Gotham Buds, Harlem’s first legal adult-use cannabis retail store, officially opens

This graphic portrays Gotharm Buds Radio with Mayor Eric Adams in foreground.
Photo courtesy Gotham Buds

A year after New York City’s Office of Cannabis Management began accepting applications for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses, Gotham Buds, Harlem’s first legal adult-use cannabis retail store, officially opened last month to much fanfare, becoming the seventh such store with this license to open in Manhattan.

“Welcome to the world of Gotham Buds. We specialize in creating luxurious clothing, mind-bending hip-hop music, and industry leading cannabis smoking accessories,” said Gotham Buds on its website.

“The people we service are educated, not only in the world of cannabis, but in the world of quality,” added the store, located at 248 W 125th St., across from the historic Apollo Theater. “We provide what you deserve because we think like you.  We’re NY born and raised, and we know what it’s like to grow up in Gotham.

“In 5 words, We Provide Highly Stimulating Experiences,” Gotham Buds continued. “Everything about our brand speaks to the ones who desire more out of life. We’re not about trendy temporary ideas. We cultivate ideas that last and that have impact. We weave these ideas into life in our apparel, our music, and in all the products we provide.

“We aim to take our industry to heights never imagined by providing a fulfilling experience to everyone who purchases our products,” it said. “There’s a Gotham in every city. Join us and discover what the stimulation and euphoria of Gotham Buds has to offer.”

According to Columbia Daily Spectator, dispensary licenses are “a key aspect of the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act,” a state bill passed in March 2021 that legalized the recreational sale of cannabis.

It said while many businesses with conditional licenses have been open for months, Gotham Buds faced community opposition that delayed its opening.

Columbia Daily Spectator said Gotham Buds applied as a “social-equity applicant,” a status given to minority-owned businesses and members of communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.

It said the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act committed to ensuring that 50 percent of all licenses would be released to social equity applicants.

Initially, Gotham Buds was slated to be the first cannabis dispensary in Manhattan, with the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York signing a lease on the current space in December 2022, according to Columbia Daily Spectator.

It said that, in Harlem, a majority-Black neighborhood whose residents have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, the dispensary is “a major step toward promoting economic equity”. But, it said, community concerns over the placement of the store “stilted the process.”

Columbia Daily Spectator said that, according to an online petition, Community Board 10 and the 125th Street Business Improvement District were not aware of Gotham Buds’ proposed location until after the Dormitory Authority had already purchased the property.

The Business Improvement District immediately raised concerns over the store’s closeness to the Apollo Theater, children’s stores and a school, Columbia Daily Spectator said.

It said the Business Improvement District also sued both the Dormitory Authority and the Office of Cannabis Management over the plans for the store, arguing that “its location violated state laws restricting dispensaries from existing within 500 feet of a school.”

But Columbia Daily Spectator said the lawsuit was dismissed by a judge, who requested that Community Board 10 handle the issue.

In August, Gotham Buds secured approval from over half of Community Board 10 members who voted on the issue, allowing the store to open, Columbia Daily Spectator said.

“I think the people that were giving them pushback just didn’t understand this industry, the growth potential of it, and the opportunity,” Mitchell Greene, who helped Gotham Buds acquire its license and now serves as director of business development and community advocacy, told Columbia Daily Spectator.

“From a health standpoint, I don’t think that they realize that this can be an asset not just from a community, financial impact, but just in terms of job creation, and making sure that the cannabis that people are using is safe,” he added.

Omar Tejeda, a co-founder and chief financial officer (CFO) of Gotham Buds, told a press conference, at the store’s grand opening, that “Harlem deserves an opportunity to be a part of this industry and who better than us, that are from here.

“Everyone in the world who supported this deserves all the respect, and we’re here for you,” he said. “We’re here to make sure you consume more intelligently.”

Gotham Buds’ Malika Bellamy, the co-owner and vice president of communications and media, said he was “so glad and so honored and privileged to be in the midst of so many people right now.

“I’m passionate about this industry, and all of the great therapeutic benefits and the opportunity to bring that to Harlem for our families,” he said.

Regina Smith, deputy director of the Harlem Business Alliance, said the opening of Gotham Buds is “just a small step,” adding that “there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

“We deserve [economic equity] in New York state, because we haven’t seen it,” she said.

Tejada told CBS News: “We allow no loitering in front of our store. We specifically didn’t install an awning just to make sure that we don’t provoke that. Upon entry, vigorous age verification.

“Product will not be live throughout the store,” he added. “It’s contained in one very specific area called our vault. We use faux packaging to explain, to answer questions, to educate and to inform.”

Gregory Gray, Sr., co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Gotham Buds, also told CBS News: “There’s a lot of people out here who suffer from all kinds of diseases that the cannabis plant can actually help.”