Guilderland approves first pot shop, expected to open by year’s end

— From Verilife submittal to the town of Guilderland

Above is a rendering of what customers can expect to see when they visit the area’s first recreational pot shop.

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Town Board two years ago voted to opt out of allowing retail cannabis in town, only to repeal the local law some six months later,  following the issuance of state regulations governing pot sales, and coming full circle two month after that, in a split June 2022 vote allowing dispensaries to set up shop in town.  

Now two years after just saying no and 18 months after just saying yes, Guilderland is expecting its first marijuana retail sales shop following the approval of  an amendment to the special-use permit of Verilife, a medical marijuana dispensary located in the Stuyvesant Plaza-owned Executive Park Drive office park. 

On Nov. 15, the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals approved a request from Verilife, which is owned by one of the country’s largest cultivators, processors, and dispensers of cannabis, to allow for adult-use sales.

In his presentation to the board, Brandon Nemec, PharmaCann’s government and regulatory affairs director, noted Guilderland’s history with marijuana dates back to its legalization for medical use. 

“The town of Guilderland was actually one of the first jurisdictions in the state of New York, in New York’s  history, really, to allow for a legal state license sale to occur within its municipality,” Nemec told board members. 

In July 2014, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the  Compassionate Care Act, which allowed for the use of medical marijuana in New York. Eighteen months after Cuomo signed the bill, eight medical dispensaries opened across the state, with Verilife’s 10 Executive Park Drive location among them. 

Nemec told the board that, in the eight years since Pharmacann has operated its Guilderland location, it had grown into one of the industry’s largest privately-held companies, operating 54 dispensaries and 10 cultivation and production facilities across eight states, with four dispensaries and one production facility located in New York. 

An amendment to Verilife’s special-use permit, Nemec told board members, would benefit the town itself as well as the local economy, because the expansion into retail sales means additional tax revenue for Guilderland and more jobs for local workers, union jobs with benefits. 

In its project narrative submitted to the town, Pharmacann estimates it would hire an additional five to 10 employees to shore up its current Guilderland staff of 14 full-time, one part-time, and 8 per diem employees.

The Compassionate Care Act imposed a 9-percent state and 4-percent local tax on retail sales — 1 percent is retained by the county and 3 percent goes to the town, city, or village.

While the initial billion-dollar first-year sales projection and corresponding $3oo million in tax revenue for sales of recreational marijuana was overly optimistic, legal sales in the state were hampered by a court challenge and bungled regulatory roll-out, leading to Governor Kathy Hochul to scale down first-year estimated retail revenue to $56 million

But since the governor made her projection, legal sales have soared. 

In mid-November, the state’s Cannabis Control Board, the regulatory body charged with oversight of New York’s cannabis industry, said, since last December, when sales first started, retail revenue from cannabis was close to $109 million, with the state’s 27 current retailers generating between $4.5 and $5 million a week in sales. 

And with so much money to be made, Pharmacann is looking to have its   Executive Park Drive location ready for retail sales before the year is out. 

Nemec told board members that “the project timeline we are on is a fairly tight timeline, but [we] do have plenty of time to prepare if we are approved by the zoning board.”

He said, “We would hope to have all those renovations completed within the next three to four weeks,” noting much of the work would be cosmetic, the exception, according to the project narrative, being an “increase to the amount of secured storage space for cannabis product, to provide an adequate inventory of product for both medical patients and adult-use customers.”

The increase in secure storage will facilitate a significant increase in expected sales. 

“Typically what we experience in the transition, if you will, from the jump from medical patient sales to the adult-use, the recreational sales, [is] about a two or three times increase,” Nemec told the board. 

Since its Guilderland location opened, Nemec said Pharmcann had “conducted over 784,000 transactions,” a number which “shocked” him especially when Pharmacann’s original estimate is taken into account. 

A company representative told the town in October 2015 that it could expect between 20 and 30 daily patients, just 7 to 11 percent of the dispensary’s actual daily average of patients. 

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