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Gotham Buds, Harlem's first licensed marijuana dispensary, set to open after judge's ruling

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BY ALICE GAINER



NEW YORK -- Gotham Buds, Harlem's first state-licensed marijuana dispensary, is tentatively set to open Sept. 5 after a judge ruled they can move forward with sales.


The judge ruled the business across from the Apollo Theatre is exempt from an injunction blocking the Office of Cannabis Management from opening any other dispensaries while a lawsuit proceeds against its licensing program.


"Why not us? People from the community, born, raised here," said Jeffrey Lopez, COO of Gotham Buds.


Not everyone in the community is on board though. The 125th Street Business Improvement District sued against its location, partially due to safety concerns and its proximity to a school.

"We believe this location is bad for our children," said Barbara Askins, president of the 125th Street Business Improvement District.

"We allow no loitering in front of our store. We specifically didn't install an awning just to make sure that we don't provoke that. Upon entry, vigorous age verification," said Omar Tejada, co-founder and CFO of Gotham Buds.


The lawsuit was tossed out by a judge who recommended the community board look it over.

In mid-August, Community Board 10 passed a resolution supporting the establishment after 54.7% of people surveyed were OK with the location.


Though disappointed with the board's decision, Askins said, "We want all of our Harlem businesses to thrive, so we will do everything in our power to help make this be a success for Gotham Buds and our community."


Community Board 10's support comes with conditions, including local hiring with an emphasis on people "adversely affected by harmful cannabis-related laws."


Tejada said the business will have safety and security measures in place.


"Product will not be live throughout the store. It's contained in one very specific area called our vault," he said. "We use faux packaging to explain, to answer questions, to educate and to inform."


A large focus will be on education .


"There's a lot of people out here who suffer from all kinds of diseases that the cannabis plant can actually help," said Gregory Gray Sr., co-founder & CEO of Gotham Buds.

The final hurdle to clear before opening is an inspection.

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