New York celebrated the first dispensary in New York City owned by someone directly impacted by the War on Drugs on Monday. Roland Conner will open the Smacked dispensary today in Greenwich Village, close to New York University.
Conner told NY1 he had been incarcerated for possession of cannabis and had marijuana-related convictions that date back to 1991.
While the excitement was palpable, don’t get used to the current location, as the current store on Bleecker Street is only temporary.
Reuben McDaniel, president & CEO of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) and board member of the Office of Cannabis Management, noted that the permanent store was waiting on a final design from the Temeka Group. Once that gets approved, the store will close in order for the new design to be implemented.
The idea of a cannabis “pop-up” is unusual considering how other states tightly control security requirements. The current configuration doesn’t allow for standard security features, such as access cards to enter secure areas. Instead, armed guards will be stationed in critical areas.
“What we decided to do with the assessments and stuff we’re doing with the properties takes time to get the plans done. So the thought process was let’s do the pop-up, and get sales going,” said Mike Wilson, founder of Temeka Group, which is handling store design for the social equity applicants. “That also acclimates Roland and the team on how to run the store because there’s a lot of pressure.”
Wilson said that the pop-up store would be compliant with the rules and regulations established by the OCM.
The store had a small selection of products in the cases and two ATM machines near the front. The store will be equipped with retail software from Dutchie, which it said it was providing software for free to the social equity applicants.
While the OCM has said the licensed stores will be spread out, Smacked is only a 10-minute walk from the first licensed dispensary by the nonprofit group Housing Works. A quick visit to that dispensary at noon on Monday found a sign on the door stating that edibles were out of stock and there were fewer than 10 customers in the store. That store received several negative reviews on Yelp for the expense and quality of the product.
Still, Conner and his family were visibly emotional to be opening a store selling a product for which he had once been arrested and spent time behind bars. His wife shed several tears and his son was on hand to hear about the store having the potential to create generational wealth.
Conner noted that he served his time and preferred to describe himself as an entrepreneur versus an ex-con.
“New York is doing something amazing. Everybody deserves a chance. You do your time, you come out. They should not hold that against you. I served my time and now I’m here,” he said.
With regard to his competition with unlicensed operators, Conner said, “I come from that. At the end of the day, they should be supported. They should give them the opportunity to make the transition from illegal to legal. They should be helping them to do that. ”
Basketball star Chris Webber was also on hand for the event and said, “Roland has done a great job and his empathy transcends the walls of his store.”
Webber also helps lead the fundraising efforts for a $200 million fund to support the social equity applicants. However, when asked for specifics on the current status of the fund, which has been questioned for its lack of transparency, he noted that the only conversation happening that day was the opening of Conner’s store.
“Today, we are opening the first social equity store in the state of New York, and I think that’s a pretty big update,” Webber said.