Historic Harlem Opens Its First Legal Recreational Dispensary

Gotham Buds opens as the first legal recreational dispensary in the historic Harlem neighborhood in New York.

by Cael Brown · September 05, 2023

In 2021, voters in Albany helped make marijuana legal throughout the Empire State, leading to dispensaries and legal New York weed delivery services opening up this year.

Thanks to this monumental event, Harlem’s first legal recreational marijuana dispensary finally has a location. Gotham Buds has opened as of this week at 125th Street across from the famous Apollo Theatre. This is a win for the dispensary, following uncertainty about whether the cannabis retailer would even be able to break ground.

While most are excited for the opening and Harlem’s first legal cannabis retailer and the jobs and safety it will bring when purchasing marijuana-related products, some of the community is against it. A local group known as the 125 Business Improvement District filed a lawsuit against the dispensary and fought tooth and nail to keep them out of the neighborhood. Their main complaint was that it was near a school, Touro College, and some worried a rise in crime would follow.

The CFO and co-founder of Gotham Buds, Omar Tejada, mentioned in a recent interview that they will vigorously verify the age of patrons and that no loitering will be allowed outside their store. They also planned to keep all products in a vault.

The judge tossed out the lawsuit by the 125 Business Improvement Board and deferred it to the Community Board. The Community Board surveyed the community and found that 54.7% of people surveyed approved of the dispensary’s location. A resolution was passed and the opening of Gotham Buds at 125th Street in Harlem was approved, though it came with a few caveats. Those requirements included demands that Gotham Buds hire locally and do their best to hire those who were affected by past harmful cannabis laws that led many people to be arrested.

With Gotham Buds finally opening, New York City is taking another step in joining the rest of the country in the Green Rush.