ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce hosted a cannabis conference at the Strong Museum of Play Thursday. 

The gathering is meant to educate the community on the emerging cannabis industry following its legalization in the state last year in March of 2021.

“Whether people agree or not, it’s legalized, it’s coming. Our job is to make sure we educate people on all aspects of this,” said Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy.

Last week 36 more licenses were approved in the state, one of them being in Monroe County. According to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, so far 88 licenses have been approved from a pool of over 200 applicants. Executive Director Chris Alexander said with licenses going out now, the goal is to have dispensaries open by the end of the year.

“We’re envisioning between 100-200 retail operations being the first to open in the state at great locations across the state and with really geographic distribution,” Alexander said.

New York State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes from the Buffalo area has been an advocate for marijuana legalization and making sure the revenue that comes from sales is put back into communities that have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of marijuana for so many years. She said making sure those groups have access to information on how to get involved is imperative to the state’s mission.

“I think this is important to understand that there has to be a level of trust that’s built,” Peoples-Stokes said, “I think it’s a great idea to go with “Get ready, get set” because that’s going to go in deep weeds and find the people and talk to them at a level that they understand.”

New York State Office of Cannabis Management’s new campaign working to educate the state, “Get ready, get set.”

“Get ready, get set. I mean, that’s what we’re trying to do, right? We’re taking on that challenge head-on. We’re going to communities; we’re going to people instead of expecting them to be in the halls of Albany where they can get some access to information. We’re going to the community to meet them where they are at and give them information that they need to get ready for this opportunity,” Alexander said.

Alexander said the sale revenue will be going to “noble” causes across the state.

“40% of our revenue is going in front of education to support education funding, 20% going to support drug treatment, education, and there’s really some needed programming over there. And then 40% going to what we call a community grants reinvestment fund to provide direct support to people really doing work in meaningful ways and communities across the state,” Alexander said.

The executive director said his office is looking at other states that have already gone through the process of legalizing the drug.

“The benefit of not going first is that we get to see all the things that folks tried and didn’t work out. It’s not for a lack of trying. Other states tried to make sure that communities of color and those impacted, were participating in a meaningful way,” said Alexander. “We’re just trying different things, trying to learn from what they’ve done, what has worked and what hasn’t, and put forward the best solutions.”

The deadline to submit applications for the cannabis conditional cultivator license is June 30th.