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Nyack-Based Retail Dispensary Kicks Off Deliveries Of Cannabis Countywide
By Tina Traster
We’ve grown accustomed to getting many things delivered to our front doors. Now, add to that cannabis in its many forms, courtesy of Treehouse Cannabis Limited, Rockland County’s first licensed retail cannabis dispensary.
Treehouse Cannabis is gearing up after a long and arduous year to open its retail location on Route 59 in Nyack in the spring. But meanwhile, a fleet of cars are standing ready for home deliveries in the county that began last Friday. To date, there is no other legal cannabis dispensary in Rockland, though some shops are peddling weed illicitly. In at least two cases, law enforcement had been notified.
“We’re planning to create an elegant comfy environment with a personal touch,” said Marks.
Seth Marks, owner of Treehouse – like other pioneering cannabis retailers – had to jump through hoops, find wells of patience, nail-bite their way through legal challenges leveled against New York state, and navigate local planning approvals to prepare to open this novel retail outlet.
Along the way, Marks has schooled himself and his team on cannabis and he’s incurred great expense to prepare for this endeavor, but he says he couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s been a long road, a wild rollercoaster but I’m really excited,” said Marks, who is one of about 50 licensees authorized by New York State to legally sell cannabis to the public.
In 2011, Marks bought a glass building on Route 59 in the Village of Nyack, where he opened Palisades Auto Sales. The name Treehouse pays homage to the feeling of being in the glass structure on the hill and looking up at the tall trees through the windows. Marks, who in the late 1990s spent six months in prison for dealing an illegal substance, holds a conditional cannabis license. He plans on using the building entirely for Treehouse and scaling back his car sales to a side hustle.
Marks, who does not personally use cannabis, said the seed of the idea came to him when a friend called and asked two questions: “Were you ever incarcerated and are you self-employed?” – two conditions for getting a conditional license. The idea stuck and Marks began to educate himself on the burgeoning industry. He eventually hired a cannabis attorney and an application writer. The latter was helpful but not necessary, Marks said, adding “There’s a lot of unknown in the beginning though I probably could have handled the application on my own. That might not have been money well spent.”
Treehouse landed its license four months into the process. What made the process more serendipitous was that he owned a building in a village that had opted into cannabis retail dispensaries, and that his building is situated on Route 59, where there are fewer restrictions. New York State forbids cannabis sales within 500 feet of a school or 200 feet from a house of worship.
It also bars a cannabis retailer to open within 2,000 feet of another retailer, which means Marks will have a lock on the Route 59 corridor in Nyack.
Almost two years ago, Nyack was one of only a handful of Rockland County municipalities that agreed to allow cannabis dispensaries to operate in its jurisdiction. Every New York State municipality had to decide whether to “opt out” of allowing both or either cannabis dispensaries and/or cannabis lounges. Most in Rockland demurred and passed laws to opt out. Municipalities that didn’t “opt-out” effectively opted-in.
At the time, Nyack, along with Village of Haverstraw, Piermont, Hillburn, and a few Ramapo villages, embraced opening dispensaries as an economic stimulus to the local economy. While these progressive entities envisioned an opportunity to be competitive regionally, most only opted for retail dispensaries.
At least one more dispensary is aiming to open in Nyack and another in Piermont.
Budding cannabis retailers like Marks had their hopes nearly dashed in November 2022 — more than a year into legalized adult-use sales, and before any dispensaries had yet opened. Then, an applicant from Michigan successfully sued the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) in federal court, claiming the preference given to in-state applicants over out-of-state applicants violated the United States Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which generally precludes states from favoring its own residents over residents of other states. The federal court successfully shut down licensing in most of the state until April of 2023, when New York settled the lawsuit by agreeing to grant the out-of-state applicant an adult-use retail license.
Marks said he trekked to Albany to listen to hearings, inadvertently finding a community of other prospective cannabis sellers who also had put so much on the line. To this point, Marks said he’d invested nearly $100,000 but the silver lining was “we built a community of people who together stood the chance of losing everything even though none of this was our fault.”
Marks is out of the woods but a second lawsuit was filed last month in federal court in the Northern District of New York by the same out-of-state applicant renewing its Commerce Clause claims that could derail new licenses. A hearing was held this past Friday that could impact the industry once again, but the Court has not yet ruled, and the ruling would likely not affect existing licensees.
For now, he’s taking cannabis retailing for an early test drive with home deliveries. Orders will be taken electronically on the Treehouse website because delivery drivers are forbidden by state law to handle cash. Marks, who has recruited family members for this enterprise, says all hands are on deck for an anticipated spring debut. The Treehouse crew has travelled to New Jersey and Massachusetts to see how other cannabis retailers are creating an inviting environment to sell flowers, vapes, edibles, gummies, tinctures and anything cannabis related.
“We’re planning to create an elegant comfy environment with a personal touch,” said Marks. “Our ‘budtenders’ will be all about service and education. They’ll help with strains. Ask questions about the kind of experience you’re looking for. Do you want to feel awake, focused, what’s bothering you?”
Marks, like many cannabis retailers, is gearing up for the long, strange trip ahead of him.