Despite New York State having legalized marijuana nearly 2 months ago, navigating the loopholes of such a law can already be seen now. Cannabis speakeasies have been open for long before the law went into effect, illegally serving clientele who knew about their existence through word-of-mouth. But in the aftermath of legalization, New Yorkers are faced with the odd interim period between legislative victory and the commencement of full-fledged cannabis operations that will last for at least another year. Much to the dismay of the many who fantasized about the incoming untapped sector of the city’s hospitality industry, a long to-do list precedes the billions that the industry will generate.
The first order of business is that a board needs to be created to establish the regulatory bases for growing, distributing, selling, and taxing recreational marijuana in the state. Aside from the board, however, is a host of other questions still floating around regarding the potential for stringent rules, regulations, supply chains, licensing processes, and industry caps. Geographical location also plays an important role as municipalities had the final say on whether retail stores and on-premise consumption would be allowed in their jurisdiction, thereby determining whether or not cannabis-oriented restaurants, bars, clubs and cafes will become a prominent facet of their hospitality scene.
But one thing’s for sure: there will always be someone who won’t stand by and wait when they could be open and making money. Despite the industry’s long path ahead, The Astor Club on the Lower East Side is a currently functioning, exclusive cannabis speakeasy. It requires a membership, encourages donations, and sells food and beverages as well. The club is operating in a legal gray area for the moment, but it certainly feels like a relic of pre-legalized times.
As it continues to draw memberships from major industry insiders and leaders, its low-key success may serve as an example for other cannabis businesses.
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