New York State legalized recreational marijuana two years ago. Since then, people in Brockport have sought out smoke shops to get their own weed, only to learn it isn’t that simple.
Josh “Chunk” Tubiolo, owner of Chunk’s Choice Smoke Shop in downtown Brockport, couldn’t sell marijuana to an elderly couple that went to his store the day after it was legalized because he doesn’t have his retail licensing yet.
“They wanted to try marijuana for the first time, at 93 years old, now that it’s legal. It doesn’t materialize like that,” Tubiolo said. “Just because they flipped the law in a day, doesn’t mean we can sell weed.”
New York’s Office of Cannabis Management has begun to issue dispensary licenses after more than a year revising marijuana sales laws. They are also still determining what exactly recreational marijuana use means in the state. This lack of specifics, however, has raised a lot of concern.
Business owners like Tubiolo are faced with trying to understand what’s allowed and what’s not. There is a lot of frustration since legislation is under consistent review and change.
“We used to be able to sell 50 state legal THC, which means there is no more than 3% THC in the product. It was called ‘the compliant THC’, legal in all 50 states. Now it’s illegal in New York because they want to have the licensed dispensaries and more strict laws,” Tubiolo said.
Since then, Tubiolo has to rely on other products in his store to bring in business. Luckily, selling smoking accessories offsets the loss of income.
“More people are trying it, which means more people need accessories, which means more business for my store,” said Tubiolo.
Business owners are not alone in facing challenges with marijuana’s legality. Brockport Police, like many other local police agencies, are at odds with New York State in keeping up to date with these changing laws and enforcing them.
Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Officer John Vadas works in Brockport and surrounding communities. He is frustrated with the legalization process and its logistics.
“Marijuana legalization was very rushed. There wasn’t much planning as far as what the police were going to need to ensure that we have the equipment and that we have the trained officers. It all happened in less than a year,” Vadas said.
Vadas, who is one of only 8,000 estimated DREs in the United States out of over 800,000 sworn-in officers, expressed his concern with these new laws. He sees a lot of confusion throughout the communities he serves, including Brockport.
“Where a lot of the issue lies, especially with the college, is people here believe marijuana is legal for everyone. It’s not. You have to be 21 years old,” said Vadas. “One of the top things that we have to enforce is the college kids who are 18, 19 and 20 years old with weed on them. They can’t possess it, it’s still technically illegal for them.”
With this comes the concern of how safe current marijuana actually is. Delta-8, a synthetic CBD product designed in laboratories to be similar to marijuana, was legally permitted to be sold in New York until recently. Tubiolo was one of seemingly few who were skeptical of its legitimacy.
“They’re making some pretty bad stuff. I’ve seen some bad reactions to it. When it first came out, everybody jumped on it and was excited. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that there’s no way this is legal or safe,” Tubiolo said.
Laced street marijuana is also a problem.
“I’ve had people overdose that I’ve given Narcan to because there’s fentanyl in the marijuana. Some of it can get laced with Xanax or cocaine, so that’s another thing that is important to watch out for. A lot of times you don’t know what you’re getting, it may not be pure marijuana,” said Vadas.
Despite these concerns, there could be a bright future ahead for prospective dispensaries and recreational marijuana use in Brockport, especially for business owners like Tubiolo.
“I’m hopefully going to try and open up a dispensary out here, which that would boost this place up a little bit and bring in much more business,” said Tubiolo
Until laws surrounding marijuana use and licensing in New York State are clear, Vadas encourages the community to remain vigilant by checking the Office of Cannabis Management’s website for the latest updates.
“I’m not saying marijuana is terrible, but at the same time I’m seeing the bad side of it” Vadas said. “I see the people injured. The people killed. That’s stuff that we want to prevent. It creates concern, and that creates a need for people to be careful.”
Marijuana legalization in New York was the first step in a long process of bringing weed to communities like Brockport. After many years of anticipation, changes to these laws will allow people to actively support local businesses while remaining safe.
This is the first part of an ongoing investigative series into marijuana legislation in New York State.