He was jailed for drugs, he is now owner of a cannabis dispensary

Abu Mubarik January 26, 2023
Roland Conner. Photo credit: Associated Press

In the early 1990s, Roland Conner was jailed for possession of weed and other charges. He lived in poverty in an area of New York called the Far Rockaways. At the time of his conviction, marijuana possession for recreational purposes was illegal in New York City. Since 2019, marijuana has been largely decriminalized and in 2021, lawmakers in New York approved adult recreational cannabis use, essentially making it legal for sale. 

After some months in prison during the war on drugs, Conner went on to operate a property management business and manage a transitional housing facility in the Bronx borough, according to The Guardian.

Fast forward to 2023, Conner is now a marijuana entrepreneur with his own cannabis dispensary called Smacked. Conner is among some 900 applicants to receive the dispensary license. He launched the business under an initiative by New York City to give people with conviction records related to cannabis the chance to venture into the weed business. As part of the initiative, Conner and other applicants will receive a $200m public-private fund to help redress the impacts of the war on drugs.

Conner is now the first entrepreneur with a marijuana conviction to open a licensed cannabis dispensary in New York with the help of the state, according to the New York Times. His dispensary is also the second to open in the city despite the operation of several unauthorized dispensaries all over the city.

“I am so excited to become a part of history as the first individual to open a legal cannabis dispensary in New York City,” Conner said in a statement, according to NBC News. “Given my experience with cannabis, I never could have imagined that I would be opening a store like this.” 

Conner is operating the dispensary with his wife and son. They also plan to move into a permanent space. The state’s initiative to give people convicted of cannabis offenses the opportunity to work in the cannabis industry has not been easy. Unlicensed storefronts all over the city have been causing confusion. Also, startup financing and other support from the state lawmakers for the project have been slow in coming, as stated by The New York Times.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 26, 2023


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