By Ashley Pavlakis, Abby Bender, and Kelsie Radziski
The cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. The market is projected to reach $72 billion in annual nationwide sales by 2030, according to a 2022 study by New Frontier Data.
“You apply to New York State, which costs about $210,000 for the permit,” Gary Belmonte, a farmer who intends to sell marijuana products on his farm once he gets the proper licensing, said. “When you apply to NYS, you’re applying to partner up with them. You’ll own about 40 percent of the business and NYS will own about 60 percent of the business… It’s a waiting game till NYS contacts you.”
Dispensaries in New York got an early start with medicinal cannabis products. Recreational marijuana was legalized in New York in 2021.
“We started off with just CBD products, and as the laws allowed us we were allowed to sell other products, like Full Spectrum, that have a little bit of THC in it,” Brenda Danielle, an employee at Organically Connected herbal medicine store in Port Jefferson, said. “Now our laws are finally loosening up and we have our license again and we are finally ready to apply.”
Business experts believe having more cannabis dispensaries on Long Island will foster the local economy, as well as improve the state as a whole.
“Looking at it from a business perspective, any new industry in the economy is a good thing,” Mohammad Subhan, a business student from a long line of business owners, said. “It creates more jobs and it’s another product to be sold [which] means more tax revenue for local county and federal taxes.”
Within New York State, adult-use cannabis taxes are first used for costs relating to Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act and the Office of Cannabis Management, such as operating costs, drug recognition expert training, and workforce development for social and economic equity. The remaining tax revenue is used in three different capacities, with 40% going into the State Lottery Fund for education purposes, 40% into the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, and 20% into the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund.
“Once tax is being imposed, it’s going to go to stuff like fire protection, roads, parks, [and] maintain everything in New York state,” Dennis Smith, a supporter of recreational dispensaries on Long Island, said.
Since cannabis can now be purchased recreationally or medically, many people are confident in their choice to partake and are turning to dispensaries to locate safe products.
“The quality of the product is better and [there is] much more variety and selection,” Alex Hyams, a supporter of dispensaries on Long Island, said. “The staff also at these dispensaries are very knowledgeable and can educate consumers on the products.”
Many locations currently open on the island are medicinal, meaning a person looking to buy would need a medical marijuana card. Medical marijuana has been available to qualifying New Yorkers since 2014.
“Relative to everything else that’s out there that has detrimental effects, like people that are using painkillers like oxy, and then getting hooked on it,” Donna Kraus, founder and electromagnetic frequency practitioner of Waves of Hope, said. “With marijuana if you get hooked on it, you can still live a normal life more so than you can when you’re on the heavy duty stuff,” Kraus said.
There has been a slight transition from what used to be prescribed with opioids to now be prescribed with medical marijuana, according to a research article published in January 2023. However, experiences such as chronic pain are not always covered by medical marijuana laws.
Medical marijuana can be useful for people experiencing severe and chronic pain looking for a more natural way to treat it. It can also be used to treat a variety of medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and AIDS/HIV, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In New York State, people suffering from a variety of conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease, may be eligible for a medical marijuana card. The discretion of a healthcare provider is required to determine eligibility.
“People that have medicinal issues can go to [dispensaries as] a legitimate place without any danger of threat of arrest,” Hyams said.
Marijuana can also be used to help treat mental illnesses, like anxiety, PTSD, and depression.
“I think dispensaries with a legalized license, that operate with the laws and regulations, and who are making sure that nothing harmful is being put into marijuana…could be beneficial for individuals with PTSD like myself,” Stephen Kaplan, a retired Army veteran, said.
While information on when the new locations will open on Long Island has not been released yet, New Yorkers can watch as new dispensaries are opening their doors in other spots, like the new Manhattan location of the cannabis store Union Square Travel Agency.
“I would recommend going to dispensaries to my friends because it’s convenient, and you know exactly what is in the product,” Kaplan said. “There’s no fear of what’s in the product. Plus you have a choice of different options, and forms of marijuana.”