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High Life

Eric Adams Went in a NYC Weed Dispensary for the First Time (But Didn’t Buy Anything)

Matawana Dispensary in Park Slope, the first Brooklyn dispensary owned by a Black woman, played host to the mayor on Thursday.

Sheriff Anthony Miranda, LeeAnn Mata, Mayor Eric Adams, Dasheeda Dawson, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar
(Hell Gate)

On a chilly Leap Day morning, Mayor Eric Adams smiled as he stood next to Queens State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, Cannabis NYC Founding Director Dasheeda Dawson, a mute Sheriff Anthony Miranda, and new dispensary owner Leeann Mata to talk business in the weed shop—Matawana Dispensary, the first to open under with the help of a new Housing Works-sponsored network called the CAURD Community initiative, and the first dispensary in Brooklyn owned by a Black woman. 

The tone of the proceedings was accordingly triumphant, optimistic: "To have a shop open here on 5th Avenue is really—you're like the modern day George Jefferson, movin' on up!" Adams said to Mata, to hearty laughter from the room. "This dispensary opening is the signature to what we want to accomplish and what we want to do throughout the city," he continued. "We are lighting up our economy with the nation's most equitable cannabis industry. Others attempted, and they didn't get it right—we want to make sure we're getting it right, and we're making history."

Mata, whose dispensary will officially open at—wink—4:20 p.m. Thursday afternoon, thanked Adams for his support with a Matawana-branded gym bag, decorated with her dispensary's logo, some stray nuggets of weed, and emblazoned with a generous moniker: "The Cannabis Mayor Eric Adams."

But for most, the reality of the cannabis industry in the city has been far more bleak. The mayor bragged about the City's enforcement against the illegal, unlicensed weed bodegas that have proliferated across the City since the state legalized cannabis in 2021—and opening 26 licensed dispensaries in the same timespan across all five boroughs. Adams praised Sheriff Miranda as "amazing" at cannabis enforcement, and asked Governor Kathy Hochul—who made an announcement about cracking down on illicit weed shops on Wednesday—to empower local authorities to take care of the problem. He touted the fact that the Sheriff's Department has presided over 160 illegal business closures, conducted over 46,000 inspections, collected over $18 million in fines, and issued 17,000 summonses. 

Those numbers sound good on paper, but take a stroll on a commercial block in the city and it's hard not to conclude that all of that enforcement has done virtually nothing to put a dent in ranks of the estimated (yes, still estimated) 1,500 weed bodegas operating right here, right now. And despite state authorities issuing millions of dollars in fines to unlicensed operators, the CITY reported earlier this month that only around $22,500 of those fines have actually been collected by any regulatory agency.

Compare that, again, to 26 places in the entirety of New York City where New Yorkers can legally buy weed right now, and it's easy to see why, during hearings about the state's legalization rollout last October, dozens of people who'd tried to legally enter the cannabis industry leveled complaints at the Governor, the state legislature, and the Office of Cannabis Management, for making it so, so difficult to reap the benefits of going the legal route. 

Those bad vibes weren't present at Matawana today, though. Assemblywoman Rajkumar even piped up that, "Jay-Z also famously said that, 'I've got 99 problems,' and I'm gonna add 'but an illegal marijuana shop is not one!'" Then, after taking a few questions, Adams, Rajkumar, Mata, and Dawson were handed comically oversized scissors and a red plastic ribbon, which they sliced through to inaugurate a prospective new chapter in the City's legal weed saga, almost three years in.

After the ribbon was cut, the mayor was ferried away by his entourage without spending a dime. The mayor's office declined to comment on the record about whether he has ever made a purchase at a licensed City dispensary and, if so, what he bought, and said that the mayor's focus is on equity and busting illegal weed shops instead.

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