Mar. 27, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced that New York state’s first woman-owned conditional adult-use retail cannabis dispensary will open in Queens on Thursday.
The cannabis shop Good Grades, located at 162-03 Jamaica Ave. in Jamaica, is scheduled to open at 2 p.m. on March 30. In addition to being the first woman-owned dispensary in the state, it will be the first legal adult-use retail cannabis dispensary in Queens.
Good Grades is operated by entrepreneur Extasy James and her cousin, Michael James, Jr.
James Jr. is an attorney who focuses on serving clients with a core value of advocating for the minority business community.
“With the opening of Good Grades in Queens, we’re continuing to build on our progress to create a safe, regulated cannabis industry in New York,” Hochul said. “New York is working to support entrepreneurs and ensure that consumers can purchase safe, legal products while supporting their communities.”
The New York State Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund supported the opening of this woman-owned business. As with many other dispensaries supported by the fund, licensees like Good Grades will be provided the opportunity to open on a short-term basis to fast-track sales, provide training opportunities for employees and start generating capital for their businesses. After, they will close for final construction and then re-open on a long-term basis. For now, the store will operate as a pop-up.
“As we open the first dispensary in Queens, we continue to affirm New York’s commitment to address deeply embedded historical injustices and to create new opportunities to foster intergenerational wealth for those most impacted by disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition,” Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) President and CEO Reuben McDaniel III said. “I’m grateful for Governor Hochul’s leadership, the extraordinary support this program has had from the Legislature, and work of the Fund’s leadership, all of whom have helped us continue our progress on this important initiative.”
The pop-up program benefits all businesses involved in the cannabis supply chain, like Good Grades. This includes farmers who have cannabis ready for distribution, processors who are making cannabis into other types of products and distributors and retail operators working to provide consumers with access to safe and trustworthy products. The opening of Good Grades helps advance the state’s goals of equity in cannabis licensing that prioritizes providing licenses to justice-involved individuals, who are people with a cannabis conviction or a close relative of someone with one.
“I am thrilled to be opening the doors of Good Grades, the very first dispensary in Queens, New York.” James said. “We are incredibly passionate about providing greater access to cannabis and breaking down the barriers that prevent so many people, especially those from marginalized communities, from experiencing the benefits of this amazing plant. We understand firsthand the stigma that has been attached to cannabis for far too long, and we are eager to join the thriving cannabis community to help change that. Our dispensary is a welcoming and inclusive space where anyone can come to learn, explore and find the products that are best suited to their unique needs.”
This location is part of a program to support the acquisition, design, construction and outfitting of locations for cannabis dispensaries to be operated by CAURD licensees. The Fund is a public-private limited partnership formed to position these aspiring entrepreneurs to succeed in the newly created adult use cannabis industry. Supported by up to $50 million in licensing fees and revenue from the adult-use cannabis industry and up to $150 million from the private sector, the Fund assists justice involved individual CAURD licensees to meet the costs of establishing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries.
“Societal shifts don’t come quickly or easily, but this milestone opening of Queens’ first licensed cannabis dispensary is nothing short of transformational for our borough,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “What was once a tool used to target communities of color is finally a crucial and legal piece of our economic puzzle that will create jobs, wealth and opportunity in those same communities. Congratulations to Good Grades on making history — I look forward to our work together to ensure this emerging sector of our economy is rooted in equity and empowerment.”
A central pillar of the New York State Seeding Opportunity Initiative, the CAURD license allows for the first legal adult-use retail dispensaries to be operated by people most impacted by the enforcement of the prohibition of cannabis or nonprofit organizations whose services include support for the formerly incarcerated. Eligible CAURD applicants either had a cannabis conviction themselves or are a close family member of someone who does. They must also own or operate a business that has experienced a net profit for at least two years.
“Jamaica, Queens is now a landmark in the cannabis industry, as the first dispensary in Queens to open its doors,” James Jr. said. “I could not be more excited about the opportunity and great responsibility to bring this to our hometown for the first time. This new endeavor is a significant milestone for our family, hometown and women in New York.”