Empire Cannabis Club’s owner stood out front on 8th Avenue on a sunny fall afternoon and announced the good news: “Recreational cannabis inside, folks! 18 and up! No medical card needed!”
It was quite brazen for a business already notorious for its brazenness. In New York State, recreational cannabis pure life dispensary menu use became legal on March 31, but cannabis cannot be purchased at a dispensary.
It doesn’t stop Empire Cannabis Clubs, which opened its doors as a recreational marijuana shop in the Big Apple in September.
Jonathan Efland, co-owner of Empire, told Insider that the shop offers 30 different delta-9 THC strains of flower, distillate cartridges, and delta-9 THC edibles.
Cannabis Club – A Visit to Club for Marijuana:
An employee checked my driver’s license when I first entered the store.I was then taken on a short tour of the facility after passing the checkout area.
The first item on display was a display case full of edibles, from cannabis chocolate bars to THC-infused corn chips. Displayed on an adjacent wall was a display case with various vaping options: half-gram disposable cartridges and full-gram refill cartridges, each with a different price and package.
Our grand finale was two long display cabinets filled with little cubes containing a few buds each of what’s called “flower” in the dispensary world, or more commonly, “weed.”
The guy behind the counter was more than happy to talk me through the different strains, and even offered to open the containers for me to smell more closely.Each strain came with an accompanying card with more information, such as how the cannabis was grown and what kind of high to expect. The employee was able to talk to me about several strains and their pricing.
Quarter ounces of strains such as Gorilla Glue and London Russian Cream were available for just shy of $100, with a $15 “membership fee” per day (a $25 monthly pass was also available).
Actually, Empire Cannabis Clubs says, customers don’t buy any cannabis – they pay for the “acquisition and transfer” of the cannabis they’re being given as part of their membership. Apparently, the company is trying to avoid the ban on sales of cannabis by unlicensed sellers by describing the transaction on its website.
The Company of a Cannabis – Ready to Do Business:
There is a legal loophole in New York’s limbo between legalization – which was signed into law in March – and the start of sales, which aren’t expected until late 2022 at the earliest and more likely early 2023 at the latest.
Benjamin Goldburd, an attorney with Goldburd McCone LLP in New York City, says the loophole argument may not stand up in court.
“When it comes to a situation like this, it’s decriminalized at the consumer level,” Goldburd told Insider, meaning customers who purchase small quantities of what a dispensary is selling are unlikely to be prosecuted. I don’t imagine they’re not going to enforce that licensing is a requirement at the business level, especially since this product is now a moneymaker for New York.”
And even though Empire Cannabis Clubs says customers are paying for membership, rather than paying for cannabis, that may not be a strong enough argument to hold up in court, Goldburd said.
The Company License Issue Process:
The state has yet to issue licenses for recreational dispensaries or figure out how taxes will work, or anything else related to the newly created adult-use cannabis market, so it’s not clear whether so-called “clubs” like Empire will face legal action from the city or state.
The Office of Cannabis Management of New York State believes that any unlicensed sale of cannabis is illegal.
According to a statement provided to Insider by the Office of Cannabis Management communications director Freeman Klopott, unlicensed sale of cannabis remains illegal in New York State. Our state is creating a legal, regulated cannabis market that will ensure products are safe for consumers. We encourage New Yorkers to avoid illicit sales in which products may not be safe, and we will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers can sell legally in the new regulated cannabis industry.”
Moreover, Empire plans to expand into at least two more Manhattan locations in the near future.