High times in the East Village: Shoppers revel in city’s first legal marijuana dispensary opening

New Yorkers followed their noses — and the smoke and fresh scent of marijuana — along East 8th Street and Broadway in the East Village Thursday as they lined up for the very first legal cannabis dispensary, which appropriately opened to the public at exactly 4:20 p.m. 

The first man waiting outside the doors of the Housing Works Cannabis Co. dispensary on 750 Broadway considered himself a lucky person to experience history in the making.

Ken Woodin said he arrived at noon and has been following the opening of a legal weed dispensary via the news. In addition to wanting to take part in the new era of legalized marijuana, he also yearned to support Housing Works for their nonprofit agenda giving back the earnings to their organization that aids those struggling with addiction, homelessness, and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. 

A shopper at the East Village marijuana dispensary
Ken Woodin was the first customer said he arrived at 12 p.m. and has been following the opening of a legal weed dispensary via the news. Photo by Dean Moses
Ken Woodin was the first customer said he arrived at 12 p.m. and has been following the opening of a legal weed dispensary via the news. Photo by Dean Moses

“I’ve been waiting for it,” Woodin told amNewYorkMetro. “It means that I don’t have to worry about pesticides and whether it has stuff in it. I can have a consistent product.”

Cannabis is becoming increasingly popular in Manhattan, and more and more residents are turning to the drug for recreational and medicinal purposes. In the past, cannabis has been illegal in the state of New York, but that has changed in recent years. As of 2021, cannabis is now legal in Manhattan and other parts of the state for medicinal and recreational use.

The legalization of cannabis has brought with it many benefits. For one, it has opened up access to medical cannabis for those with certain qualifying conditions. It has also created a new industry, creating jobs and economic opportunities. In addition, it has allowed for more research into the potential benefits of cannabis, which could lead to new treatments or even cures for certain medical conditions.

Despite the legalization of cannabis in Manhattan, there are still some restrictions. For one, it is still illegal to purchase cannabis from a dispensary. This is because the state has yet to set up a regulated system for purchasing and selling cannabis. Additionally, it is still illegal to consume cannabis in public, and it is illegal to drive while under the influence of cannabis.

In addition to the legal restrictions, there are also some health concerns associated with cannabis use. Cannabis can cause short-term memory loss and impaired coordination, which can be dangerous when operating a motor vehicle. It can also increase the risk of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the potential risks before using cannabis.

Overall, the legalization of cannabis in Manhattan has been a positive development. It has created new economic opportunities, provided access to medical cannabis, and allowed for more research into the potential benefits of cannabis. However, it is important to be aware of the legal and health risks associated with cannabis use.

For more information about legal cannabis in Manhattan, please visit:

While Woodin feels at ease knowing that the product he is purchasing is safe, he is also breathing a sigh of relief now that the drug is decriminalized.

“I don’t know if I’m judgment free, but I don’t have to go to jail,” Woodin said.

Tegan Reed, 22, originally from North Carolina, learned about the site from a family member and looked to purchase marijuana legally at a location that did not require a medical card.

She shared that the legalized site makes her feel at ease since she says had seen numerous areas sell cannabis that is laced or contains harmful toxins.

“I would say that it is because my husband, he lives up here and we come up here very often and as somebody who likes to smoke, it’s nice to have somewhere that I can go that’s not asking for a medical card,” Reed said. 

Smokers wait for the opening. Photo by Dean Moses
Workers prepare for the big opening.Photo by Dean Moses

“I actually saw a lot of people selling either Delta eight or a lot of fake stuff that has been out and it hurts people a lot. And so I think that it’s really important for them to have this place, because it’s going to make a lot of people smoke safer and legally,” Reed added. 

Knowing that the money is going toward helping those in need enticed Tegan to spend more at the dispensary. She is looking to purchase a vape pen and joint.

“It actually makes me want to spend more because of the fact that the people who are going to be getting out of jail and all of this is amazing. I think that that is an absolutely great cause and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a dispensary,” Reed said. 

For some like Queens resident Peter Alba, 62 — who has been smoking the plant since he was 13-years-old — this grand opening has been long overdue. He shared that a lot of people have suffered over the criminalization of marijuana, but adds that right now he wants to focus on the silver lining — convenience. 

Smokers wait for the opening. Photo by Dean Moses
Members of the media scrambled for photos of customers. Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s a long time overdue, man! I’m 62 years old. I’ve been smoking weed since I was 13 and it’s keeping me young,” Alba said. “I’m looking at the convenience. I want to be able to walk up out the door. If you are a drinker and you want a bottle of scotch, there is a liquor store on every corner. I just want to be able to walk into the door, go into a place and get some top shelf merchandise and take it home or take it wherever I go and smoke,” Alba said. 

Alba saw the grand opening as a way to support the good deeds performed by Housing Works and also as an opportunity to apply for a job that benefits the community. 

Smokers wait for the opening. Photo by Dean Moses

“I’m glad that whatever few dollars I may spend today here is going to them. I heard about this grand opening, and I put in a [job] application this morning, I’ve been in retail for over 40 years,” Alba added. 

Crowds of pot aficionados lined the block along East Broadway hours before the general public were allowed to enter the dispensary and make their purchases. Woodin, the very first on the line, was able to enter the site just before opening time at 4:20 p.m. where he purchased 3.5 grams of premium cannabis flower. Additionally, all the items sold are grown locally in New York like Back Home Cannabis.

Housing Works Cannabis Co. is now open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Smokers wait for the opening. Photo by Dean Moses