Roland Conner was thrown in jail when the war on marijuana swept through his New York City housing development decades ago. He doesn’t want to talk about it.
At 50 years old, he opened New York’s first legal marijuana dispensary. He was previously convicted under New York’s prohibitionist drug laws.
With the support of the state, the shop in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village was named “Smacked” and opened Tuesday to the public. This is New York’s second legal location to purchase recreational marijuana. However, it is the first to be granted dispensary licenses to people with pot-related criminal convictions.
Conner also receives support from a $200million public-private fund that supports “social equity” applicants to the state’s tight controlled supply of dispensary licences. This money will be used to address the effects of the war against drugs, particularly in communities of color.
“When people work together to solve a problem, they can make it happen.” Conner said that he was a living example of this as he prepares for the store’s opening.
New York legalized recreational marijuana use in March 2021, but the state-sanctioned market for the drug has been slow to roll out. In November, the first 36 licenses were issued. In November, the state reserved 150 dispensary licenses for applicants with previous convictions for marijuana offenses.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat hopes Conner’s venture can be a model for others.
Hochul stated last week that “this dispensary represents the latest example of how we are working to create the most equitable, inclusive and sustainable cannabis industry in the country.” “We continue to work towards righting the wrongs of the past and I look forward that new dispensaries — owned or controlled by those most affected by the prohibition of cannabis — open soon.
Conner, like many others, was incarcerated for minor offenses during his youth. Conner was sentenced in 1991 and sent away for several months. He said that talking about it now only brings back the trauma.
He has been operating a property management company for the past 15 years and is currently running a Bronx transitional housing facility. He has the business experience to be able to obtain a dispensary license.
While work at the storefront is completed, Smacked will open as a pop up dispensary. The store will be run by his wife Patricia and his son Darius.
They will be competing with the many illegal dispensaries that have been operating in New York for years. Conner knew that a new unlicensed shop was soon to open near his store when he opened it.
Conner reminisces about his youth, when marijuana was a part of everyday life. Conner grew up in the Far Rockaways in New York, a poor area where young men would get high.
“We were basically poor. He said that it was like any other New York City housing development, and was filled with drugs and poverty. My mother tried her best to ensure that we were always fed, even though we went hungry quite often.
He said that police were always on the lookout for suspicious activity in the areas. He said that they sometimes would walk up and down blocks and they would either be visible from us or just appear out of nowhere. They’ll search us and just appear out of the blue. They would lock you up if they found any type of drug on you.
“Back in 1991, this was when I got locked up for marijuana and started to get sucked into streets. He said that it was so far back.
Conner became alarmed when his son started selling marijuana to support his family years later.
He said that he didn’t want his son to go down that path and get stuck.
Conner and his family decided that the state was opening up a legal market and applied for a dispensary licence.
His son Darius said, “I had to take a step back and listen to my father and figure out how to get there.”
Darius Conner stated, “He said that there was a legal way to do what I am doing now.” “At the end, I want to do it the right way.”
Officials claimed that Conner was supported by the Bronx Cannabis Hub. This hub was established by the Bronx Defenders as well as the Bronx Community Foundation in order to assist individuals who apply for their first round of licenses.
Federal data shows that marijuana use is similar among Black and white people, however, the arrest rate for Black people has been shown to be much higher according to American Civil Liberties Union reports and other sources.
Conner stated, “People who are poor do things they would not normally do.” “So if you speak only of poverty without addressing the reasons why people do what they do, it’s problematic.”
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