We walked 10 blocks of 9th Avenue yesterday afternoon and counted eight smoke shops. As Hell’s Kitchen fills with these new stores, the city has announced that they plan to grant only 22 licenses to open recreational marijuana dispensaries across the whole of Manhattan in the first round.

9th Avenue Smoke Shops
Some of the smoke shops on 9th Avenue between W45th and W55th Street. Photos: Phil O’Brien

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) opened its business license application yesterday and a new report details how few available permits will be granted in Manhattan for the first wave of the program. 

The Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) License, New York’s first legal retail license for cannabis distribution, has been set up to allow those who were disproportionately affected by the city’s previous drug laws to obtain dispensary licenses. Justice-involved individuals and family members who can verify that they were “convicted of a marijuana-related offense in New York State before March 31, 2021” are currently eligible to apply. 

But in a report recently released by the OCM, just 150 total licenses will be granted across the state — with only 22 for Manhattan and just 19, 16, 10 and three granted respectively in Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island (according to Marijuana Moment). The OCM says the maximum license calculation was created in relation to each region’s commuter-adjusted population.

Name of Region​Commuter Adj. PopulationPopulation Dist.​Max. CAURD Business Licenses​
Brooklyn​2,852,632 ​12.3%​19 ​
Capital Region​1,145,370 ​5.0%​7 ​
Central New York​1,093,219 ​4.7%​7 ​
Finger Lakes​1,383,303 ​6.0%​9 ​
Long Island​3,110,067 ​13.4%​20 ​
Manhattan​3,375,059 ​14.6%​22 ​
Mid-Hudson​2,603,489 ​11.3%​17 ​
Mohawk Valley​281,983 ​1.2%​2 ​
North Country​586,426 ​2.5%​4 ​
Queens​2,525,120 ​10.9%​16 ​
Southern Tier​480,753 ​2.1%​3 ​
Staten Island​500,926 ​2.2%​3 ​
The Bronx​1,565,988 ​6.8%​10 ​
Western New York​1,622,461 ​7.0%​11 ​

OCM spokesperson Aaron Ghitelman told Marijuana Moment: “The primary goal of the CAURD license is to create opportunities for New Yorkers harmed most by the prohibition of cannabis. Part of that is granting up to 150 CAURD licenses to individuals who themselves, or their close family members, have had past eligible cannabis-related offenses and have ownership stakes in profitable businesses.” The OCM and Adams administration, who hope to open dispensaries as early as the end of the year, estimate up to $1.3 billion in sales by 2023, and between 19,000-24,000 jobs created over the next three years. W42ST reached out to the OCM to confirm whether additional licenses would be granted after the 150 allotted across regions run out, and we will update if we hear back.

Mayor Adams, who announced support for the program in a press conference on Monday, has explained the city’s priority in assisting those interested in applying for a license. “The regulated adult-use cannabis industry is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our underserved communities that have, for too long, faced disproportionate rates of drug-related incarceration to get in on the industry on the ground floor,” he said. “Cannabis NYC will plant the seeds for the economy of tomorrow by helping New Yorkers apply for licenses and understand how to open and successfully run a business, while simultaneously rolling equity into our economy by giving those who have been justice-involved and those with a cannabis conviction a chance to succeed. This is about creating good jobs, successful small businesses, and finally delivering equity to communities harmed by the ‘War on Drugs.’”

“For generations, communities of color across our city have experienced the compounding social and economic impacts of the ‘War on Drugs.’ The end of prohibition and the emerging New York cannabis industry opens avenues for change and prosperity,” added Mayor’s Office of Equity Commissioner Sideya Sherman. “Getting started is the first step. With Cannabis NYC, New Yorkers now have a one-stop shop for navigating the licensing process, access to no-cost services, and ongoing support as the industry continues to evolve. We’re excited for this new chapter and what it means for those individuals and communities most harmed.”

Weed Truck 9th Avenue
As well as the proliferation of smoke shops, weed trucks have become a feature of 9th Avenue each evening. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Adams is also pushing the enforcement of shutting down illegal distribution, including potential violations from Midtown’s many “Weed World” trucks (busted recently not for distribution, but parking tickets).  But with officials moving to clear over 400,000 past marijuana convictions, the process to obtain one of just 70 licenses across the 5 boroughs may leave many prospective businesses up in smoke. 

Join the Conversation


  1. There are two on the corner of W42nd close to ninth ave. Did a second one have to open two stores down? Where the Diner was on W42nd (9-10th) is now a liquor store. Are there no other options besides Smoke Shops, and Liquor Stores? Kids can barely enter our building on W42nd and 9th without wading through all the litter, people strewn passed out in the bus stop canopy, lighting up in the corner next to out entrance, and inhaling drug filled air into their young lungs. Have you counted how many there are south of W42nd on 9th into the 30’s? My heart is broken watching our beloved Hell’s Kitchen and city turned into a filthy drug den.

  2. Another issue – Pot-Stuff stores are able to pay high rent thus they push out local stores already struggling with high rent, ecommerce, chain incursion and crime.

    The City has done everything for restaurants – allowing street shacks, helping fund etc – but zero for small stores.

  3. Well, I’d rather they pay rent and taxes than not. Better they sell from a permanent site than from a corner or a truck (just like liquor stores). However, if the total number of issued licenses are determined by population density, then the total number of permitted locations should be proportionate and distributed across Manhattan- not clustered in Hells Kitchen or other midtown areas.

    Simple solution – for citywide distribution, permit just 2 or 3 (or however the math works out) license locations within each NYC council district and require they be separate from each other – not clustered together. Equal distribution of the pain or pleasure depending on your point of view.
    Eventually the angst about these pot stores will quiet down and they’ll be like liquor stores, but it will take a few years.

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