Bronx residents can get their first look at a legal cannabis store this weekend. Set up in the historic Bronx Post Office on the Grand Concourse, the model dispensary has everything needed to sell marijuana products, from the shelves and display cases to the back-of-house payroll software.
There’s just one thing missing: the weed itself.
While the dispensary shelves are stocked with glass pipes and jars labeled with pleasant-sounding strains like “million dollar baby” and “mango kush,” there’s no actual product, either on display or for sale.
Instead, the three-day pop-up is focused on exposure, according to Desmon Lewis, a co-founder of the Bronx Community Foundation, one of several organizations that organized the dispensary showroom, along with the Bronx borough president’s office.
“A lot of the [dispensary] applicants have never seen what a compliant dispensary looks like,” Lewis said. “So that’s what we’re doing today–showing people what a physical dispensary could look like. And we’re also showing people who aren’t in the industry what this industry could potentially look like in the Bronx.”
The Bronx Community Foundation partnered with the Bronx Defenders, a legal defense organization, to help prospective marijuana entrepreneurs apply for a license. Last month, the state issued the first 36 licenses for retail sales.
Inside the showroom, the walls are decorated with psychedelic artworks, opposite grim-looking warnings from state regulators. Staffers from several cannabis-adjacent companies demonstrated their products to curious would-be customers.
“There are people in New York and in the community that haven’t had access to a dispensary before,” said Katie Dobbs, who works for the cannabis software company Dutchie. “This is what a regular store would look like, theoretically, minus the actual cannabis products.”
Dobbs walked us through a hypothetical transaction, from scanning a display to paying through Dutchie’s point-of-sale software. After buying 50 grams of imaginary marijuana and cannabis-infused chocolate, the system automatically calculated every legal expense, from the state’s retail and sales tax to the prospective potency tax.
The event’s organizers expect New York’s marijuana industry to create about 24,000 jobs, as well as an expected $1.3 billion in annual sales.
But with high sales come high taxes. Although New York’s rules are still in the draft stage, the proposed regulations would create one of the most complicated cannabis bureaucracies in any legal state. The showroom is one interpretation of how those regulations could be put into practice.
Among other requirements, New York may be the first state to enact a tax on the strength of THC products.
“It’s crazy tax laws we’re doing in New York,” explained Rachel Settle, a product manager from Dutchie. “It’s different for flowers, concentrates, and edibles, per milligram.”
And there are other regulatory complexities that future retailers need to take into account, according to Yonel Prasad, who demonstrated the software solutions of a company called KayaPush. Since cannabis is not federally legal, “plant-touching” expenses need a different tax treatment from other business costs.
KayaPush’s solution is a set of accounting tools that track employee hours according to each category. “When employees clock in, they can clock in by position,” Prasad explained. “That’s how we’ll be able to track what hours were spent on back inventory.”
While business regulations are rarely a stimulating topic, some visitors were excited to see how the state’s legal cannabis industry is unfolding.
“It’s an emerging market,” said Damian Blum, a prospective licensee who was visiting the showroom with two relatives. “It’s the first time in my lifetime, besides the internet, where I see a market and I see everybody trying to make their footprint early on.”
The model dispensary is open Friday to Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Get free tickets here. No cannabis allowed inside.