First Woman-Owned Dispensary Supported by the State's Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund
to Open on March 30
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the state's first woman-owned Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary license owned by an entrepreneur previously criminalized by cannabis prohibition will open for sales to the public at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, at 162-03 Jamaica Avenue. The Queens dispensary, called Good Grades, is a woman-owned family business operated by entrepreneur Extasy James and her cousin, Michael James, Jr., a Jamaica, Queens native and an attorney who focuses on serving clients with a core value of advocating for the minority business community.
"With the opening of Good Grades in Queens, we're continuing to build on our progress to create a safe, regulated cannabis industry in New York," Governor Hochul said. "New York is working to support entrepreneurs and ensure that consumers can purchase safe, legal products while supporting their communities."
Good Grades is supported by the New York State Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund and will open as a "pop-up." As with some other dispensaries that will 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, 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 involved individuals, who are people with a cannabis conviction or a close relative of someone with one.
DASNY President and CEO Reuben McDaniel III said, "As we open the first dispensary in Queens, we continue to affirm New York's commitment to address deeply embedded historical injustices and to create new opportunities to foster intergenerational wealth for those most impacted by disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition. I'm grateful for Governor Hochul's leadership, the extraordinary support this program has had from the Legislature, and work of the Fund's leadership, all of whom have helped us continue our progress on this important initiative."
Good Grades Owner Extasy James said, "I am thrilled to be opening the doors of Good Grades, the very first dispensary in Queens, New York. We are incredibly passionate about providing greater access to cannabis and breaking down the barriers that prevent so many people, especially those from marginalized communities, from experiencing the benefits of this amazing plant. We understand firsthand the stigma that has been attached to cannabis for far too long, and we are eager to join the thriving cannabis community to help change that. Our dispensary is a welcoming and inclusive space where anyone can come to learn, explore, and find the products that are best suited to their unique needs."
Good Grades Co-Owner Michael James, Jr. said, "Jamaica, Queens is now a landmark in the cannabis industry, as the first dispensary in Queens to open its doors. I could not be more excited about the opportunity and great responsibility to bring this to our hometown for the first time. This new endeavor is a significant milestone for our family, hometown, and women in New York. In addition to Governor Hochul, DASNY, the Cannabis Control Board, OCM, and Fund, we would also like to thank the numerous support teams that have helped us reach this milestone."
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. said, "Societal shifts don't come quickly or easily, but this milestone opening of Queens' first licensed cannabis dispensary is nothing short of transformational for our borough. What was once a tool used to target communities of color is finally a crucial, and legal, piece of our economic puzzle that will create jobs, wealth and opportunity in those same communities. Congratulations to Good Grades and entrepreneur Michael James Jr. on making history — I look forward to our work together to ensure this emerging sector of our economy is rooted in equity and empowerment."
Cannabis Control Board Chairwoman Tremaine Wright said, "The continued advancement of this market is exciting to watch, and I'm a proud that we're opening the first woman-owned dispensary in Queens. We wouldn't be here today without the support of Governor Hochul and the Legislature, and I'm thankful they have continued to support a path forward for this industry that is equitable and will offset the harms caused by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition."
Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said, "We are continuing to deliver on the goals of our state's Cannabis Law to build an equitable industry that helps revitalize communities hit hardest by the over-policing of cannabis prohibition. With this first woman-owned dispensary opening in Queens, we are showing the world that we can start this market on the right foot with equity leading the way."
Lavetta Willis, General Principal of the Fund's General Partner Social Equity Impact Ventures, LLC, said, "As a women business owner, I am honored to support another woman's success in this industry. Black women in cannabis are underserved and underrepresented, and we are taking action to change that. As a team, we are breaking down barriers and creating more opportunities for black and brown business owners by providing funding, training, and support. I want to thank Governor Hochul for leading us in this disruptive direction to change how social equity programs are executed today."
This Queens 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.