It was a day of celebration for William Durham, his team and many Ithacans as William Jane, Ithaca’s first marijuana dispensary, opened at 119 E. State St. on March 16. It is the first dispensary in Upstate New York to be licensed and supported by the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund — a New York partnership intended to finance the development of conditional adult-use retail cannabis establishments — and the fifth legal dispensary in the state of New York. It will operate as a pop-up store for about 30 days, after which it will close and reopen once all renovations are completed.
Until its opening, Ithacans and Cornellians looking to purchase cannabis had only a few options to choose from, such as sticker shops — unlicensed cannabis retail operations in which customers purchase stickers and are gifted marijuana products upon checkout — or black-market dealers. While many locals previously utilized trusted friends who produced and sold marijuana, all adults aged 21 and older can now buy weed with a guarantee of product safety.
Durham, William Jane’s owner, is a Binghamton local entrepreneur and businessman who was previously convicted of marijuana possession at age 23. With the help of the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund, Durham was awarded his retail cannabis license last year. To be eligible for a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries license, you must be justice involved, have prior qualifying business experience with sole control of the business and have a significant presence in New York State.
With its 2021 legalization of cannabis, New York is prioritizing those most affected by the prohibition of marijuana.
“With the opening of William Jane in Ithaca, we’re continuing to build an adult-use cannabis industry in our state that works to offset the harms caused by disproportionate arrests made during cannabis prohibition,” Governor Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) said in a press release announcing the dispensary. “As more dispensaries like this open across New York State, consumers now have the option to buy legal, safer products while also reinvesting in their communities.”
Ducson Nguyen, the Common Council’s alderperson for the 2nd Ward, concurred with Hochul’s statements at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“To focus on those who are harmed by that failed war [the War on Drugs] with an emphasis on lifting people of color and other communities that were harmed by that legislation is really gratifying to see,” Nguyen said. “I really look forward to the vibrancy that this business and other businesses like it will bring to Ithaca in particular, but Upstate [New York] in general, which certainly needs it.”
A few hours prior to William Jane’s grand opening, the city, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and Durham held a press conference.
“You think about Ithaca. You think about Harlem. You think about Binghamton,” DIA executive director Gary Ferguson said, referring to locations in New York with legal weed dispensaries. “You know these are great locations where people [can] start new businesses for their families and friends, but more importantly, employment opportunities with the community serving good cannabis that is tested and high quality.”
William Jane is still in the process of hiring more employees. Not only does it offer job opportunities for many locals, but it allows people to be a part of a new change in the Ithaca community.
“We want to have a lot of fun at the end of the day,” Durham said. “Cannabis is something that we used to have to hide. [Recreational cannabis in] New York became legal recently, and now we actually have a clean product that we can actually all enjoy.”
While he acknowledged that cannabis is still a big concern for many parents, Durham understood the importance of having locally sourced and tested products that are safe for the community of Ithaca. He also has some fun events planned for his dispensary, including jazz and art shows.
“With a lot of college kids being in the area and their parents are still kind of worried about some of the products that they’re smoking, you know this is something you don’t have to worry about [at William Jane],” Durham said.
Around 40 Ithacans stood in line for the dispensary’s grand opening at 4:20 p.m. Locals waiting in line expressed their excitement to The Sun about the first legal dispensary in their hometown and no longer needing to drive out of town to purchase weed.
Now that William Jane has opened, the state Office of Cannabis Management began the process of shutting down the unlicensed sticker shops in Ithaca, intending to create a safer community for Ithaca residents.
Local businesses such as Sunny Days of Ithaca, located a few doors down from William Jane, have mixed opinions on the new dispensary opening. In a brief interview with Todd Kurzweil, who is married to the owner of Sunny Days Deirdre Kurzweil, he mentioned how he never thought a day like this would come.
“I never thought it would happen in my lifetime that [marijuana] would actually become socially acceptable,” Kurzweil said. “Hopefully people are responsible for choices that they’re making.”
For now, the Ithaca community is adjusting to the fact that cannabis in their community will now be inspected.
“It’s a great fit for this community,” Nguyen said. “Not just about the cannabis usage, but the values that are baked into it.”
Dunia Matta ’25 is a Sun contributor. She can be reached at [email protected].