Oneonta’s First Pot Dispensary Opens
By WRILEY NELSON
A line of local residents and visitors, young and old, stretched across the Main Street bridge in Oneonta as a thunderstorm threatened late in the afternoon of Saturday, August 12. The smiling, waving crowd was waiting for the clock to hit 4:20 p.m. and DOSHA, Oneonta’s first legal cannabis dispensary, to officially open. Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek, board and staff members of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, and military veterans mingled with employees and photographers before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Oneonta’s newest small business is located next to the city police department on Main Street. Customers arrive through a large waiting room and security checkpoint, where their identification is checked, and proceed to the sales floor in the back when it becomes available. Inventory specialists work with patrons to find a product that’s right for them and then retrieve the product from a vault in a third room.
Korey Rowe, the owner and proprietor of DOSHA, is a lifelong Oneonta resident and U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also an experienced filmmaker and produced a documentary, “Mile Marker” (2018), examining the use of cannabis by disabled veterans and PTSD patients. Rowe has been heavily involved in lobbying and educational efforts to promote the economic benefits of marijuana cultivation and sales for rural communities. He has been working on the business for nearly three years and received his provisional license to begin operations in May.
“Everything here is veterans-first,” Rowe said. “We hire predominately veterans as employees and we work with veteran-owned local producers.”
DOSHA is the first service-disabled veteran-owned dispensary in the history of New York State. New York’s licensing program for cannabis prioritizes communities with high marijuana arrest rates, minority- and women-owned businesses, dis-tressed farmers, people with prior cannabis arrests, and disabled veterans.
A recent lawsuit by a group of veterans, alleging that the state had repeatedly prioritized past marijuana offenders over them, resulted in a temporary restriction on new cannabis licensing until the matter is worked out in court. It was the latest in a series of complications and delays in the troubled rollout of New York’s legal cannabis program. Rowe said that his operating license, which he received in part due to his own prior conviction, will not be affected by the litigation. However, he stands in full support of his fellow veterans and invited Carmine Fiore of Levittown, one of the plaintiffs, to the grand opening.
“I’ve known Carmine for a long time,” Rowe said. “I heard about the legal action and suspected he might be involved. I invited him to be our very first customer and was glad he was able to make it. I wanted to show solidarity with the veteran community around the state.”
The opening ceremony was well attended, and about 100 customers waited outside for sales to begin.
“Unfortunately, a lot of them got soaked as the storm rolled in, because we had to keep everyone outside while the ribbon-cutting happened,” Rowe said. “Fortunately, our waiting room is large enough that that won’t happen again. As far as we could see, no one left because of the rain. It was good to see our customers so excited.”
“This is going to be very big for the local economy and for the municipalities,” he continued. “Four percent of all our sales go to Otsego County in taxes, and our first few days show that sales are going to be significant.”
He reported strong sales on Sunday, August 13, DOSHA’s first full day of business. At press time, Rowe and his employees were setting up floor fans to prepare for another day of pouring rain and high attendance.
“It was great to see the support from the community in our first few days of operation,” he concluded. “We had so many people, from so many different walks of life, come through, we had the Chamber of Commerce and the mayor there to support us as we opened. I was very glad to see the community turning out and showing that the business is legitimate, licensed, fully official and here to stay.”