State approves two Dutchess applicants
New York’s Cannabis Control Board on Monday (April 4) issued the first licenses to sell recreational marijuana in the Mid-Hudson, six days after a federal court lifted a months-old ban covering the region.
Six minutes into the board’s meeting at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, elated members of the board, which oversees the Office of Cannabis Management, voted to award 99 licenses for retail stores to sell cannabis grown in-state.
Delaurna Murphy and his wife, Sonia, received one of two Poughkeepsie-based licenses that were among five awarded in Dutchess and six other Mid-Hudson counties. The other three went to companies registered in Rockland, Westchester and the Bronx, with the latter planning to open an outlet in the Mid-Hudson.
The Murphys have not determined where they will locate their store but hope to do so in Poughkeepsie, where they operate Royal Blend, a Jamaican and soul food restaurant on Main Street. Their timeline is four months.
Under the 2021 state law that legalized recreational marijuana for adults ages 21 and older, applicants seeking sales licenses must have business experience and have been convicted of a marijuana-related offense before the law took effect. Parents, guardians, children, spouses or dependents of someone with a conviction are also eligible. Half of dispensary licenses will be issued to people affected by former marijuana laws.
The First Five
Five limited-liability corporations (LLC) won the first licenses for marijuana dispensaries in the Mid-Hudson region. All are majority-owned by “justice-involved” entrepreneurs, meaning they were convicted under the state’s former marijuana laws.
Royal Blend Dispensary: Delaurna and Sonia Murphy own Royal Blend Foods, a West Indian and soul food restaurant in Poughkeepsie.
Retail United Alliance: Vincent Ross owns the Laced Barber Lounge in Poughkeepsie. His partners are Matthew Bieri, Alykhan Budwani and Herbert Sexton IV.
Jay Buddy: Joshua Mercado owns First Class Vending Machines Corp. in Yonkers in Westchester County. His partners are LaAnthony Bannister and Regina Smith.
Blaze 420: Milka Morales Pereira of New City in Rockland County owns a firm in New York City that helps people convicted of driving under the influence get their licenses back. She is partnering with Gregory Pereira.
Buddega NYC: Eyasser Noboa, who owns an online retail business based in the Bronx, is partnering with Jesus Fontanez and Dipak Patel to open a dispensary in the Mid-Hudson region.
Murphy, 64, fulfilled that requirement when police arrested him 30 years ago inside a store in the Bronx where marijuana was being sold.
“I was beaten and my head busted, and I was dragged and taken to jail,” he said. “The torture I had to endure did not fit what I did.”
The restaurant owner said he is not surprised that marijuana is now legal in the state. “When we look back at the Prohibition period, where alcohol was illegal, and now we have stores that are legally licensed to sell alcohol, I knew the time would come,” he said.
Murphy applied for a license, he said, because he “wanted to make a difference in my life and make a difference in the communities that I am involved with.”
The dispensary licenses were issued following a federal appeals court ruling on March 28 that allowed the Office of Cannabis Management to approve retail outlets in Brooklyn, central and western New York and the Mid-Hudson, where both Beacon and Cold Spring have opted to allow shops where people can buy marijuana for recreational use. Beacon also approved smoking lounges.
Licensing in those regions had been in limbo since Nov. 10, when the federal judge issued the preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by a company called Variscite NY One. It accused the state of discriminating against out-of-state applicants.
In addition to the Mid-Hudson, the board on Monday issued three licenses in Brooklyn, one in central New York, and four in western New York. The injunction remains in place in the Finger Lakes region.
Open for Business
Although 165 licenses have been issued by the Cannabis Control Board, only seven retail marijuana stores have opened statewide. Three are located in Manhattan, one in Queens and the others in Binghamton, Ithaca and Schenectady.
The Cannabis Control Board will issue 34 licenses in the Mid-Hudson, which is double what the agency had originally planned. Statewide, it increased its allotment from 150 to 300 licenses. Murphy said he plans to tap a $200 million fund, administered by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, that helps freshly minted dispensary owners with startup costs.
The Dormitory Authority is negotiating leases with landlords, subleasing spaces to dispensary operators and funding renovations and furnishings. Licensees repay the costs over 10 years. The fund also provides services such as financial training and vetting security firms.
Yay, we simply don’t have enough mind altering drugs from doctors, pharmacists, big pharma, TV networks, etc., void of integrity and care for mental health. Now families strolling along Main Street USA can stop in with their children for a toot and a high.