As New York state lawmakers debate the merits of Governor Cuomo's proposed recreational cannabis framework, owners of some of the 15,000 bodegas in New York City want to make sure they get a piece of the action if the plan is approved.
And why shouldn't they? Many bodegas are community hubs in neighborhoods that were hit hardest by marijuana law enforcement over the years, so it only makes sense to give these businesses an equal opportunity to reap the benefits of legalization.
"All this money should not go to white-owned businesses," said Fernando Mateo of United Bodegas of America. "It should not go to corporate America. It should be shared with the underdogs."
Gov. Cuomo's plan calls for separate licenses to be issued to cannabis producers, distributors, and retail sale operations, preventing one company from blossoming into a monopoly that eats up the whole supply chain. Bodega owners want to ensure they're able to apply for retail licenses.
But some people are wary of allowing the corner stores to sell weed, fearing for the children that may come in and try to access the product.
"I think it's a bad idea, because if you're selling weed, you might sell it to younger kids, and that's definitely not a good thing," says Earl Thompson, a Bronx resident.
But Mateo thinks protections are already in place, as bodegas already sell products that are age-restricted.
"Right now we sell cigarettes, we sell beer - we are highly regulated. There is no reason why we cannot be included in the packaging, distribution, and sale of marijuana," Mateo added.
One potential downside from the bodega perspective would be the increased chance of robberies, but considering there were roughly 25,000 marijuana arrests in New York City in 2017-18, law enforcement should have a significant amount of extra time on their hands should the recreational measure pass the state legislature.
From a consumer standpoint, it only makes sense to have the place where my munchies take me at 2 AM also allow me to re-up on my weed supply. Smoke, sandwich, Snapple, repeat.