MedMen prepares for the future with new marijuana dispensary on Fifth Avenue
MedMen's current sales in New York are nothing to brag about. The marijuana company won't reveal how much cannabis it moves in its three stores on Long Island and upstate, although it is happy to offer figures for its dispensary in West Hollywood, Calif.
But as MedMen CEO Adam Bierman made clear at a party celebrating the April 20 opening of the California-based company's flashy Fifth Avenue outlet Wednesday night, "This store represents the future."
MedMen, which entered New York's highly regulated medical market by acquiring the licensed company Bloomfield Industries last year, is not the first to open a dispensary in a highly trafficked part of Manhattan. But it is the most vocal about its ambitions to sell to a nonmedical market once cannabis is legalized for adult use.
"It's in our mission: mainstreaming marijuana," Bierman told a crowd that included cannabis investors, entrepreneurs and advocates as well as local politicians. "I know I'm just some L.A. guy who can't get around very well in Manhattan, but I do know this is the most iconic shopping retail street in the world and this store is selling marijuana."
He ended his speech more explicitly: "It is utterly ridiculous that the state of New York does not have legal marijuana for all adults, but we're working on it."
Cannabis companies in New York, which had to convince the state of their commitment to operate in a strict medical market in order to get licensed, have so far tiptoed around the issue of full legalization. But the political climate is rapidly changing as cannabis becomes a hot-button issue in the upcoming gubernatorial race.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in January he would study full marijuana legalization, since the state is soon likely to be surrounded by legal states. He updated his position to call the move inevitable after Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon announced her unequivocal support for legalization this month, calling it a racial-justice issue.
At the event Wednesday, state Sen. Diane Savino took credit for helping to persuade Cuomo to study legalization. "I'm not crazy," she added. "I know that's not enough. We have to stay on him."
Public Advocate Letitia James, who told the New York Post this week she would work with Cuomo to legalize marijuana by the end of the year, began her speech at the event by singing a line from Rick James' "Mary Jane."
A spokesman for MedMen said he expects the cannabis industry in New York to be worth $3 billion once marijuana is legal for all adults. The industry has had a slow start so far but has been ramping up as policymakers expand the types of conditions that can be treated with marijuana, which now include chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some 51,000 cannabis patients have registered statewide so far. Of those, 90% have purchased at least one product from a dispensary, and 66% have been repeat customers, the state Health Department said.
Until recently only patients registered in the New York medical-marijuana program and their caregivers could enter dispensaries, but Bierman and other cannabis executives have pushed to change that. Now Fifth Avenue shoppers can come in to peruse its 15 products, even though they still can't buy anything unless they have a cannabis card and a recommendation from their doctor.
MedMen shops in California, where cannabis became legal for adult use in January, carry between 1,000 and 2,000 products. "Everything from bath bombs to vape pens to prerolled joints," the spokesman said.
With white walls, circular overhead LED lights and rows of iPads, it is clear the store was not designed just to be a medical dispensary. The shop's walls are adorned with bold red posters bearing images from MedMen's current advertising campaign. Each features a person with the word "stoner" crossed out and replaced with labels like "veterinarian," "grandmother" and "coach."
Article originally appeared in Crain's