Excitement and smoke were in the air as New York's first legal recreational marijuana dispensary opened in Manhattan Thursday.
Housing Works Cannabis Co. opened its doors to the public appropriately at 4:20 p.m.
"I'm probably going to buy some cookies down the block, go home and roll it up and feel great,” said Taylor Coleman, who waited in line for three hours. “It’s 4/20 every day with me.
"I feel free here. I get to be a part of that freedom,” said Kenneth Woodin, who was the first on line outside the dispensary owned by Housing Works, a non-profit that was founded in 1990 to address HIV/AIDS and homelessness.
Money from marijuana sales will be reinvested in services that Housing Works provides to the unhoused and formerly incarcerated, including those with cannabis convictions. Woodin said it's an organization he's proud to support.
“The weed that I'm smoking is directly going to help people who are housing displaced and struggling with HIV/AIDS so why wouldn't I want the weed that I'm smoking to help people out?"
Before the dispensary opened to the public, the first legal purchase of marijuana in New York was made by Chris Alexander, the executive director of the state’s Cannabis Office.
The state legalized recreational marijuana use in March 2021 thanks to legislation spearheaded by state Senator Liz Krueger.
"The money is going to charitable purposes to help people who've had substance abuse trouble, homeless, incarcerated, all the targeted populations that drove me to want to work on this legislation,” said Krueger.
The Cannabis Control Board issued the first 36 retail licenses in November. Dozens more dispensaries are expected to open in the coming months with 139 licenses waiting to be issued.