Exploring Legal Adult-Use Cannabis in NYC

Imparting knowledge from New York for our P3 Campaign

Representatives from All Together Now PA traveled to New York City on June 20, 2023 to visit New York State’s first adult use cannabis dispensary – Housing Works Cannabis Co – which was started by a non-profit organization called Housing Works, whose mission is to provide housing, healthcare (including substance use treatment) and vocational training to thousands of New Yorkers annually. 

So why was a non-profit organization who serves people struggling with addiction also selected as the first licensee in the state to sell adult-use cannabis? Here’s their explanation in their own words: 

“As part of our person-centered approach to healthcare, Housing Works offers innovative substance use support grounded in Harm Reduction. This non-judgmental, non-coercive, trauma-informed philosophy meets people where they’re at, including those left behind by social programs and medical institutions. We believe people can and will make positive decisions about their health when given options that meet their circumstances. We respect the rights of people who use drugs and believe that everyone deserves healthcare. We value autonomy, responsibility, community, and compassion.”

Some Key Takeaways From Our Visit: 

  • NY State has struggled significantly with the roll-out of the legal market in New York City. We learned that too many licenses (300 or so) were approved with too little support for those businesses to get up and running efficiently and in compliance with regulations. This resulted in approximately 1,500 illegal cannabis shops opening all over NYC.  Housing Works Cannabis Co. was able to open their shop in a very efficient and legal manner because they already had the internal infrastructure, built over many years because they already run several successful thrift stores throughout the city. 
  • Housing Works Cannabis Co extended their mission to not only share profits with their housing non-profit, Housing Works, but also to share their knowledge and expertise with the hundreds of license holders who are trying to open – it’s an apprenticeship of sorts. This is a mentor-mentee model we should adopt for Pennsylvania. 
  • Most of the cannabis cultivation in NY state is open air, not indoor. Housing Works mostly deals with farmers and vendors upstate.  Pennsylvania’s rural communities and farmers would benefit from a similar symbiotic relationship with urban based retailers.

Another wonderful connection we made in NYC was meeting with Wanda Salaman, an inspirational community organizer from the Bronx, Executive Director of Mothers on the Move, and visionary for CannaBronx. She is on a mission to make #hempcrete and industrial hemp the gateway to building generational wealth in her community.  She is teaming up with architects and students from the Pratt Institute on how to bring hempcrete manufacturing to the Bronx and how to increase the use of this sustainable building material in more projects in the city.  We had a wonderful meeting of the minds and hearts with Wanda and the folks from Pratt, and wish them well on reaching their dreams for economic and environmental justice!