A $1 billion dollar marijuana dispensary chain just opened a store on New York City's fanciest shopping street -- and it could signal a huge shift in the industry

  • MedMen, a company that operates a chain of marijuana dispensaries, opened flagship store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
  • The store will be for medical marijuana customers at first, but a representative for MedMen says that “momentum is on their side.”
  • It officially opened for business on April 20 – the 420 holiday for marijuana consumers.

The marijuana industry is making a mark on New York City.

MedMen, a cannabis retail company that operates a chain of slick, high-end marijuana dispensaries, has opened a new flagship store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.

“We’re really excited about it,” Daniel Yi, a senior vice president at MedMen told Business Insider. “We want the store to show our vision of the future for cannabis.”

The 2,000 square foot store, located just a couple blocks away from Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s, opened on April 20th – something of a holiday for marijuana consumers.

At an event celebrating the opening on Wednesday – attended by industry types and notable New York state politicians who advocate for marijuana legalization like Letitia James, New York City’s public advocate, and Jamaal Bailey, a state senator – MedMen CEO Adam Bierman said he’s excited to do “his part” for the legalization cause, and hopes the store’s location will make a big statement.

“We’re right here on Fifth Avenue,” Bierman said. “It’s the prime retail shopping street in the world.”

Bierman, who founded MedMen in 2010 with his business partner, Andrew Modlin, said that by pushing for marijuana legalization, “we’re contributing to making the world a happier, healthier, and safer place.”

Unlike MedMen’s recreational dispensaries in California and Nevada, where marijuana is legal for adults to purchase, New York only allows the sale of medical marijuana to licence-holders. There are only around 33,000 registered medical marijuana patients in New York, out of a population of almost 20 million, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

The store will sell only what’s allowed under New York’s restrictive laws, meaning it will offer three main product lines to licensed medical marijuana users: Tinctures, gel caps, and vaporizer pens, Yi said.

Though you need to have a licence to actually purchase marijuana products at the store, anybody can come in and check it out, Yi said.

“That’s a huge thing for us, in terms of educating the general population and trying to take the stigma out,” Yi said.

MedMen operates three other medical marijuana dispensaries in New York state, which the company hopes to turn into more “retail-oriented” stores if New York’s legislature legalizes cannabis for adult consumption.

This could signal that the marijuana industry, largely centered in West Coast cities where marijuana is legal, like Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco, is starting to set its sights on the highly-populated East Coast as more state markets open up.

It’s a sign of the “momentum” of the cannabis industry, Yi said. Sixty-four per cent of US voters support legalizing marijuana, according to recent polls.

Eaze, one of the largest marijuana delivery services in California, is having “serious conversations” about entering the market in Massachusetts and is looking closely at legislation in New Jersey, though California remains the company’s top priority, David Mack, a senior vice president at the company, told Business Insider.

There are also a number of investment firms set up to capitalise on the burgeoning cannabis industry based in New York City, like hedge fund Navy Capital and Tuatara Capital, a private equity fund. Leaflink, an online marketplace for dispensaries, is also located in New York.

“We’re positioning ourselves for what we will believe is going to happen in New York,” Yi said.

He might be right that there is even more East Coast momentum to come. Cynthia Nixon, the former actress mounting a primary challenge for governor against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo, supports marijuana legalization. Neighbouring Massachusetts has also legalised marijuana – with the industry set to open for business by this summer – and New Jersey is weighing similar legislation.

MedMen’s stores are higher-end dispensaries, with carefully curated shopping experiences and trained “budtenders” walking customers through the marijuana-buying experience. The company recently raised a $US41 million funding round, bringing its total valuation to over $US1 billion.

Now it’s bringing that upscale marijuana shopping experience to a strip of Manhattan more well-known for designer handbags and diamond jewellery.

“We’re going to be right on Fifth Avenue, I mean how cool is that?” Yi said.

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