Jeremy Rivera wept on Tuesday afternoon after cutting the ribbon on his new business: Astoria’s first legal adult-use cannabis dispensary.
The shelves of Terp Bros sat full of marijuana flowers, edibles, pre-rolls, and various other CBD products as local elected officials flocked to the new shop at 3610 Ditmars Boulevard to commemorate the neighborhood’s historic grand opening. While the store opening was filled with warm embraces, handshakes and offered congratulations, the road to the ribbon cutting was paved with hardships, Rivera said.
“We were held up in multiple injunctions. There was a lawsuit brought in by a group of disabled veterans calling the program unconstitutional. We were anticipated to open Aug. 14, then we were stopped Aug. 7. We’ve been fighting for two and a half months,” Rivera told amNewYork Metro. “My partner and I have invested my life savings into this.”
Now past the legal woes, and with his first sale officially rung up, Rivera was full of emotion Tuesday afternoon. Like many officially licensed dispensary owners, he is a victim of the justice system for cannabis crimes. Rivera was imprisoned from 2015 to 2018 for a nonviolent, drug-related crime. Rivera says going from ex-con to dispensary owner in such a short time has left him reeling — in a good way.
“Terp Bros is a 100% justice impacted dispensary,” he explained. “We’ve been going through the effects of the prohibition of cannabis since we were young, being pulled over, being harassed, being ripped out of vehicles for the odor of cannabis. So, for this to come now and us to have the ability to actually open a store that is compliant, that is legal — it’s a dream come true.”
Still, despite owning a brick-and-mortar space, having the shelves stocked and being open to the public, there are still difficult times ahead. As the government rollout of legal dispensaries continues to be slow to sprout, smoke shops flogging unregulated and illegal products still crop up all across the five boroughs, creating large-scale competition for the budding business.
“These stores have only been in existence because of the black vacuum that’s allowed them to thrive. Now that safe legal cannabis is coming to New York State, we believe that the community will always support a tested safe product before utilizing an unsafe product,” Rivera said.