Premium Sites Provide Opportunities for Justice-Impacted Individuals to Succeed
Today, the first fully redesigned Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) in New York State supported by the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund (the Fund) was opened to showcase the vibrant designs that may be incorporated into Fund-sponsored adult-use cannabis dispensaries.
The dispensary, called Smacked LLC, is owned and operated by Roland Conner. Mr. Conner worked with the design build firm Temeka Group to reflect his design theme of “Legacy to Legal.” As with some other Fund-supported stores, Smacked first opened as a pop-up to provide an opportunity to fast-track sales and start generating capital, and then closed temporarily for final remodeling.
To help support the social equity initiative, the Fund secured a financial commitment of up to $150 million from the Chicago Atlantic Admin, LLC. Chicago Atlantic’s commitment has enabled the Fund to reach its goal of securing up to $200 million, which Governor Hochul and the Legislature sought when it adopted legislation to create this first-of-its-kind support for individuals impacted by the unequal enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
Mr. Roland Conner said, "This has been a tremendous journey. I have been grateful for this opportunity to open a business in this new industry with my son and wife at my side, grateful for the support of the New York Cannabis Social Equity Investment Fund, and grateful to Governor Hochul for creating this initiative. I was so excited to become a part of history as the first individual to open a legal cannabis dispensary in New York City and look forward to this next phase of my business. New York's commitment to righting wrongs of the past through the law is inspiring. I am proof of that commitment because I'm standing here today."
Reuben McDaniel III, President and CEO of the DASNY said, "This is the first of many dispensaries that will be providing premier experiences for New York consumers, and unique opportunities to succeed for those who have been harmed by historical injustices. I am grateful to the Fund for its commitment to this one-of-a-kind program that will open doors to a brighter future for so many who have been denied, and grateful to Governor Hochul for her ongoing leadership in building an industry on a foundation of social justice.”
Chris Webber, Principal of the Fund's General Partner Social Equity Impact Ventures said, "Smacked Village stands as a powerful testament to its owner, Roland Conner, and the goals of the Social equity Fund to empower underrepresented entrepreneurs and communities. We stand with Governor Hochul, the NY state legislature, and all stakeholders in working to dismantle the impacts of unjust drug enforcement policies that disproportionately impacted minority communities. We are grateful to the support of our partners at DASNY, the Chicago Atlantic Group, the Office of Cannabis Management, and the entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of this movement.”
Chris Alexander, Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management said, " Congratulations to Roland Conner and the entire Smacked Village team. For the last few months, he has had an opportunity to develop his business operations and I couldn’t be more excited for him to start operations in this newly built out location. This is an exciting day, and I look forward to seeing more stores open across the state.”
The New York State Cannabis Social Equity Investment Fund, which was authorized as part of the FY 2023 Enacted Budget, is a public-private limited partnership formed to position social equity entrepreneurs to succeed in New York's newly created adult use cannabis industry. This initiative has allowed the state to invest in a private fund to finance the leasing and equipping of conditional adult-use retail dispensaries throughout New York State for operation by individuals who have been impacted by the inequitable enforcement of cannabis laws. It is the first of its kind in the nation.
The Fund will help those who have been awarded a CAURD license by the NYS Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) 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 to be supported by up to $50 million in licensing fees and revenue from the adult-use cannabis industry, as well as the aforementioned $150 million raised from the private sector.
Last year, Governor Hochul proposed, and the Legislature enacted, the public-private-partnership to provide support to individuals who were disproportionally impacted by the Rockefeller Drug Laws and who met OCM licensing requirements. The Governor leveraged DASNY's finance, procurement, design, and construction expertise to help manage the process. In the months following enactment of the Fund, DASNY created the Social Equity Servicing Corporation (“SESC”), a DASNY subsidiary, to execute work on behalf and as agent to the Fund; engaged in competitive procurement processes to secure a Fund Manager, Point of Sale system, and design-build firms; identified and evaluated 10,000 commercial retail properties statewide for dispensaries; and engaged with property owners statewide and executed leases for locations that will be subleased to CAURD licensees.
The Fund, Impact Ventures, is a joint venture between Webber Willis Ventures LLC, led by Basketball Hall of Famer Chris Webber and entrepreneur Lavetta Willis, and the firm Siebert, Williams, Shank ("SWS"), one of the nation's leading minority- and women-owned investment banking firms. It is led by SWS CEO Suzanne Shank and SWS Chief Administrative Officer William Thompson, the former New York City Comptroller
Prior to receiving his license, Mr. Conner owned and operated property management businesses in New York City and recently managed a transitional housing facility providing shelter for two dozen men in The Bronx. He opened the dispensary with his son and wife and received support for his application 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.
There are currently a total of 21 licensed adult use cannabis dispensaries in New York State. A full list can be found at www.cannabis.ny.gov.