Legal Retail Marijuana Is Just Around the Corner
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at the first cannabis licenses issued in New York State. We’ll also look at how gridlock alert days are chosen, because today is one.
Tremaine Wright, the chairwoman of the state Cannabis Control Board.Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times
In the end, the numbers were 903, 28, 8 and 282.
It’s not a football play. There were 903 applicants for licenses for the first retail recreational marijuana stores in New York State. On Monday, 28 licenses went to entrepreneurs and eight to nonprofits. And regulators released 282 pages of proposed fees and timelines that, among other things, would let the state’s existing medical cannabis providers get into the recreational market.
The licenses were awarded by the state Cannabis Control Board. My colleague Ashley Southall writes that the action closed a seed-to-sale supply chain and is expected to lead to legal retail marijuana sales by the end of the year, even though a Michigan company is challenging some of the New York license requirements — including one that says applicants must have been convicted of a cannabis offense in New York State. That provision was intended to help provide opportunities in the legal cannabis business to people in communities that were targeted during the war on drugs.
Tremaine Wright, the chairwoman of the board, called the vote on Monday “a monumental moment.”
“Not long ago, the idea of New York legalizing cannabis seemed unbelievable,” she said. “Now, not only have we legalized, but we’re also building a legal adult-use market with an equity-driven approach.”
The Office of Cannabis Management, which develops regulations under the control board’s supervision, said most of the licenses went to people in New York City and on Long Island. Freeman Klopott, the agency’s spokesman, said 20 of the recipients were from areas with some of the lowest median household incomes in the country.
Among them were Naiomy Guerrero, 31, and her father and an older brother, Hector. She said Hector had been arrested several times for possession of marijuana during the era of stop and frisk, a program that led to unjustified pedestrian stops and searches in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods like Morris Heights in the Bronx, where the Guerrero siblings grew up. A federal judge ruled in 2013 that such tactics were racially discriminatory and unconstitutional.
“To do this for my family, to move this forward, is my life’s work,” she said. “If the true goal of cannabis in New York is to be equitable, then who better than us? Because we’ve suffered at the hands of the war on drugs. We come from the most policed neighborhoods in the Bronx.”
Licenses went to at least three New York City-based nonprofits: Housing Works, the Doe Fund and LIFE Camp, a 20-year-old nonprofit whose original purpose was to help reduce violence and arrests in southeast Queens. It is thought to be the first nonprofit led by a Black woman to receive a license.
The 36 licensees must now submit additional information about their finances and business partners. Once regulators have reviewed that information, they can begin deliveries from locations of their choice, a shift announced on Monday that regulators said would allow operators to “generate capital and scale their operations.”
But that change suggests that the state may be struggling to provide the license holders with storefronts and loans as planned. The state Dormitory Authority, the agency leading the leasing and design process for the storefronts, said in a statement that with licensees being selected and “a delivery model in place,” it could now “continue finalizing leases and financing without delaying sales.”
Expect a sunny day with temperatures near the high 40s and a clear evening with temps around the high 30s.
In effect until Thursday (Thanksgiving Day).
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Gridlock’s on her mind
Anne Marie Doherty has thought a lot about today and tomorrow, two of the 19 gridlock alert days that the city anoints to discourage high-volume traffic in Midtown Manhattan on days it expects it.
As the senior director of research, implementation and safety for the Department of Transportation, Doherty is the chief anointer. If people pay attention to her choices, the streets may not be deserted, but they will be somewhat less impassable than they might otherwise have been. If people disregard them, fuhgeddaboudit, to use a word that is in the dictionary.
Gridlock alert days were invented to discourage motorists from driving into Midtown when traffic jams were likely — the day of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting, for example (Nov. 30 this year). They have been an element of New York life for more than 30 years now, long enough to wonder if they are useful or useless.
“Issuing a special advisory for traffic congestion in New York City — where the term ‘gridlock’ was invented — is like issuing a cold weather advisory in the North Pole,” the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a policy group, declared in 2015 in a post on its website that proclaimed that every day is a gridlock alert day in New York. It added that “traffic is nothing new in the five boroughs.”
Doherty knows this but says that gridlock alert days do make a difference. For the week of gridlock alert days during the United Nations General Assembly sessions in September, she said there was a 4 to 5 percent decrease in traffic on the East River crossings. She also knows that traffic in Midtown slows down on gridlock alert days. But the crawl could be even slower.
“The purpose of this is when we know there are attractions for people to be driving into the city, to discourage them,” she said. “To not drive in.”
She said the numbers suggest that gridlock alert days have done that over the years. In 1991, roughly 1.6 million vehicles rolled into Manhattan on a gridlock alert day — about 500,000 more than made the trip on a comparable day in 2019, before the pandemic.
Doherty chooses the days without experiencing gridlock from behind the wheel. She takes an express bus to work from Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, to Lower Manhattan.
“I never, ever dream of driving into the city, ever,” she said. “It’s silliness.”
A church that wants to tear down and rebuild
A five-alarm fire tore through the Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village in December 2020. The bell in its tower, which had rung in the birth of the nation in 1776, was saved. The Tiffany stained-glass windows were not. The rock-faced granite walls were all that was left of the church. The church says they are unstable.
Today, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will hear testimony on the church’s application to demolish them — an application that some preservationists oppose. “We don’t believe there is sufficient documentation that alternatives to preserve the historic facade have been fully explored,” the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said on its website, “nor that there is sufficient evidence at this time to justify the permanent and irreversible removal.”
Theodore Grunwald, a preservationist who lives a few blocks from the church, called it “a distinct architectural presence.”
“And that distinct architectural presence can continue, as every other congregation that has been destroyed by fire has done,” he said. “Those outer walls can’t be duplicated, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
The church’s senior minister, the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, said the church had spent $4.2 million, about one-fifth of the insurance payments it received after the fire, on studies to see whether what was left of the facade was sturdy enough to be incorporated into a new building. “Our experts say it’s not,” she said, “so it’s not appropriate to keep it.”
“We want to build back on our historic site,” she said, adding that “there is no developer in the wings” with a plan for the site. She said the church could not spend any more time or money studying ways to keep the facade and that the landmarks commission “holds our future in its hands.”
My girlfriend and I were having a cocktail at a restaurant in my East Side neighborhood when a woman I had dated briefly came in and spotted me.
She approached our table. As I greeted her and introduced my companion, she interjected to say that she hadn’t contacted me because she was in a relationship.
I was tongue-tied, but my girlfriend was not.
“So is he,” she quickly replied.
— Herb Fishman
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Sadiba Hasan and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.