Harlem Businesses Sue to Stop Cannabis Dispensary Planned for 125th Street (2023)


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The lawsuit suggests more problems may be ahead for New York State’s troubled rollout of the recreational marijuana industry.

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Harlem Businesses Sue to Stop Cannabis Dispensary Planned for 125th Street (1)
(Video) Harlem business group fighting state plans for cannabis dispensary

A prominent Harlem business group filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to stop the state from building a recreational cannabis dispensary on the neighborhood’s main street, adding to the challenges faced by New York State in its rollout of the recreational marijuana industry.

The lawsuit may signal trouble for efforts to open stores in some communities that lawmakers intended to benefit the most from legalization, and it underscores the sentiment expressed by some that they have been left out of the planning process.

The suit, filed by the 125th Street Business District Management Association in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks to cancel the state’s lease on a storefront at 248 West 125th Street, across from the Apollo Theatre, in the first case challenging the secretive process regulators use to choose dispensary locations.

“This is a naked, intentional and bold attempt to avoid community opposition,” the lawsuit said.

While the association said it does not oppose having a dispensary on 125th Street or elsewhere in Harlem, the complaint said the current location is “irredeemable” because it would add to the crime, congestion and open drug use already plaguing the area.

In justifying the concern, the suit revealed that the property’s landlord also rents space to an unlicensed dispensary just two blocks away, a shop that was the scene of a recent murder and multiple shootings, and which is under investigation for selling cannabis illegally.

“These policies sound great when you work in a vacuum,” said Barbara Askins, the president and chief executive of the 125th Street business association. “But you can’t take a community with so many challenges and expect them to be able to handle what you’re doing while they already have less resources.”

The lawsuit names the Dormitory Authority, which is the state public construction agency, the Office of Cannabis Management, its executive director, and 246 West LLC among the defendants. According to city property records, 246 West is controlled by the Fata Organization, which owns several buildings on 125th Street.

The agencies did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit on Wednesday evening. A representative of the Fata Organization could not be reached for comment.

(Video) Legal fight playing out over plans for dispensary in Harlem


The Dormitory Authority leased the 125th Street storefront in December as part of a new push to provide retail locations to entrepreneurs selected to open the state’s first 150 licensed dispensaries.

The agency does not appear to have known about the landlord’s ties to the unlicensed dispensary, located at 304 Lenox Avenue. City property records confirm that the building is owned by the same firm as 248 West 125th Street, and the smoke shop was one of 400 businesses singled out by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, in February in letters threatening eviction.

The state’s lease has in effect put regulators responsible for propping up the legal cannabis market in business with one of the landlords that the authorities have blamed for enabling some 1,500 stores to undermine it.

Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for the Dormitory Authority, which chooses the locations, declined to say whether officials were previously aware of the connection. Aaron Ghitelman, a spokesman for the Office of Cannabis Management, said officials there had not known. Mr. Gordon said the agency only vets the proposed location, not other tenants of the landlord who owns it.

(Video) Lawsuit aims to stop pot shop from opening in Harlem

Industry observers said the revelation was embarrassing at best and a conflict of interest at worst.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Jeffrey Hoffman, a cannabis lawyer who is not part of the suit. “It’s fundamentally opposed to what you’re trying to do here.”

The 125th Street group’s lawsuit suggests the situation might have been avoided if the state had made more of an effort to explain its decision and address local concerns.

Besides the group’s leaders, several other officials, including a local State Assembly member and the district manager of the community board, have said the plans for the site came as a surprise.

Daniel Blumenstein, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said the business group met with Stacy Lynch, the governor’s chief of staff, in March, but officials still offered no rationale for their decision or information about what was coming.

“We were stonewalled,” he said.

Officials said the site selections followed an exhaustive review conducted by the real estate firm CBRE that included determining whether properties met regulatory requirements and were “least likely to generate community concerns,” among other criteria. Mr. Gordon, the Dormitory Authority spokesman, said his agency had worked closely with the Harlem community to find the best location.

In its lawsuit, the group said there was no evidence that the Harlem site was selected for any reason except that it was available. Its lease was one of just 15 the state had signed by the end of March for legal dispensaries as it struggled to find landlords willing and able to rent them space.

The lawsuit also accused state officials of violating their own rules. Requirements in state law and regulations require dispensaries to be at least 500 feet from schools and community centers. The selected storefront, however, is steps away from a medical college that operates an after-school program for high school students and across the street from an office where middle and high school students go for suspension hearings. The building also houses a drop-in center for homeless youth.

Mr. Ghitelman, of the Office of Cannabis Management, said in a statement before the lawsuit was filed that the distance requirements apply only to buildings that are exclusively used as schools. The regulations also carve out an exception for current licensees to open dispensaries closer to community centers.

Lloyd Williams, the president of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, said local lawmakers and community groups will not support a plan to open a dispensary in Harlem without the state reducing an “overabundance” of substance abuse services within a two to three block radius that he said were already causing problems on 125th Street.

He said the services, which include a supervised injection site that opened over local objections in 2021, had contributed to an increase in people openly doing drugs on the street, where they can be seen nodding off or shooting up, creating quality-of-life problems for residents, businesses and churches.

(Video) Harlem smoke shop murder

“Let’s break them up so that they’re welcome in certain area and not overwhelming,” he said. “If you’re putting a dispensary in that location, without doing anything to mitigate the impact, it’s poor thinking.”

Researchers have not found strong links between legalization and violent crime. But in New York City, smoke shops that have popped up selling cannabis illegally have been robbed hundreds of times, the police said, sometimes resulting in shootings and killings.


Captain Tarik Sheppard, the commanding officer of the 28th Precinct, which covers most of the business district, said that fears of crime accompanying the opening of a dispensary were not without merit. Before the pandemic, there was a more structured drug market with only occasional violence over territory, he said. But the situation has now become more volatile, Capt. Sheppard said, as dealers from outside the neighborhood compete for customers coming to the supervised injection site on 125th Street, and to several nearby methadone clinics and needle exchanges.

Their customers often steal from stores to support their addictions, he said. As of April 17, shoplifting between Fifth Avenue and Morningside Avenue has increased nearly 33 percent, from 92 incidents in 2022 to 122 incidents in 2023, according to recent police crime maps.

”It’s going to attract a crowd that you have to be concerned about,” he said. “The drug dealers who are coming into this area are going to try to undercut the legal dispensaries, and it brings in troublemakers.”


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(Video) Suspect accused of shooting man in head at Harlem smoke shop


What is the show about fixing dispensaries? ›

Weed Wars is an American reality-documentary television series that documents a popular medical marijuana dispensary, Harborside Health Center, in Oakland, California.

How much does it cost to own a dispensary in New York? ›

How much does it cost to open a dispensary in New York? New York is one of the most expensive states to run a business. As a dispensary owner in New York, you'll have to budget between $400,000 and $1 Million or more open and operate a cannabis dispensary, depending on location, facility size, and operations.

Are gummies legal in NY? ›

Edibles include cannabis-infused foods like cookies and gummies. The good news is that edibles are legal in New York.

Can I go to a dispensary without a card in NY? ›

Can I go to a dispensary without a card in New York? You'll need a card to legally purchase medical marijuana products at New York dispensaries as of right now.

What is the show about a dispensary in California? ›

New series about the day-to-day operations of Oakland, California's Harborside Health Center, the world's largest medical cannabis dispensary.

What is the cheapest state to open a dispensary? ›

We listed Oregon and Colorado as two of the cheapest states to open a dispensary, but there are other good options, especially if initial expenses are not your biggest concern. Some states offer better market conditions, others offer lower tax rates, and some offer more flexible licensing options.

How much do dispensary workers make New York? ›

What are Top 5 Best Paying Related Dispensary Jobs in New York City
Job TitleAnnual SalaryMonthly Pay
Dispensary Pharmacist$93,987$7,832
One Plant Dispensary$86,047$7,170
RISE Dispensary$68,778$5,731
Dispensary Nurse$68,749$5,729
1 more row

How much is a growers license in NY? ›

How much does the adult-use conditional cultivator license cost? There is a $2,000 licensing fee for a NY adult-use conditional cultivator license.

Can you fly out of New York with edibles? ›

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the only cannabis-related products that are legal to bring onto a plane (in either carry-ons or checked baggage) are those that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC or medication that has been approved by the FDA.

Can you mail edibles in NY? ›

Adults 21 years or older can purchase up to three ounces (85 grams) of cannabis flower and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis (oils, tincture, edibles, vapes, etc.) in a single day for delivery in New York.

Why is delta-8 illegal? ›

The FDA released guidelines strongly warning against the consumption of delta-8 products in part because of the dangerous synthetics that can be used in its refinement from CBD. Synthetic conversion, the FDA said, can involve unsafe household chemicals that can be harmful if ingested or inhaled.

How many plants can you grow without a medical card in NY? ›

Home Cultivation of Cannabis

New Yorkers 21 years of age and older can grow up to 6 cannabis plants in their home for personal use (3 mature plants and 3 immature plants) and a maximum of twelve plants per household (6 mature plants and 6 immature plants).

Can you walk into a dispensary in NY? ›

You can certainly walk into a dispensary with no goal in mind, but having a plan might help make your experience more enjoyable and allow you to get the most out of your visit.

How do I legally open a dispensary in NY? ›

To open a dispensary in New York, you must first obtain a conditional adult-use retail dispensary license. In order to apply, an applicant must meet either the qualifying business criteria or nonprofit criteria. Details on other licenses are forthcoming. Conditional adult-use retail license fee in NY costs $2000.

Does Snoop Dogg own dispensaries? ›

Leafs By Snoop is a cannabis brand owned and promoted by the rapper Snoop Dogg and produced by Canopy Growth Corporation.
Leafs By Snoop.
HeadquartersDenver, Colorado, U.S.
1 more row

What show has a woman who owns a dispensary? ›

Pot activist Ruth Whitefeather Feldman runs a medical marijuana dispensary while encouraging her loyal patients to chill out and enjoy the high life. Watch all you want.

What is the average income from a dispensary in California? ›

Dispensary Salary in California:$43,414 - ZipRecruiter.

What state has best dispensaries? ›

When it comes to recreational weed legalization and use, California hits the top our list. California was far ahead of the curve with its initial legalization of medical marijuana use back in 1996. Now, the Golden State continues to be a trendsetter as the largest cannabis market in the nation.

What is the easiest state to start a dispensary in? ›

Unlike California, Oregon is a cheap state to start and operate a cannabis company. The application process is less competitive, and there are no residency requirements. The most remarkable thing about Oregon is that it has the lowest application fee in the US.

What state has the most dispensaries? ›

Oregon, despite having the most dispensaries per capita, made $94.4 million from cannabis taxes in 2018. According to the report, Missoula, Montana had 18.1 dispensaries per 50,000 – the most of any city – followed by Medford, Oregon (17), Pueblo, Colorado (16.6), Eugene, Oregon (16.1), and Denver, Colorado (14.9).

What is the highest paying job at a dispensary? ›

15 high-paying jobs in the cannabis industry
  • Dispensary manager.
  • Laboratory technician.
  • Accountant.
  • Customer success manager.
  • Marketing specialist.
  • Field technician.
  • Compliance officer.
  • Brand manager.
Dec 9, 2022

How much do dispensary nurses get paid near New York? ›

Cannabis Nurse Salary in New York:$79,872 - ZipRecruiter.

How much do budtenders make in NYC? ›

The average Budtender salary in New York, NY is $44,194 as of March 28, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $39,378 and $49,307.

How much does a master grower make in New York? ›

How much does a Master Grower make in New York City, New York? As of Feb 28, 2023, the average annual pay for a Master Grower in New York City is $72,822 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $35.01 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,400/week or $6,068/month.

How many plants can you legally have in NY? ›

New Yorkers 21 years of age and older can grow up to 6 cannabis plants in their home for personal use (3 mature plants and 3 immature plants) and a maximum of twelve plants per household (6 mature plants and 6 immature plants).

How hard is it to open a dispensary in New York? ›

Overall, operating a dispensary in New York requires a significant amount of preparation and effort, but it can be a lucrative business for those who are successful in obtaining a license. It is important to stay up-to-date on the latest regulations and requirements in order to ensure compliance with the law.

Can I fly with edibles in my carry-on? ›

According to TSA, you can bring solid food items (but not liquids or gels) on board in your carry-on luggage or checked baggage. So, better to leave your weed beverages at home and pack your edibles in something unnoticeable (and odor-proof), and you may easily clear the security check.

Can TSA trace edibles? ›

Although they can detect food items, airport scanners cannot tell if they are edible. Whether the airport security staff considers the edibles to be suspicious varies. The edibles' packaging and odor could be giveaways. The edibles will appear in the scanner with the same orange color as every other organic material.

Can you fly with edibles if you have a card? ›

Can you travel on a plane with medical marijuanas if it's in the form of an edible? The same rules apply to going through security with edibles as with a joint. Since edibles are marijuana-based products, you cannot legally take them through security and fly with them.

Can drug dogs smell edibles? ›

Dan Hayter, founder of K9 Global Training Academy and a former chief of the military drug dog trainer, agrees that edibles aren't impossible to trace. "A dog can be taught to recognize marijuana mixed into flour without too much difficulty," he says.

Does USPS check packages for drugs? ›

Typically, a postal worker isn't permitted to open a package in order to see what's inside and if the contents contain anything illegal. To be able to inspect a package, a postal worker or inspector must usually obtain a search warrant based on a reasonable suspicion that the package contains something illegal.

Is it illegal to mail CBD gummies? ›

It is legal to ship hemp-based CBD products that contain less than 0.3% THC, and USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL accept CBD shipments. You and your suppliers must test your products for THC content and be able to provide proof that your CBD items are legal for shipping under federal law.

Will delta-8 show up on a drug test? ›

Key takeaways: Delta-8 THC is a chemical found in cannabis with similar effects to traditional (delta-9) THC. Because delta-8 THC is similar to delta-9 THC, it can make you feel high and is likely to show up on a drug test.

Will you test positive for delta-9? ›

Will Delta-9 Show Up on a Drug Test? The simple answer is yes - delta-9 can show up on a standard drug test. This is because most drug tests are designed to detect THC metabolites in your system.

Is delta-9 stronger than delta-8? ›

Delta 9 is significantly more potent than Delta 8. Some experts believe it to be about twice as powerful overall. Side effects are more severe with Delta 9, including paranoid delusions, mental cloudiness, motor impairment, and anxiety.

What is limit for medical Marijuanas in NY? ›

How much medical cannabis can I get at a time? Registered organizations may dispense up to a 60-day supply of medical cannabis to a certified patient or designated caregiver, pursuant to any recommendations or limitations made by the health care provider on the certification.

Is it illegal to buy seeds in NY? ›

You might also ask around — seeds are not illegal to possess in New York as they contain no THC.

How many plants can you grow with a green card? ›

In California, adults age 21 and older may grow up to six plants for personal use, and no more than six plants are allowed in a residence at one time.

Can a felon own a dispensary in NY? ›

Section 137 of the Cannabis Law states that individuals with certain felony convictions related to the operation of a business and the trafficking of cannabis in the last three (3) years may not be able to obtain a license to sell or manufacture cannabis, pending Board review.

Do NY dispensaries scan ID? ›

Yes. Cova's Cannabis Dispensary POS Software and inventory management system can be integrated with all tracking and monitoring systems, including Metrc, and has all the features needed to keep cannabis retailers compliant, including: ID scanner for age and card verification.

How far does a dispensary have to be from a school in NY? ›

The New York Medicinal Marijuana program rules require that facilities are prohibited from being located within 1,000 feet of a school, park, child care center, or house of worship.

How much does it cost to start a dispensary in NY? ›

How much does it cost to open a dispensary in New York? New York is one of the most expensive states to run a business. As a dispensary owner in New York, you'll have to budget between $400,000 and $1 Million or more open and operate a cannabis dispensary, depending on location, facility size, and operations.

Can I walk into a dispensary without a card in New York? ›

Can I go to a dispensary without a card in New York? You'll need a card to legally purchase medical marijuana products at New York dispensaries as of right now.

Can I buy from a dispensary without a medical card in NY? ›

Do I need a medical card? No medical card is needed at adult-use recreational dispensaries.

Is it legal to have a dispensary in New York? ›

Residents of New York, aged 21 and above can apply for a marijuana business license, either alone or in partnership with someone.

Are dispensaries legal in New York? ›

Here's why. New York's first legal marijuana dispensaries are now up and running. But with the opportunity for both consumers and sellers comes questions about how the new legal market will compete with illegal sales.

When can dispensaries sell in NY? ›

In March 2021, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing recreational marijuana use across the state by adults 21 and older.

Do New York dispensaries accept out of state medical cards? ›

11. Can I use my out-of-state medical cannabis identification card to purchase medical cannabis in New York State? No. Only certified patients with a New York State registry identification card may purchase approved medical cannabis products in New York State.

How many dispensary licenses are there in New York? ›

New York has now provisionally approved 165 retail dispensary licenses.


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