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NEW YORK (PIX11) — For two weeks now, recreational marijuana has been legally sold in New Jersey, with the state reporting $1.9 million in sales on the first day alone.

Industry analysts say that it’s just the beginning of what is set to become very big business, not just in New Jersey, but in New York as well, and throughout the Northeast. A notable portion of the potentially mammoth profits are slated to benefit communities, mostly of color, that have been disproportionally impacted by marijuana arrests over the years.

Whether or not that happens remains an open question, some people in those communities said. What’s not in dispute is that the recreational marijuana industry in the tri-state area — the nation’s most populous region — is on course to both break records and set precedents for sales.  

“It’s definitely a serious, serious amount of money here,” said Precious Osage-Erese, chief operations officer of Roll-up Life, a New Jersey-based company that delivers products that are derived from cannabis.

Charlotte Hanna, the CEO of Rebelle, a Massachusetts dispensary with its headquarters based in Brooklyn, talked specific values of companies like hers joining the adult use marijuana trade.

“These licenses traded for 50, 60 million dollars in New York and 200 and something million, we just heard recently,” Hanna said in an interview, “because they can make that back in a few months.”

Sloane Barbour, CEO of, and an industry analyst, agreed.

“You’re really in an industry that’s going to grow to $100 billion” by the end of the decade, he said. In the meantime, however, he continued, “Billions and billions of dollars of commerce currently take place in New York.”

What is being built in the tri-state area, where all three states either have recreational cannabis sales or are on course to have them by the end of this year, is a legal marijuana market.  It’s being built on a very longstanding, formerly illegal foundation.

“The underground legacy market, the illicit market,” said Barbour, “is robust, and has been robust for decades.”

Those profits, however, have come with a price, and Vlad Bautista knows personally what that means.

“For consuming a plant, or for having small amounts of it,” said Bautista, CEO of the cannabis-related events and lifestyle brand Happy Munkey, “now you’re in a cell with a murderer, with a rapist.”

He founded his company after being on the receiving end of New York’s severe drug laws for years. 

“It’s only right,” Bautista continued, “that people like myself that were arrested over 20 times for consuming cannabis get the right and the access to try to participate in this market that we built.”

He’s on course to be one of the first applicants for legal recreational cannabis sales in New York.  The state has pledged to have its first licenses given exclusively to people like Bautista, who’ve suffered personally from marijuana arrests in the past. 

The state has also created a $200 million fund to help entrepreneurs like Bautista from underserved communities enter the recreational cannabis industry; $50 million of the fund will come from cannabis taxes and fees, while the other $150 million will come from private cannabis companies.