On March 30, 2021, New York is became the fifteenth state in the United States to allow the purchase, possession and cultivation of cannabis for all citizens over the age of 21. Yet nearly a year later, authorities have not issued a single license officially authorizing the recreational trade in the plant.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped some entrepreneurs from starting their own business, creating a huge “grey market”. Dozens of dispensaries sell their product in complete legal limbo as authorities threaten penalties but police fail to intervene.
For many of them, the game is worth the candle. The New York market could weigh up to 4.2 billion dollars (3.71 billion euros) within five years, believes Forbes.
And, for now, the semi-legality of the local industry keeps industry giants like Curaleaf and Green Thumb (respectively 889 and 650 million euros in revenue in the first three quarters of 2021) in expectation.
“We have seen, state after state, where the big fish come in and corner the whole market and where the little ones get screwed every time”, argues Lenore Elfland, which runs Empire Cannabis Club, a dispensary located in Manhattan. Better to occupy the ground now, even if it means taking serious risks.
Creative selling techniques
In theory, selling cannabis without a license is not legal. “Violators must stop their activities immediately or face the consequences”insists Tremaine Wright, the director of the Cannabis Control Board.
In order to avoid closure, some dispensaries are being creative. At Empire, customers must purchase a 24-hour membership card, which gives them access to a marijuana catalog. At Uncle Budd, it is possible to make a donation and receive, in exchange, cannabis as a gift.
The Cannabis Control Board does not hear it that way. In February, he distributed the formal notices warning that violators risked at best being banned from licensing when they are distributed and, at worst, exposing themselves to criminal prosecution. But the semi-legal dealers do not intend to let it go, and take their share of the space cake.