The lines were long. The process was complicated. The afternoon was peppered with intermittent downpours. None of that — not the bureaucracy, the delays, the weather — none of that killed the vibe as the state’s first “cannabis growers showcase” was opened on August 10 in a parking lot behind the village hall on Plattekill Avenue in New Paltz.
In some ways, that vibe felt like a farmers market; customers can talk to the people who grew the plants, harvested them and processed them into the prepackaged products being sold. Everything available — to patrons 21 years of age and older — is required to be labeled with lab results confirming THC content, but connecting human to human was clearly important to some of those waiting to make purchases. Some expressed a desire to support local businesses, such as the licensed cultivators here who till land as close as High Falls and Accord. The Ulster County showcase is being organized by High Falls Canna, a family-owned marijuana cultivation company in the Hudson Valley.
These farmers were authorized to grow recreational cannabis legally, but the harvest came in much faster than the process for licensing dispensers. New Yorkers are able to consume cannabis, and farmers are able to grow it, but very few people are able to sell it yet. This “showcase” model is being used to help move that product while the bureaucratic wrinkles are being ironed out, by bringing in a licensed dispenser to do the selling. Cultivators aren’t allowed to sell to anyone but dispensers, in the stratified scheme set up by state regulators, and once more dispensaries are up and running these markets will no longer be used.
Some of those in line suggested that it wasn’t their first time copping weed in this very parking lot over the years. The location is also behind what was once the town courthouse, where resident Butch Dener recalls being arraigned and held on bail for being caught with a joint. The joints now on offer come sealed in slick packaging, rather than being pulled out of a dealer’s cigarette pack. Purchases are also a lot different than they might have been during prohibition: customers have to produce a state ID for scanning, and provide an email address and phone number when they place an order. Some toured the tables before deciding, while others just grabbed order forms and started comparing by price, or THC concentration, or delivery method. One patron was thrilled not to have to smoke at all; there are candies and baked goods and even cannabis-infused beverages. After money changes hands, the order is given to a picker for filling from the growers.
No consumption is permitted inside the rope, where the magic happens; no one gets in there without proving their age, either. Outside the rope, state laws about smoking prevail.
On this rainy Thursday, the interest was high enough for some to wait close to an hour to get through the whole process. Nevertheless, the mood was also high, with people talking to strangers, sharing stories and opinions about the plant of the hour, and also about the weather.
While village officials have made it clear that are prepared to make changes up to and including ending this market experiment, there was no visible concern on any of their faces as they watched the throngs show up to buy. A cut of the taxes collected goes into town and village coffers. Officials with the state Office of Cannabis Management said the showcase event will operate weekly in New Paltz for the rest of the year. The hours are 4-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 1-8 p.m. Saturday. If a dispensary is opened in New Paltz sooner, then this market will be shuttered at that point.
Dispensary planned for former Stewart’s location
It was mentioned at the August 9 New Paltz Village Board meeting that the old Stewart’s on North Chestnut Street could become a new cannabis dispensary, possibly even this year. A lease has been signed by state officials charged with overseeing all things cannabis, according to Mayor Tim Rogers, and remodeling is expected to happen in the fall.
According to Rogers, the Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) program is sponsored by the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, L.P. and the NYSECIF Operating Company, LLC (collectively the “Fund”) and the Social Equity Servicing Corporation, a DASNY subsidiary. DASNY is in the midst of making more sites ready across the state and 98 North Chestnut Street in the Village of New Paltz is one of them.
Rogers explained that the Fund 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 NYS for operation by individuals who have been impacted by the inequitable enforcement of cannabis laws.
If a suitable individual holding a social equity cannabis dispenser license steps up, they could be open for business by the end of the year. DASNY was not named in the recent injunction that ordered a new pause on dispensaries.
Having an operational dispensary in New Paltz is one of the conditions that would trigger the end of the cannabis market that was launched this weekend on Plattekill Avenue.
— Terence P Ward