‘Freedom of the leaf’ grows in Capital Region as Upstate Canna Co. opens

Long line of people outside store

A line that extends around the corner of Lexington Avenue at Upstate Canna Co. on opening day at the Union Street store in Schenectady Saturday, April 1, 2023.

SCHENECTADY — More than 50 people stood in line anticipating Saturday morning’s grand opening of Upstate Canna Co., the Capital Region’s first legal, recreational cannabis retailer. The line continued to grow throughout the first hour of business, with many customers under celebratory clouds of smoke.

Upstate Canna Co. will be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The store is one of 66 licensed Cannabis Retailers across the state. It is currently legal in New York for adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use

The shop offers a full line of cannabis products, including edibles, concentrates, and of course, flower. An eighth of an ounce of cannabis flower from the shop starts at $35, and goes up to $68 for higher quality buds. The tax rate depends on the THC content of the product a customer purchases.

Ed Hermance said he has been using cannabis for 58 years. This weekend, he was able to watch his nephew — owner Donald Andrews — open the region’s first legal retailer. 

“It’s a lot easier. I know right where to go, I know I won’t get busted,” Hermance said.

Several customers echoed his sentiments, saying they’re happy they no longer have to worry about legal trouble when carrying cannabis. 

“There was always that fear,” said Bruce Siergiey, who traveled from Queensbury for the opening. “I’m definitely going to stock up.” 

The customers ranged from college students to older people who had been “fighting the fight” for cannabis decriminalization for decades. 

“It’s been a 40-year fight. I’ve been advocating for this since the 80s,” said Schenectady resident Marvin Aunchman Jr.  “I’m excited for it to be local, it’s freedom of the leaf.” 

Schenectady’s Union Street is home to several eateries, which will be benefiting from the shop’s opening, said some customers.

“People will definitely visit local vendors,” said customer Danasha Ragland. “You know, run in here, then grab a bite to eat,”

Rebecca Carpentier has known Andrews, the shop’s owner, since he opened his first smoke shop.

“I’m excited to see my friend succeed,” Carpenter said. “People are definitely going to get the munchies and go to Off the Hook [Fish Fry, also on Union Street].”

“Munchies” is a slang term for the increased levels of hunger often associated with cannabis use.

Among the cannabis consumers and enthusiasts were experts in the field. Jaleeza Johnson is a microbiologist at Kaycha Labs in Colonie. Some products she has worked with were for sale at the shop, she said.

‘I’m excited the products are available to the public, everyone involved has worked so hard,” Johnson said, mentioning how lab-tested cannabis will help people be safer. “This means a lot.”

Union College student Chris Karn also mentioned relief at being able to familiarize himself with what is actually in the products he ingests.

“It’s nice to know what’s in edibles, and not just [eat] a brownie my friend gave me,” Karn said.

Drew Herrera is a cannabis enthusiast living in Albany. Herrera said he knows older people who are trying pot for the first time upon legalization and said, “it’s good they can be comfortable now.” 

Herrera said he recently attended a sampling event at Lark Hall in Albany, where potential customers were able to sample some of the products to be offered at Upstate Canna Co.

Impressed with the quality, he said, “If that’s what weed is like now, damn,” cautioning novices to be aware of the potency. 

Local author Hailey BCU was one of the first in line, eager to find some sativa concentrates. However, she was disappointed to find few options within her preferences.

“Also, in [Massachusetts] you can get a gram of concentrates for $45, in there it was $115,” she said. “I’m on a budget, I can’t afford that,”

However, the writer was grateful to be a part of a historic moment.

“It was still cool to be here,” she said. “And everyone in there was so kind, I’ll definitely be back.” 

In addition to customers, representatives from some of Upstate Canna Co.’s vendors were in attendance.

Jenny Scarpulla owns Juniper Jill Cannabis Co. in Hoosick Falls. Despite cannabis being legally available in neighboring Massachusetts since 2018, New York growers weren’t able to ship products across state lines. 

“We weren’t allowed to go across states so it’s great to have some local businesses we can build relationships with,” Scarpulla said.

Also present to promote their product was Sugarhouse Farms, a grower located in Cooperstown. Four out of five managing partners of Sugarhouse live in the Capital Region, said managing partner Nick Polsinelli. Sugarhouse had its one-gram pre-roll for sale at the dispensary. The joint costs $10, with Polsinelli calling it “competitive pricing.”

The vendor will soon be rolling out a two-gram blunt. They plan for it to hit shops on April 20, a celebratory day for stoners. Following the opening, Sugarhouse held a launch party at City Squire restaurant, just around the corner from the dispensary. A consumption tent was set up in the parking lot to designate space for those wanting to try out its products. 

Upstate Canna Co. offers a small selection of paraphernalia like rolling papers and lighters, and just down the block sits a smoke shop offering a wider variety of pipes, bongs, rolling papers, and lighters.

“I think it [the dispensary] will be good for business,” said long-time smoke shop employee Emad Alharbi.

Joanne Souci was the first to complete her purchase at Upstate Canna Co. Souci’s daughter introduced her to cannabis when it became legal in Massachusetts. She uses edibles rather than smokable pot, to help manage her chronic pain.

“This will help people with pain,” Souci said. “That’s why I’m here.” 

Upstate Canna Co. is located at 1613 Union St. in Schenectady, the store’s website at upstate-canna.co contains a menu of its current offerings.

Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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