SCHENECTADY — The Upstate Canna Co. in Schenectady, poised to become the Capital Region’s first cannabis dispensary, held a grand opening ceremony on Friday in advance of the shop’s official launch Saturday morning.
Owner Don Andrews said the 1613 Union St. store, one of 66 licensed cannabis retailers across the state, is in position to benefit the city by bringing a surge of new customers to the business district.
“It’s huge here in the Capital Region to be one of the first people to open up,” he said on Friday. “The people have been waiting for this for a long time, especially here in Schenectady where I was born and raised and went to school. To be able to give back to this community, there’s so many economic benefits that the city of Schenectady can use from tax revenue rolling in from the dispensary. It’s huge for us, a lot of job opportunities for everybody.”
The store did not take pre-orders for its cannabis products, with the store opening for walk-in customers on Saturday at 11 a.m., Andrews said.
“Eventually, down the line, we’ll have delivery and online orders and pickup,” he said. “We’ll have a bunch of different options, but right now we’ll have just the walk-in stuff.”
Renata Filiaci, the store’s employee in charge, said the store has been preparing for six months for Saturday’s official opening.
“The last month we’ve been working our butts off,” she said. “We’ve been getting inventory from local farms, finding the people who haven’t been put in stores yet, because we want to showcase them and get a lot of local people in here as well.”
The store has a host of local cannabis suppliers, including products from the Adirondack Hemp Company, Nightshade Farm and Hudson Cannabis.
Filiaci said she expects a healthy-sized crowd when the shop opens on Saturday morning.
“There’s a lot of excitement, happiness and joy,” she said of the community reaction. “It’s going to kill it. Being the first in the Capital Region, it’s going to be a big deal. You think about Schenectady, Albany and Troy, but there’s also Saratoga and Lake George, as well as Altamont and Schoharie. So we’ll get all of those people.”
Filiaci said the store would have a dozen staff members on hand for the site’s opening weekend.
The grand opening Friday was held two years to the day that the state’s Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) was signed into law, legalizing adult-use cannabis in the state for residents 21 years of age and older.
“It’s crazy to look back at where we were and we’ve done so much since then,” said Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, on Friday. “But, we still have a lot more to do to get the market really active and to make sure the supply chain is strong.”
Alexander said that Friday’s grand opening in Schenectady, which brought a packed house to the cannabis store, showed the support in the community for the region’s first marijuana dispensary.
“We’ve been seeing, as we’ve been opening these dispensaries across the state, that communities and neighborhoods are opening their arms to support these businesses,” he said. “Cannabis as a product and a medicine has always been in high demand, but to have safer access to a safer product where the revenue generated is going back to help communities, folks just appreciate that mission underlying the product. This is huge and we’re going to keep going with more stores to open, but this is a great day.”
Andrews received one of the first dispensary licenses in the state last September and then went about converting his CBD shop into a cannabis retail site.
The state prioritizes providing licenses to justice-involved individuals and non-profit groups that have served people with a cannabis conviction.
“Back in the early 2000s, I did have some prior marijuana convictions and for the state to give somebody the opportunity to jump into the legal market and actually be successful is huge,” Andrews said.
The store made a ceremonial first sale to Chuck Van Dermark, head grower at Adirondack Hemp Company, on Friday in advance of the public opening on Saturday.
Marylu Aragosa, owner of the Ferri Formals and Bridals shop on Union Street, said Friday that she was glad to welcome Upstate Canna Co. to the community.
“My opinion is that since this is a legal business, it will draw business and taxes to the community and it will create jobs where people will be able to reinvest in other businesses in the community,” she said.
Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.
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