NEW YORK (AP) — The first legal dispensary for recreational marijuana in New York is set to open on Dec. 29, marking a long-awaited launch of a cannabis industry that could become one of the country’s most lucrative.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that Housing Works, a minority-controlled nonprofit in Manhattan that serves people with HIV and AIDS, will be the first of 36 recently licensed dispensaries to begin selling cannabis to the general public — even though dozens of illegal shops have been in operation for many months.

The announcement was made one month after the state’s Cannabis Control Board took a monumental step in establishing a legal marketplace for legal marijuana by issuing the first round of licenses. In the coming months, the state is expected to issue an additional 139 licenses, with about 900 applicants waiting to learn their fate.

“The industry will continue to grow from here, creating inclusive opportunity in every corner of New York State with revenues directed to our schools and revitalizing communities,” Hochul said in her announcement.

While praising the state’s licensing of dispensaries, a city council member is also curious about the city’s efforts to crack down on stores that sell cannabis items that are illegal.

“My district on the Upper West Side 51st to 108th street, and we went to 61 shops, and we think 26 of them are selling cannabis, and that is not legal,” said Councilmember Gale Brewer.

Brewer will host a hearing on the growth of unauthorized smoke shops on Jan. 12. Despite the fact that marijuana usage is legal in New York, she is concerned about the safety of cannabis consumers in the absence of any regulations and lab testing for goods.

New York legalized the recreational use of marijuana in March 2021.

Housing Works, which also serves homeless and formerly incarcerated people, was one of eight nonprofits among the initial licensees.

“This opportunity will not only give our team the resources to further our overall mission, but to feature and elevate products coming from LGBTQ+, BIPOC and women-led cannabis brands across the state,” said Charles King, chief executive officer of Housing Works.

The state reserved its first round of retail licenses for applicants with marijuana convictions or their relatives, plus some nonprofit groups. It also planned a $200 million public-private fund to aid “social equity” applicants.