N.Y. Today: Pot sellers ponder going legal

What you need to know for Thursday.

Good morning. It's Thursday. We'll look at cannabis wholesalers who want to go legal but see challenges ahead. We'll also look at why some congressional candidates say they don't know what districts they're running in.

Kendall Bessent for The New York Times

Byron Bronson and Lou Cantillo run Buddy's Bodega, an underground company that has specialized in selling designer strains of marijuana for years. What they do is illegal under state law, but that could change. New York passed a legalization bill last year and will follow New Jersey, where recreational cannabis sales began last month.

Bronson, 39, and Cantillo, 31, are conflicted about joining the legal market. "Our goal has always been to go legal," Cantillo said.

But becoming a taxpaying, regulation-observing business has its challenges for an operation like theirs that may make applying for a license more trouble than it is worth. They are not alone: Our writer Margot Boyer-Dry says thousands of cannabis entrepreneurs across the state face the same issues.

Chris Alexander, the executive director of the New York Office of Cannabis Management, wants businesses like Buddy's in the new, regulated industry. "If you're not successful at pulling the legacy market into the legal market, you limit your tax revenue — and the money you can redirect to impacted communities," he said. Black and Latino New Yorkers have been far more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than white, non-Hispanic people, and the state is setting aside half of all marijuana-related licenses for people in communities that were disproportionately affected by the drug wars.

For now, wholesalers like Buddy's are awaiting instructions on how to apply for licenses.

And there are potential complications. States like to license businesses with track records, but Buddy's revenue is off the books, so without an official pardon from the government, it can't actually show its earnings — or dedicate those earnings toward start-up costs — without risking attracting the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. "There's no statute of limitations on taxes," said Jason Klimek, a tax lawyer specializing in cannabis at Barclay Damon.


The costs for a newly licensed business are high — opening a dispensary is estimated to cost between $500,000 and $1 million, Klimek said — and start-up money is difficult to come by. Bronson and Cantillo don't have much financial padding, and since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, most banks won't give them loans — or even open a bank account.

With a license, they would be responsible for maintaining and filing documents like financial statements, the same as other businesses. They would probably need to keep comprehensive records on each plant — where it has been from seed to sale. "It's a whole new world of information you've got to navigate," said Joe Rossi, who leads the cannabis practice at Park Strategies, a lobbying firm that is working pro bono to help Bronson and Cantillo apply for a license.

Cantillo argues that independent businesses like Buddy's that have been in the illicit industry for years should get their shot immediately instead of having to wait and watch while big-money players are licensed first, which is what happened when Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana. "It doesn't make sense to allow corporations to take over when we've put our lives on the line to do what we love," he said.


There's a chance of light rain this morning, with wind gusts and temps near the low 70s as the day becomes mostly sunny. Expect a chance of showers late at night with fog. Temps will be in the high 50s.



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Who's running where, and how many Election Days?

Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

"I'm a man in search of a horse," Marc Molinaro said. "I have no district, no opponent and a million dollars."

Molinaro, a Republican who has been the Dutchess County executive since 2011, is trying to run for Congress in the Hudson Valley. He has spent months campaigning. And last week his likely opponent — Representative Antonio Delgado, a Democrat — announced that he would resign to become the lieutenant governor.

That's the kind of break no one could have seen coming. But there is also the Gordian knot that has Molinaro saying he has no district to run in: The state's highest court threw out the maps for new congressional districts that had been approved by the Democrat-dominated State Legislature — districts that were widely seen as likely to favor Democrats. The judges said the Democrats had designed districts "with impermissible partisan purpose." In a word, gerrymandering.

My colleagues Nicholas Fandos and Jesse McKinley write that the upshot is that New York is lurching into what may be the most chaotic election cycle in memory. There is a fog of confusion over whom people can vote for and when — and when Gov. Kathy Hochul will schedule a pair of special elections that could have an immediate impact on the narrowly divided House. (One is to replace Delgado. The other is for the House seat being vacated by Representative Tom Reed, a Republican from the Southern Tier, who announced he was joining a Washington lobbying firm.)

New York could conceivably hold separate Election Days for statewide and Assembly primaries on June 28, congressional and State Senate primaries on Aug. 23 and special elections for the congressional seats on separate Tuesdays in August. Republicans contend that Delgado may be delaying his House resignation to synchronize a special election with the Aug. 23 primaries in an effort to boost Democratic turnout.

Nicholas Langworthy, the state Republican Party chairman, said he had joked that "maybe tomorrow the locusts will set in." He said there are "just so many catastrophes politically."

No matter what the precise boundaries of Molinaro's district turn out to be, his prospects are far better if he is not facing a popular incumbent with a track record of winning tough races. Delgado won the seat in 2018, defeating the incumbent John Faso by 15,000 votes. He won again in 2020 against the Republican Kyle Van De Water.

The leading Democratic contender is Molinaro's counterpart from across the Hudson River — Pat Ryan, the Ulster County executive. Ryan hasn't formally declared his candidacy. But he said he was "aware of the urgency" that followed Delgado's appointment as lieutenant governor and expected to make a decision within days.

Like Molinaro, he seemed somewhat amazed by the various moving pieces of this election cycle, including the changing congressional lines.

"In an ideal world I would know what district I would be running for, certainly," Mr. Ryan said, adding, "I studied political science, but this wasn't in any of the textbooks."


Sassy poses

Dear Diary:

On a sunny day in 1994, my friend Rachel and I had a half day of school, and she suggested that we go to Brighton Beach.

As a Queens girl, I was used to going to Far Rockaway, but I was game to try something new. Rachel, our friend Crystal and I made the long trek on a slow-moving F.

Once we got there, we laid out our towels and set up our boom box, switching between Hot 97, Kiss FM and WBLS. We struck sassy poses in our bathing suits, taking overexposed pictures to be developed at Fotomat in an era long before selfies and social media posts.

The beach was nearly empty, except for one man. He was lying in a prone position with his pants down. In a flash of teenage boldness, I told him his rear end was exposed.

"I have rash!" he said in heavily accented English. Apparently, the sun was a curative and he was not going to pull up his pants. Needless to say, we avoided looking his way for the rest of the afternoon.

Nearly 30 years later, as summer approaches, I have not forgotten that man or his rash. And that is my Brighton Beach memoir!

— Alyson Myers

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

Melissa Guerrero, Olivia Parker and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday@nytimes.com.

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