In New York Bodegas Want to Sell Legal Recreational Marijuana

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As New York starts to prepare to hear Cuomo’s proposition on legal recreational use, things in the state are picking up pace. We recently reported about the state’s ban on testing for marijuana during the job application process. Now the bodega owners in the state want in on the expected huge market.

New York bodega - Picture via Paul Lowry on Flickr

Of course, if they’re allowed to sell beer and cigarettes, both products much more harmful than marijuana, they should also be allowed to sell cannabis goes the logic.

The United Bodegas of America group has last week expressed its desire to enter the niche and sell the product in its affiliated stores. Currently there are more than 15,000 bodegas operational in New York. Selling legal cannabis in-store would both generate income and also could move the “drug peddling” from the street to inside, as per the organization’s announcement.

Obviously, bodegas are popular locations and drug dealers can easily meet with their clients outside of them, due to the increased foot traffic.

“We have battled with people selling marijuana for decades in front of our stores. We have seen thousands being arrested for selling marijuana in front of our businesses”
Radames Rodriguez, UBA President to NBC New York

Many bodegas can make the argument that they operate in neighborhoods which can benefit most from legislation, because use and low level drug convictions are rampant, we also need to think for a while that these are the places which flooded their hoods with the harmful synthetic drugs Spice and K2. At times it feels that a “sale is a sale” is the most prevalent thinking rather than real concern for the neighborhood.

Additionally, UBA’s spokesman Fernando Matteo expressed the concern that most of the new market may be operated by a mostly white population and the industry should “be shared by the underdog”, not excluding the black and Hispanic community from it. Cuomo’s plan does contain a desire to give minoraties and women a large share of the sector, but Matteo fears that bodega operators fall outside of the “minority-owned” definition.

UBA also thinks that due to bodegas already being a vital cornerstone of the city, they should be given priority when discussing the distribution of the market.

“There is no question that responsible, safe-haven bodegas should get first cracks at providing people that choose to smoke marijuana with a local place to buy it”
“We are licensed and qualify to sell beer. Why not include us in the marijuana package?”
Radames Rodriguez, UBA President to News12

UBA makes a strong case for the inclusion of bodegas. But at the same time, while we believe in and fully support a free market not hampered by lots of red tape, this would also open long debates about the so-called distance regulations as many bodegas fall may be close to public centers and schools.

Another question is also whether bodegas operating cannabis sales would contribute to dropping market prices or rather to continued high prices due to their otherwise already expensive nature.

They indeed have the benefit of already operating in commercial locations and would have to invest less to get started. Whether this should give them priority over “minority-owned” is an interesting discussion to be had.

Would you want your local cornerstone to sell your cannabis or do you prefer buying from a specialized dispensary?

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