East Harlem Native Opens Newest Cannabis Dispensary in Union Square

Supported by the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, New Business is Headed by Justice-Impacted Licensee

The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York today announced a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licensed to an East Harlem entrepreneur will open for sales to the public at 2 p.m. on 
Wednesday, April 19, at 33 Union Square in Manhattan. 

DASNY President and CEO Reuben McDaniel, III said, "The Union Square dispensary, located in the heart of this vibrant New York neighborhood, affirms New York’s commitment to opening doors for individuals who have the drive and the commitment to invest in their communities and seek success for them and their families. I'm grateful for Governor Hochul's leadership in this program that addresses deeply embedded historical injustices, the extraordinary support this program has had from the Legislature, and the work of the Fund's leadership.  

Called Dazed Cannabis, the Manhattan dispensary is owned by Keshawn Warner, who has owned and operated two other businesses in New York while working as a hospital Information Technology specialist. Warner, who also owns a cannabis shop in Holyoke, Massachusetts, said he was grateful for the support from the State and the New York State Cannabis Social Equity Investment Fund in starting a new cannabis business in his hometown. Keshawn was also previously criminalized by cannabis prohibition.

“I’m thrilled that the State is providing the opportunity for me and others like me to succeed in a new industry,” Keshawn Warner said. “Starting any business is challenging, but this program helped make my vision a reality. As a business owner, I look forward to creating opportunities for my employees to grow professionally, and to serve this community.” 

Dazed Cannabis is the 8th licensed dispensary to open in New York State.   

Supported by the New York State Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, the store will open as "pop-up." As with some other dispensaries to be supported by the Fund, this will provide licensees the opportunity to open on a short-term basis to fast-track sales, provide training opportunities for employees 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 benefits 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, and distributors and retail operators who work to provide consumers with access to safe products they can trust. The dispensary opening helps advance New York's goals of equity in cannabis licensing that prioritizes providing licenses to justice-impacted individuals, who are people with a cannabis conviction or a close relative of someone with one.   

Cannabis Control Board Chairwoman Tremaine Wright said, "The drumbeat of equity continues in New York market’s with this latest opening of a dispensary in Union Square,” said Cannabis Control Board Chairwoman Tremaine Wright. "With every step forward, we continue to provide a safer alternative, invest in our communities, and help undo the harms caused by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition. I am thankful for the ongoing support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature as continue to build an equitable and diverse cannabis market in the Empire State.” 

Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said, “It’s so beautiful to see Keshawn Warner have this opportunity to help launch New York’s cannabis industry. New York is doing something special, something no other state has succeeded in, we’re giving real opportunities to entrepreneurs harmed by cannabis prohibition. I want to thank Mr. Warner for his work launching this adult-use dispensary and thank all of the people working for the New York State Cannabis Social Equity Investment Fund who are turning dreams into reality.” 
Lavetta Willis, General Principal of the Fund’s General Partner, Social Equity Impact Ventures, LLC, said, “We take great pride in being able to support individuals who have been affected by unjust enforcement of cannabis laws and help them thrive in this emerging industry. Keshawn is a serial entrepreneur with marketing and branding expertise to compete at the highest level when given access and support! Access levels the playing field. We express our heartfelt gratitude to Governor Hochul for leading the way and paving the path to a socially equitable sector that promotes inclusivity and equal opportunities for all.” 
The Union Square location is part of the program authorized by Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature and sponsored by the Fund to support the acquisition, design, construction, and outfitting of locations for cannabis dispensaries to be operated by CAURD licensees. Working with Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) subsidiary, the Social Equity Servicing Corporation (SESC), 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. 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.
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 are making legal adult-use sales with cannabis products grown by farmers across New York State.
Eligible applicants are those who either had a cannabis conviction themselves or a close family member of someone who does, own, or has owned a business that had a net profit for at least two years. Nonprofits were 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.