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New York's first recreational cannabis dispensary opens at 4:20 p.m. in East Village

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History made as New York's first retail marijuana dispensary opens 02:27

NEW YORK -- For the first time ever, legal recreational marijuana sales began Thursday in New York City. 

The state's first cannabis dispensary opened to adults over the age of 21 at 4:20 p.m. in the East Village. 

Housing Works, the nonprofit behind the facility, is known for helping people who are experiencing homelessness and those living with HIV and AIDS. The organization has been working to secure a license and sell recreational marijuana for the last three years. 

It may be the first to open but certainly not the last. The state says the new year will bring several new dispensaries. In fact, 36 adult retail licenses have been issued. 

Looking ahead, cannabis delivery has also been approved, and the state expects to start issuing those licenses in the next month. 

See live updates below for the latest from today's opening.  


History made as New York's first retail marijuana dispensary opens

The nonprofit Housing Works opened New York's first retail marijuana dispensary on Thursday, fulfilling Gov. Kathy Hochul's promise to start sales before the year ended.

A long line was moving along at the location on Eighth Avenue and Broadway. Cannabis lovers started forming around 1 p.m. ahead of the appropriate opening time of 4:20 p.m.

The head of Housing Works said the nonprofit received thousands of RSVPs and he assured CBS2 there's plenty of product to go around.

History made as New York's first retail marijuana dispensary opens 02:27

Ken Woodin made sure he had first pick, arriving early enough to be first in line.

"I had a plan. I had my wife hang around the area for two hours. We switched off so I could use the restroom," Woodin said.

Earlier in the day, officials celebrated their accomplishment with the first official customers, state Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander and Cannabis NYC Founding Director Dasheeda Dawson.

"I love seeing and being able to smell the bud, also really able to tell if there's mold very quickly, so you can tell it's a good product. It's like buying avocados, right?" Dawson said.

Housing Works Cannabis Company currently offers 100 different products under six brand names, like Florist Farms, which began growing organic vegetables 12 years ago.

"We start with that. Healthy, happy plants, organic fertilizers, no pesticides, and we're all about regenerating our landscape," CEO and co-founder Karli Miller-Hornick said.

And there's a further purpose behind each purchase.

"I've been to jail where I'm from and a lot of people I know in Harris County, so this is just symbolic to me to be free," Woodin said.

Housing Works has deep roots fighting for social equity, providing housing and employment programs for people living with HIV and AIDS, and supporting those who have cannabis-related convictions. They'll be staffing the store, which they admit is still under construction.

"They opened really fast. I came from retail and a month is like almost impossible, but you can tell Housing Works has expertise," Dawson said.

And illegal shops beware, for crews are cracking down on operations as more stores come online.

City leaders advise customers to have cash and questions ready for the smoothest process possible.

Housing Works is still developing its debit card and delivery system, but credit cards are not accepted anywhere cannabis is sold under federal law.

By Jessi Mitchell

Hochul: New York a national model

Gov. Kathy Hochul shared the following statement Thursday, saying "today is only the beginning."

"The first legal adult-use cannabis sales mark a historic milestone in New York's cannabis industry. Today is only the beginning, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to solidify New York as a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building."

By CBS New York Team

Mayor Adams: "Major milestone"

Mayor Eric Adams released the following statement Thursday, saying he is "proud to celebrate this significant moment."

"Today marks a major milestone in our efforts to create the most equitable cannabis industry in the nation. The opening of the first legal dispensary in our state right here in New York City is more than just a promising step for this budding industry - it represents a new chapter for those most harmed by the failed policies of the past. The legal cannabis market has the potential to be a major boon to New York's economic recovery - creating new jobs, building wealth in historically underserved communities, and increasing state and local tax revenue. At the same time, we will continue our efforts to educate unlicensed operators about the law and hold bad actors accountable. We are proud to celebrate this significant moment with Housing Works, lawmakers, and the advocates who made this day possible."

By CBS New York Team

Housing Works celebrates grand opening

Doors open at 4:20 p.m. for the first recreational cannabis sales in the state. 

By CBS New York Team

Anticipation building from organizers and supporters

A sneak peek inside NY's first legal recreational marijuana dispensary 01:46

So far, the New York State Cannabis Control Board has approved 36 adult retail licenses. 

"We felt it was appropriate for us to be able to not only sell cannabis but use that as an opportunity to hire and employ people who've been just as involved due to use and possession of cannabis," Housing Works CEO Charles King told CBS2 on Wednesday.

Critics have argued legalizing pot will bring an increase in crime and traffic accidents and a decrease in quality of life. However, marijuana users and supporters have high hopes for the new business. 

"I'm a chronic pain sufferer and I know that edibles, theoretically, help with chronic pain. So if it's something that could give me some relief, I'm happy to try it," one person said. 

The nonprofit believes regulating marijuana will help control all the illegal spots that have opened. 

"Currently, cannabis sales aren't paying taxes," Housing Works CEO Charles King said. "We'll be paying taxes to the city, the state and the federal government."

CLICK HERE for the full story on what to expect today.

By CBS New York Team

Hearing from Housing Works

New York's first recreational cannabis dispensary set to open tomorrow 05:51

Housing Works CEO Charles King spoke with CBS News New York on Wednesday ahead of the opening.   

By CBS New York Team
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