Christopher Walker/The Ithaca Times

Aspire Cannabis Dispensary will be calling Ithaca home in the coming months.

July 30, 2023

Aspire Cannabis Dispensary One Step Closer to Opening

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As New York continues to expand the number of legal marijuana businesses in the state, Ithaca is not one to fall behind. In the coming months, Aspire Cannabis Dispensary will become the second cannabis dispensary in the city.

The city’s first dispensary, William Jane, opened in March to a long line of eager patrons that spanned nearly the entire stretch of the Commons. The same month, Aspire Cannabis Dispensary, a venture owned by not-for-profit CWS Holdings I, LLC, announced that it would be making its home in Ithaca.

The dispensary promises to offer a “boutique style shopping experience” along with the ability place orders online. Customers can purchase various strains of cannabis, edibles, pre-rolls and oils, as well as other products — all of which are locally sourced from suppliers such as iTHaCa Cultivated and Ithaca Organics. Angela Bishop, the store manager of Aspire, said she wants the dispensary to remain local.

“We want to have a positive impact on communities here,” Bishop said. “I think it’s important for it to stay in Ithaca because that’s where our business is. Not only that, [but] it’s also where [Challenge Workforce Solutions] is, where proceeds are going to be going.”

Challenge Workforce Solutions, the organization responsible for Aspire, is a non-profit that creates pathways to employment for people with barriers that impact their ability to be hired, such as physical disabilities, mental health diagnoses and generational poverty. 

The Aspire website recently made public where it will be located: 205 North Fulton Street. 

“[It’s] really a great location for traffic coming into Ithaca — a very busy area — and the square footage was exactly around what we were looking for,” Bishop said. “So it all really lined up to make a really great decision for us to go forward [with].”

Construction of the venue is currently underway at 205 N. Fulton St. and is being managed by Strategic Elements Real Estate Development. However, according to Bishop, the non-profit is still awaiting site plan approval and building permits from the city of Ithaca. The building needs to meet the requirements outlined by the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, which include setting up a point-of-sale system and developing staff training.

With the mission of CWS in mind, Aspire hopes to hire those with barriers to employment, such as those formerly incarcerated for marijuana possession. Since receiving one of 36 conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CUARD) licenses from New York State’s Cannabis Control Board, the project is close to hitting ground. 

“This is new to everybody,” Bishop said. “It was really just a random thought… we were [as] surprised as many others that [our CUARD application] was accepted, but we are very pleased that it was because we do think it can be a great benefit to Ithaca.”

Christopher Walker is a reporter from the Cornell Daily Sun working on The Sun’s summer fellowship at The Ithaca Times.