In a mostly rural patch of western New York, tiny wooden shacks hawk ounces of “Devil’s Lettuce” for $80. Gas stations that double as dispensaries dole out free joints with every 10 gallons purchased.
At the Good Leaf dispensary in Salamanca, about 60 miles south of Buffalo, a neon billboard flashed prices for “Platinum Gushers” — marijuana selling at $350 an ounce.
New York State, which legalized recreational marijuana last year, is only now about to start reviewing applications for licenses for its first retail dispensaries. But many tribes in the state have decided not to wait.
Tribes from eastern Long Island to western New York are taking advantage of the state’s leisurely rollout of recreational marijuana licenses, giving them a foothold in a potential multibillion-dollar market.
Tribes generally abide by state laws, but have, on occasion, asserted their claims to sovereignty to interpret the laws in their own fashion. So when the state legalized marijuana sales in March 2021, some tribal members took that as a green light to immediately open dispensaries, even as their tribal governments — seeing a potentially lucrative revenue source — started formulating regulations and rules, far ahead of the state.
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