Recreational cannabis rollout continues in New York

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 11:30 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - As some people around the region celebrated the 4/20 cannabis holiday Thursday, the opening of the North Country’s first pot shop was delayed after the owners say the state licensing hasn’t rolled out as fast as they’d like.

“When we first open, we’re going to be delivery only, so we’re just going to have our online presence,” said Eli Emery, owner of Elevate ADK in Plattsburgh, the first pot shop in the North Country to get a provisional license.

But Emery says a technical problem with submitting their final licensing paperwork caused them to push back their start date. “Our ‘contact us’ button on our website has had a lot of comments and questions -- mostly, ‘When are you opening?’” he said.

Emery says they hope to have a physical storefront in Plattsburgh by the end of summer. Right now, the closest recreational shops to the Lake City are in Fort Covington and Burlington.

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management says eight provisional licenses have now been granted in the North Country. “One or two locations have been advancing through the process and hopefully we’ll see them open soon,” said Chris Alexander, the office’s executive director. He says there are only eight recreational stores open in the entire state of New York and that most of the delays stem from a difficulty finding storefront space. In more crowded areas, commercial real estate is lacking. And in others, he says some property owners are hesitant to lease to a cannabis company. “We’re pushing hard every day to get our licensees open. In some cases, we’re securing locations on their behalf and getting them built out.”

For now, the only legal way to get cannabis in and around Plattsburgh is with a medical card. Kirsten Bezio, a pharmacist at Curaleaf, says the store was packed Thursday for 4/20. “I think sometimes there’s still that stigma behind it, but I have seen a shift,” she said. Bezio adds 4/20 isn’t necessarily a big party day, but a time to look at all the practical uses of the plant. “We use it for chronic pain, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. It treats lots of different conditions.” A spokesperson for Curaleaf says they’ll look into expanding into the recreational market when they’re able to, with hopes of keeping the product accessible.

As for now, it looks like Elevate ADK will be the first recreational shop in the area, with hopes of starting delivery in the next week or two. Once their final license is approved, they can start ordering from vendors. “We’re going to do our best to have everything we can and have a wide variety of items on the shelves for people to buy,” Emery said.

Elevate ADK will be at the Glass Exhibition event hosted by Koffee Kat in Plattsburgh this Saturday. People can stop in for live music and get a look at what to expect once the business starts rolling.

As always, don’t drive impaired. Governor Hochul’s Office said there will be extra law enforcement out on Thursday.