Roland Conner became the first person with a criminal conviction to open a licensed cannabis dispensary in New York with the state’s help.
Roland Conner’s first foray into the weed business as a teenager in the early 1990s resulted in a string of arrests and convictions on possession and other charges.
Now, at 50, he is returning to the industry, this time with the state’s full support. Mr. Conner, who grew up in public housing in Far Rockaway, Queens, opened a dispensary on Tuesday in Greenwich Village under a state initiative to give people convicted of offenses related to cannabis a head start in the newly legal business.
The shop, Smacked!, is just the second licensed store to open since the state legalized recreational cannabis in March 2021. But Mr. Conner is the first entrepreneur with a marijuana conviction to open a dispensary as a result of the initiative, which is being watched across the country. (The other dispensary is owned by a nonprofit.)
“I feel like a guinea pig,” he said in an earlier interview inside his store on Bleecker Street, sandwiched between an Indian fusion restaurant and a stationery shop.