Rochester’s first legal weed store will open on wednesday

Rochester’s first legal weed store is set to open on Wednesday, more than two years after the state legalized retail cannabis.

Herbal IQ-Rochester is located at 1749 East Ave., across from Wegmans, and will carry flowers and other produce from growers and processors in the Finger Lakes and central New York, according to the people behind the operation.

Licensing of retail dispensaries in the Finger Lakes region and much of the state has been delayed by lawsuits. The latest hurdle came in the form of a case brought by four military veterans, who claim that the state’s policy of issuing licenses first to people with prior cannabis convictions is unconstitutional.

A court order in this case has stopped dispensaries here and elsewhere from opening.

Against this background, Herbal IQ-Rochester is best described as a “pop-up store” rather than a perennial store. The operation benefits from a new policy, approved by the state’s cannabis control board in July, that allows already legal dispensaries to set up pop-up outlets where growers and manufacturers can display and sell their products directly to consumers.

Knuckles is in production at NOWAVE which will be on display at the Cannabis Show in Rochester.  (Photo by Max Schulte)

The NOWAVE-produced stuffed joints will be retailed at Herbal IQ-Rochester.

The operation takes its name from the Herbal IQ dispensary, a licensed dispensary in DePiew, Erie County, that is located in the front of the business, and its organizers expect it to be open through the end of the year.

Among the farmers showcasing their products at Herbal IQ-Rochester are A Walk in the Pines in Geneva, Tap Root in Skaneateles, and Ananda Farms in Fulton. The outlet will also feature extracts, edibles, and beverages from local processor NoWave.

“To be a show, you need a licensed and functioning dispensary, and there is no dispensary in Rochester,” said Mike Dolin of A Walk in the Pines. “So, we have a good relationship with Herbal IQ and they said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to do the show.'”

Dulen previously served as the “cannabis man” on Constellation Brands’ strategic team and played a pivotal role in that company’s acquisition of Canadian cannabis company Canopy. He launched Pines in 2018 as a side business, and later left Constellation to make it his full-time job.

He described farmers’ offerings, such as those at Herbal IQ-Rochester, as a state-sanctioned loophole that allows new stores to open, at least temporarily, without violating a court order.

One of the products that will be on display at the Cannabis Show is gum, which is produced in Rochester by NOWAVE with a flower grown by Pines.  (Photo by Max Schulte)

One of the products that will be sold at Herbal IQ-Rochester is chewing gum produced in Rochester by NOWAVE with flower grown by A Walk in the Pines.

The first such facility opened in New Paltz earlier this month.

Brian Lane, NoWave’s Chief Compliance Officer, was there to pitch his products. He said there are not enough dispensaries in New York to move the volume of merchandise he produces.

“Do you know what we’re moving on here, guys?” Lin asked. “Maybe hundreds of units, and I have thousands sitting here.”

NoWave is a licensed statewide wizard that produces products for about 10 different brands, including vaporizers and gum for A Walk in the Pines under the PINES brand name, and pulls flowers from 25 different farms.

The operation is headquartered in a sleek, modern complex in a business park on the west side of Monroe County. Inside its trendy black exterior is the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Workers in white sanitary clothes toil in laboratories, processing colorful cubes of vegetable gum infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The facility’s water system allows the water to be deionized, treated, and converted into mineral water intended for the Weed Water company’s potable water production line. A yellow door on the far side of the facility indicates the part of the property used for centrifugal ethanol extraction. The walls around it are reinforced in the event of an explosion.

Brian Lane, NOWAVE Compliance Officer, with hemp grown by New York growers at the NOWAVE plant in Rochester.  (Photo by Max Schulte)

Brian Lane, NOWAVE Compliance Officer, carries a bag containing 138 pounds of cannabis grown by New York growers and stored at the NOWAVE plant in Rochester.

NoWave products are available at nearly every legal dispensary in New York, of which there are currently 23, according to the state’s office of cannabis management.

Lane said fairs like Herbal IQ-Rochester offer two unique advantages: They allow the product to get to market, and they give producers a chance to see what’s moving.

“Showcases have more wiggle room” than a regular infirmary, Lin said.

Under state law, hemp flower must make up at least 65% of the products in storefronts. Expect the price of most flowers at Herbal IQ-Rochester to be between $40 and $50 per eighth of an ounce, depending on the strain and grower, including a 13% tax.

Herbal IQ-Rochester is scheduled to be open 10am-8pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 1pm-5pm Sundays.

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