, who are people with a cannabis conviction or a close relative of someone with one.

"This dispensary is the latest example of our efforts to build the most equitable and inclusive cannabis industry in the nation," Governor Hochul said. "As we continue to work toward righting wrongs of the past, I look forward to new dispensaries - owned by those most impacted by the over policing of cannabis prohibition - opening soon." 

The dispensary, called Smacked LLC, will be owned and operated by Roland Conner with a soft opening as a "Pop-up" through February 20. As with some other initial dispensaries to be supported by the Fund, this will provide licensees the opportunity to open on a short-term basis to fast-track sales and start generating capital for their businesses, after which they will close for final construction and then re-open on a long-term basis.   

The Pop-up program is designed to give the operator initial training opportunities before opening full-time, and will benefit all businesses involved in the cannabis supply chain, including farmers who have cannabis ready for distribution, processors who are making cannabis into other types of products, distributors, and retail operators, as well as consumers who are seeking access to safer products they can trust. 

Prior to receiving this license, Roland Conner owned and operated property management businesses in New York City for fifteen years. He currently manages a transitional housing facility providing shelter for two dozen men in The Bronx. Mr. Conner is opening Smacked LLC with his son and wife. In applying for his license, Mr. Conner received support from the Bronx Cannabis Hub, which was founded by the Bronx Defenders and the Bronx Community Foundation to support individuals applying for the first round of CAURD licenses.

Mr. Roland Conner said, "I am so excited to become a part of history as the first individual to open a legal cannabis dispensary in New York City. Given my experience with cannabis, I never could have imagined that I would be opening a store like this. I'm grateful for the opportunity to open a business with my son and wife at my side and build generational wealth, working together, right here in New York. But this is not just about me and my family. This is about everyone who was harmed by the draconian drug laws of the past. New York's commitment to righting those wrongs through the law is inspiring.  I am proof of that commitment because I'm standing here today."

Representative Dan Goldman said, "I commend Governor Hochul and state officials for establishing the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund to prioritize opportunities for people impacted by the criminal justice system. Today's announcement shows that New Yorkers are committed to creating jobs and opportunities for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by inequitable enforcement of punitive cannabis laws."

State Senator Liz Krueger said, "After years of work from advocates, it is very gratifying to see the adult retail cannabis market finally begin to take shape, and to do so with a focus on equity and repairing the damage of the failed war on drugs. New Yorkers now have access to a safe, sustainable, and growing cannabis market rooted in a commitment to social equity. I wish Mr. Conner luck in his business and look forward to seeing many more openings in the near future."

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "When we passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, we set the state on a course to build a new cannabis industry centered on equity that works to undo the harms of the past. I am proud to see New York State continuing to follow through on that commitment with the opening of this Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary owned by a social and economic equity licensee and supported by the New York Cannabis Social Equity Investment Fund."

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick said, "I am so pleased that the district I represent will be home to the first dispensary owned and operated by a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licensee in New York State. I applaud the Office of Cannabis Management and Mr. Roland Conner for their thoughtful engagement with the community, and for their leadership as we begin to implement the goals set by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. This is an important step toward ensuring equity for those most impacted by the previous cannabis prohibition."

Reuben McDaniel III, President and CEO of the DASNY said, "This innovative business design demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together to create opportunities for intergenerational wealth in Black and Brown communities and to address deeply embedded historical injustices. This is an important milestone in our work to seed opportunities throughout all of New York State, with many more to follow. I'm grateful to the Fund for bringing us to this day, as well as to our colleagues at DASNY and CBRE who have provided invaluable support and expertise."

Tremaine Wright, Chair of the Cannabis Control Board said, "Dispensaries with ownership like this one exemplify our commitment to building a nation-leading model for establishing an equitable cannabis industry that works to offset the harms caused by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition. We couldn't have reached today without the steadfast support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature and I'm excited to see the industry continuing to advance and grow in line with the goals of our state's cannabis law."

Chris Alexander, Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management said, "When Governor Hochul launched the Seeding Opportunity Initiative last year, New York made a commitment to start this industry on the right foot with family farmers and those most impacted by cannabis prohibition leading the way. We are living up to that commitment and opening the legal market with safer products that consumers can trust."

William Thompson, Principal of the Fund's General Partner Social Equity Impact Ventures said, "This Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) is a vast undertaking, and represents a new and unique structure, something that never been done before in the country. That is what leaders at the state level intended and that is what is being accomplished. The Fund has taken the lead in evaluating thousands of locations; negotiating, managing and entering into all leases; overseeing the design-build of the space; and implementing effective training and operations programs to aid individual store operators."  

Desmon Lewis, Co-Founder of the Bronx Community Foundation said, "Roland Conner is exactly the kind of business owner and community leader that we were trying to support when we set up The Bronx Cannabis Hub with The Bronx Defenders last year. New York's legalization law promises to bring jobs and opportunity to the people and communities that suffered during decades of criminalization. We know those promises won't become reality without investment and support. It is fitting that community members from all over the city and the state of New York are coming to the Bronx - a community that was impacted like no other by cannabis prohibition - to get the help they need to enter this new Cannabis industry."

Patrice Edwards, Director of the Bronx Cannabis Hub said, "What Mr. Conner has accomplished is a testament not just to his own determination and grit, but to his values. As a small business owner, Mr. Conner is already helping his fellow New Yorkers find emergency and transitional housing at a time when rents and evictions are still sky high. Now, Mr. Conner's success shows the promise of the new cannabis market to build the intergenerational wealth long denied by our failed drug laws and policies. We're proud that the Hub could support Mr. Conner and look forward to helping many more New Yorkers like him achieve the same success."

Justine Olderman, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders said, "The Bronx Defenders is proud to be part of such an historic milestone for New York State. We launched the Hub with one goal in mind: to ensure that New York delivered on its promise that those most harmed by cannabis criminalization would benefit most from its legalization. The State must build on this momentum by continuing to invest and support initiatives like the Hub. It's time to rewrite the legacy of the War on Drugs."

The location is part of the program sponsored by the Fund, which is working with the Social Equity Servicing Corporation, (SESC), a subsidiary of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), to support the acquisition, design, construction, and outfitting of locations for cannabis dispensaries to be operated by CAURD licensees. Authorized by Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature, The Fund is a public-private limited partnership formed to position social equity entrepreneurs to succeed in New York's newly created adult use cannabis industry. Managed by Social Equity Impact Ventures, the Fund will help justice involved individual CAURD licensees meet the costs of establishing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries, including the identification and leasing of suitable retail locations and design, construction, and fit-out of the spaces. It is supported by up to $50 million in licensing fees and revenue from the adult-use cannabis industry and up to $150 million from the private sector that will be raised by the Fund manager. Click here to learn more about the Fund.

To date, there are several locations available and ready for initial design and build out for CAURD licensees. The Fund will be making announcements of these locations on a rolling basis

The CAURD license is a central pillar of the New York State Seeding Opportunity Initiative. Through the Initiative, New York's first legal adult-use retail dispensaries will be operated by those most impacted by the enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis or nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated. These dispensaries will be making legal adult-use sales with cannabis products grown by New York Farmers.

To be eligible, applicants must either have a cannabis conviction themselves, or be the close family member of someone who does, and owns or has owned a business that had a net profit for at least two years. Nonprofits are eligible for CAURD licenses if they have a history of serving current or formerly incarcerated individuals, including creating vocational opportunities for them; have at least one justice involved board member; at least five full time employees; and have operated a social enterprise that had net assets or profit for at least two years.