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There's a Cannabis Controversy in Watkins Glen

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

A local sticker shop owner in Watkins Glen, NY, claims that New York State regulations for legal Cannabis liscences are allegedly discriminatory against business owners. However, in the midst of a statewide controversy, locals have something to say about the matter.

The gifting of marijuana, often used by marijuana sticker shops as a means of trade, is to “cease and desist” as stated in an official release on February 8 of this year by the NYS Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). However, Section 222 of New York Penal law states that gifting of marijuana is legal up to 3.5 ounces.

While this law has promoted the proliferation of sticker shops where customers can buy a sticker or other item for a sum of money and then be gifted a certain amount of marijuana, it did not stop one such shop from being raided in Watkins Glen, New York as reported by WENY News.

In the midst of this, Buds “R” Us, another sticker shop, officially opened for business in July 2022 in the tourist town of Watkins Glen. In an interview with the owner of Buds “R” us, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic, said “we do everything legal” and “we only have legal amounts.”

They also said when questioned if there was any concern for being raided that before opening up the business they went to the local police to solidify their opening. The owner says that “we would like a license” to officially distribute cannabis when New York State legalizes the sale of recreational cannabis.

However, this license has been put in jeopardy as the OCM defines sticker shop transactions as “illicit” and that continuation of business will put licenship at risk. Bud’s “R” Us aims to maintain quality in their products and says that most of their customer base consists of older adults who suffer from medical issues and anxiety.

The owner also revealed that even if they are able to obtain a license to begin selling cannabis, they will not be allowed a bank account because sales of cannabis are still not legal on the federal level.

In an interview with a childhood resident of Watkins Glen who has recently moved back into the area, Jeffrey Goodine, he said “I’m not thrilled about” the two sticker shops “at all.”

While he agrees that it should be allowed for medical reasons Goodine is not happy with people simply being able to walk into a store and buy marijuana if they are 21 or older.

He also stated concern that just as people under the legal drinking age have their older friends buy them alcohol that the same thing will happen with cannabis. “You definitely don't want school kids getting this because it will hurt them academic wise.” Goodine also showed concern for cannabis being a gateway drug.

Bob Fitzsimmons, former county legislator, agrees with the goal to “increase the onset of debut” for adolescents at risk of using drugs. However, when it comes to the subject of sticker shops in Watkins Glen, he is excitedly anticipating their continued presence with a touch of apprehension as he also supports policies that will decrease the amount of young adults from using psychoactive substances.

Fitzsimmons continued to say, Watkins Glen already has “eight bars that serve alcohol. I think trying to fit marijuna in the culture of the street” is a fine idea. He also said that he sees marijuana as a better substance than alcohol in a myriad of ways.

In addition, Fitzsimmons stated that the criminalization of cannabis has also been racist in the judiciary system resulting in a disproportionate amount of black men being imprisoned compared to white men. While Fitzsimmons is for marijuna use in adults he is concerned for the younger generations creating a habit in using the substance especially young men. He sees young men gain a habit of using marijuana regularly and then lose much of their youthful evervescence.

When asked if he would like to see the official trade of marijuana be legalized he replied enthusiastically, “Of course! It’s a commodity, it should be tradeable. We are an agrarian community, I think it would be great for farmers to diversify their crops and provide new products for customers.”

While NYS's seemingly contradictory stances on the distribution of recreational cannabis leaves much lacking in the area of legal clarity these sticker shops are not leaving anytime soon. The continued criminalization of these stores has the potential to shape future policies that will ultimately shape NYS’s local, and global, economy.

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