When the war on marijuana came sweeping through his New York City housing project decades ago, Roland Conner found himself going in and out of jail. It’s a time he’d rather not talk about.
Now, at age 50, he has opened the state’s first legal cannabis dispensary to be run by someone previously punished under New York’s old, prohibitionist drug laws.
The shop in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, called “Smacked,” opened to the public Tuesday with the state’s support. It is New York’s second legal place to buy recreational marijuana, but the first to benefit from a program that set aside dispensary licenses for people with pot-related criminal convictions.
Conner is also receiving support from a $200 million public-private fund to aid “social equity” applicants for the state’s tightly controlled supply of dispensary licenses. The money is intended to help redress the ravages of the war on drugs, especially in communities of color.
“When people come together passionately to fix something, they can actually make things happen. And I’m a living example of that now,” said Conner as he prepared for the store’s opening.
New York legalized the recreational use of marijuana in March 2021 but the state-sanctioned marketplace for the