NY1's Bobby Cuza looks at the marijuana industry in New York and whether the state could soon legalize marijuana.
Marijuana is having a moment in New York.
In the last month alone, the political winds have shifted significantly. First, Cynthia Nixon’s rousing endorsement of legalization thrust the issue front and center in the governor’s race, prompting Governor Cuomo to soften his stance. Within days, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Public Advocate Letitia James both came out in favor, as did former Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
Culturally, too, marijuana is entering the mainstream in the most New York of ways, from a high-end head shop in the Chelsea Market to a newly-opened medical marijuana dispensary on Fifth Avenue that mimics the aesthetics of an Apple store.
New York-based firms in tech and private equity are already among the biggest players in the cannabis industry. Industry meetups draw hundreds of entrepreneurs.
With neighboring Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey (likely) onboard, growing public support and a big nudge from the political left, the era of marijuana prohibition may be nearing an end in New York.
Judging from some of the places we visited, you might think it already has.
The cannabis industry has made a concerted effort to destigmatize marijuana and even appeal to an upscale clientele. Exhibit A: Higher Standards, the chic head shop with the $33,000 bong-as-collectible-art-piece, and a high-tech automatic joint-roller.
When you shop at the sleek new MedMen dispensary on Fifth Avenue, you can browse using the iPads on walnut display tables, or consult the cheerful staff in matching red t-shirts. It’s only for medical marijuana patients. For now.
At the monthly CannaGather in SoHo, you can mingle and network with other cannabis entrepreneurs. As some New York-based firms have already figured out, you don't have to wait for legalization to make money in this business.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. New Jersey could be next. And 56% percent of New York voters support it. It's probably a matter of when, not if, New York will follow their lead.