Roland Conner was imprisoned in the early 1990s for weed possession and other offenses. He lived in the Far Rockaways neighborhood of New York. Marijuana possession for recreational purposes was illegal in New York City at the time of his conviction. Marijuana has been largely decriminalized since 2019, and in 2021, New York lawmakers approved adult recreational cannabis use, effectively making it legal for sale.
According to The Guardian, Conner went on to run a property management company and manage a transitional housing facility in the Bronx after serving time in prison during the drug war.
Conner is now a marijuana entrepreneur with his own cannabis dispensary, Smacked, in 2023. Conner is one of approximately 900 applicants for the dispensary license. He started the company as part of a New York City initiative to give people with cannabis-related convictions the opportunity to work in the marijuana industry. Conner and other applicants will receive a $200 million public-private fund as part of the initiative to help mitigate the effects of the drug war.
According to the New York Times, Conner is the first entrepreneur with a marijuana conviction to open a licensed cannabis dispensary in New York with the help of the state. Despite the presence of several unauthorized dispensaries throughout the city, his dispensary is the second to open in the city.
“I am so excited to become a part of history as the first individual to open a legal cannabis dispensary in New York City,” Conner said in a statement, according to NBC News. “Given my experience with cannabis, I never could have imagined that I would be opening a store like this.”
Conner runs the dispensary with the help of his wife and son. They also intend to relocate to a permanent location. The state’s initiative to allow people convicted of cannabis offenses to work in the cannabis industry has not been without challenges. Unlicensed storefronts have been causing havoc throughout the city. According to The New York Times, startup funding and other support from state lawmakers for the project have also been slow to arrive.