With rule change, CBD seller pursues Union Street weed shop in Schenectady

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady-based entrepreneur Donald Andrews is looking to set up a retail recreational-use cannabis dispensary at the current site of his CBD business on Union Street.

Such a move would require approval from the state regulators, which last week rejected requirements for conditional license holders to only accept retail locations provided by Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.

Andrews was notified about the change via email last week from the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).

“Being able to cater to the community right in Schenectady and not outside of Schenectady is huge for me because that’s been the plan since day one,” Andrews said. “And being able to just use the location that I have is great news.”

The 34-year-old Upstate CBD owner was granted retail licensure under the state’s Conditional Adult-Use Dispensaries (CAURD) program late last month. The program aims to provide justice via early market access to 175 licensees, like Andrews, convicted of pot-related offenses .

Of all justice-involved licenses OK’d across the state last month, four were in the Capital Region.

The nine-year entrepreneur also runs Vapedcity in Scotia and a second Upstate CBD location in Glenville. He briefly operated a shop in Albany.

If granted OCM approval, Andrews hopes to continue selling low-psychoactive marijuana compounds and start deliveries out of the 1613 Union St. site under the new business title, “Upstate Cannabis Co.,” as soon as possible per state regulations.

Andrews is ready to start legally selling marijuana, he said. The challenge, he said, has been waiting for the continual release of new regulations to prepare for the newly legal market.

“We’ve been planting the footwork to find products,” Andrews said. “I don’t think that was ever the issue for us.”

Green Leaf Wellness Co, across from Upstate CBD, is interested in becoming the first non-justice-involved, woman-owned dispensary in the state once OCM permits regular licensing.

The store, connected to Sondra’s Fine Jewelry, opened in December 2018. Andrews opened his Union Street location in June 2019.

“We are looking to stay on Union Street, but we don’t know if that is going to be possible if Mr. Andrews is allowed or anybody else is allowed with the CAURD program to stay on Union Street,” said owner Sondra Stephens.

Under current state guidelines, two or more dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000 feet.

The Green Leaf Wellness Co. owner said that she’s happy for Andrews, but wishes that women-owned and veteran-owned business owners could’ve been included in the state’s first round of license approvals.

“We’re very grateful that we’re going to have dispensaries in Schenectady,” Stephens said. “But we were just hoping that we would’ve been one of the first.”

Neither the Schenectady Metroplex Authority nor Upper Union Business Improvement District immediately responded to comment.

In Saratoga County, namesake Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus believes Saratoga Springs is likely attractive to CAURD applicants.

“There were definitely individuals that applied and I’m sure checked the box for the region, but were definitely more interested in Saratoga Springs than any other community,” Shimkus said.

At least one unidentified property owner has been in talks with the state to start a dispensary in the city, the chamber president reported.

From Galway to Clifton Park, most Saratoga County municipalities opted out of cannabis sales last year. Retail space is limited outside of Saratoga Springs, Shimkus maintained.

The Dormitory Authority is expected to continue acquiring properties for other CAURD licensees, as well as provide financial support as needed.

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil

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