Three legal marijuana dispensaries are in the clear to open up in Brooklyn after state Office of Cannabis Management approved new retail dispensary business licenses on Monday — clearing the way for local entrepreneurs to set up shop and setting the stage for the borough to take part in what’s expected to be one of the country’s biggest markets for cannabis.
The news came less than a week after a federal court lifted an injunction that had blocked licenses for the borough. Only seven licensed marijuana dispensaries stores have opened statewide so far —three in Manhattan, one in Queens, and the others upstate. A whopping 99 new licenses were granted across the state on Monday.
In line with the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries program, all three Brooklyn licenses were awarded to “justice-involved applicants,” those who have been convicted of a low-level marijuana-related offense in the past. The program aims to re-invest in communities that had been disproportionately impacted by harsh weed-related sentences before the drug was legalized in 2021.
One of the new licensees is Crown Heights resident Misha Morse-Buch, a Brooklyn College graduate and the owner of I Love My Pet Food and Supplies on Nostrand Avenue. The second is a company called Level Up NYC Corp., owned by Brooklyn residents Justin Boyer, Catherine Ouellette and John Rufino, former owners of a sneakers shop in Albany. Finally, there’s “Dank Heaven,” owned by Brooklynites Mark Shifrin, Leroy Dunn and Paul Shiffrin. Shifrin previously owned a dispensary in Washington state.
An OCM rep told Brooklyn Paper the first legal stores should be opening in about five months — now that they’re licensed, the business owners will have to find physical retail space, secure suppliers, hire staff, and more as they prep to launch the borough’s first legitimate dispensaries.
The decision also means that larger marijuana companies. waiting to break into the New York market can finally make their move. Brands such as California’s Jetty Extracts, which has raised over $7 million in funding, are making their way to New York hoping to break into Brooklyn’s market. Jetty made its first first interstate expansion to New York last week and now has products available in all three of Manhattan’s legal dispensaries. The company’s co-founder Ron Gershoni is hoping to expand into Brooklyn’s legitimate stores.
“New York’s a massive market,” said Gershoni. “Almost all the projections for cannabis are that New York is gonna be the second biggest market behind California, if not even overtake it in cannabis sales. And it’s also a taste maker market. It’s where brands are made.”
The products Jetty sells in New York are grown in the Hudson Valley. The company partners with small, family-owned farms that focus on regenerative, biodynamic farming practices including Hepworth Farms, a female-owned organic farm established in 1818. Jetty has “really good partners in New York,” Gershoni said.
He does worry about the challenge that untaxed illegal marijuana stores pose for regulated businesses. Officials estimate a whopping 1,500 illegal cannabis stores are operating in the city, many taking advantage of the “grey area” left after marijuana was legalized but before the state created its legal licensing program. Governor Kathy Hochul has introduced legislation that would call for strict financial and tax penalties for those stores after politicians warned that the illegal shops could continue to pull business from legitimate ones whose owners have waited months for approval.
Even so, Gershoni said his company is “used to” operating alongside illegitimate stores — and that they haven’t had much impact on business.
“I went into a bunch of illicit stores in New York and they have lots of California brands,” said Gershoni. “A lot of our competitors are bigger players who I think are scared of New York because of how that illicit market is, but we’re used to that because that’s what we have in California. We operate alongside it and we’ve done very well, so, it’s not something that we’re not expecting or that is gonna go away in order for to be successful.”
“The best reason to shop at a legal store is that they’re gonna get a better product that is more consistent and higher quality,” he continued. “That’s what we’ve provided here in California and as a result, we’ve had growth in eight out of nine years of operation.”