Now that recreational consumption of marijuana is legal in New York, many residents and visitors are asking: Where can I legally buy marijuana in Ulster County?
Not to be a buzzkill, but as of this writing (Nov. 2022), there is no place to legally purchase cannabis in Ulster County, at least for recreational users. The only exception is for medical marijuana patients, who have a small number of dispensaries at their disposal.
As we pointed out in our guide to legally growing marijuana in New York for medical purposes, the state no longer requires any specific medical condition to qualify for being prescribed marijuana. Medical marijuana prescription is now at your doctor’s discretion.
Black Market Thrives
The rumors are true. As we near the opening of the first officially licensed dispensaries, we have confirmed reports of Ulster County smoke shops and other retailers flouting regulators and selling marijuana discretely and directly to customers. This trend is already well-established in New York City, where you will find pot shops and marijuana clubs openly advertising their products and essentially daring authorities to shut them down. Officials have responded with targeted raids of unauthorized shops.
Another popular (but also technically illegal) method of acquiring marijuana for Ulster County residents is taking a trip to Great Barrington, where recreational sales have been legal for some time and a cottage industry of pot retailers has emerged to serve demand. Though dispensary employees in Massachusetts will tell you “we don’t know anything about traveling across state lines” with their products, they are aware New Yorkers comprise a portion of their customer base. Several Ulster County publications carry advertisements from Massachusetts dispensaries.
When Exactly Do Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin in Ulster County?
Now over a year and a half since recreational pot was made legal, when will recreational users be able to legally purchase marijuana in New York? Very soon. Probably.
Cannabis regulators in New York recently said they have arrived at 36 finalists slated to be the state’s first recreational-use retailers out of 150 chosen, with sales expected before the end of 2022. However, legal action undertaken a Michigan-based company has thrown half of those locations into limbo, with a recent judicial decision to halt sales pending resolution of the lawsuit. Licensees affected include those in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
The continued delays from regulators, politicians, and litigation has created a financially dangerous situation for cannabis growers in New York, with an estimated 300,000 pounds harvested this summer — potentially worth $750 million — sitting in storage with nowhere to be legally sold.
Assuming the legal issues get worked out, we would expect to see a few dozen recreational dispensaries opening in December, with more coming online throughout 2023.
Recreational-Use Retail Regulations in Ulster County Municipalities
If you’re planning on being first in line when the first legal recreational-use dispensary opens, there’s still one more restriction to take into consideration: New York regulators gave each municipality the right to control local cannabis retail regulations. While most Ulster County towns and cities approved both sales and on-site consumption, there are a few outliers who said no to one or both options. Here was where such regulations stood in Ulster County earlier this year:
|New Paltz (Town)||yes||yes|
|New Paltz (Village)||yes||yes|
There’s also the matter of these municipalities having to conduct the usual due diligence of approving retail locations to due business in their jurisdiction. For example, a New Paltz marijuana dispensary recently went into limbo while awaiting a traffic plan, though there seems to be consensus in welcoming the the retailer, Zero Place, into the village.
While recreational-use cannabis retail is coming soon for Ulster County, its rollout continues to be a confusing cavalcade of regulations, lawsuits and delays. Patience is running out for consumers and small businesses. There are already far more illicit pot retail operations in plain view of the public compared to the entire list of regulator-approved retailers readying to open in the state.
HV1 stands ready to report on the first legal recreational-use marijuana retailer in Ulster County. Until then, dreams of easy legal access to marijuana in our area are up in smoke.