By Grace Donnelly
April 20, 2018

On this 20th day of the fourth month in the year 2018, also known as Weed Day, a marijuana dispensary opened on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

MedMen, the cannabis company with west coast locations from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, wants its flagship store in New York City to contribute to their larger goal of destigmatizing use and moving beyond “stoner culture.”

While customers must have a prescription from a doctor to make a purchase, per New York State’s medical marijuana laws, anyone over 18 years old can enter the 2,000 square foot store to take a look at the merchandise. MedMen is one of just three dispensaries allowed to operate legally in Manhattan, where about 33,000 registered medical marijuana patients in New York can walk in and buy weed.

Courtesy of MedMen
Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com courtesy of MedMen

Gel caps, vaporizers, and drops are the only products sold at the Fifth Avenue store, in order to stay in compliance with state laws.

The dispensary takes a note from MedMen’s other locations, which have been described as “Apple stores for weed.” The interior is bright and minimalist, with tables housing glass cases of the products accompanied by touch screens with information about different strains and their levels of CBD and THC.

Sales associates (formerly known as “budtenders”) are available to answer questions and help customers choose products that address their individual needs — from anxiety to insomnia to pain management.

“If you look at our stuff, it’s not just bongs. I mean, we have grandmas who shop at our store. So we want to get the message out to people in a way that is educational and informative,” says B.J. Carretta, MedMen’s chief marketing officer. “It’s about more than just ‘let’s go get stoned.’ ”

Courtesy of MedMen
Samantha Deitch/BFA.com courtesy of MedMen

MedMen raised $41 million in its most recent funding round, bringing its valuation to more than $1 billion. The unicorn claims they have no real competition at the moment, but the industry is growing quickly and building brand loyalty early on is a top priority.

The largest challenge is working in a patchwork of state laws that affect everything from where the company can bank, what they can sell, and where they can advertise.

For example, New York dispensaries can only sell product they grow themselves. MedMen grows everything sold in the store upstate in Utica, .N.Y, but this means a more limited variety of offerings compared to their locations on the west coast.

Still, to MedMen, navigating the mess now means an advantage later. Carretta says learning how to build the infrastructure for operations like the one in Nevada, where recreational weed was legalized last year, and medical dispensaries like one in New York, will help the company take advantage of new markets more quickly moving forward.

This 4/20 sees the most weed-friendly U.S. in history. Public opinion has shifted to widespread support for legalization (64% of all voters), even among Republicans. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner joined a board of advisors for cannabis company Acreage Holdings earlier this month after changing his own views on cannabis.

While the drug remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, 29 states have passed legislation that allows for medical marijuana use and nine states have legalized recreational weed. Despite stagnation at the federal level, industry players are convinced changes are coming ever more rapidly, eyeing New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York as the next markets for legal sales.

“It’s an interesting time right now,” Carretta said. ” I think the next six months are going to be pretty fast-moving.”

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