Secondary Navigation

Mayor Adams Fights For Legal Cannabis Industry By Celebrating Opening Of First Black Woman-Owned Legal Dispensary In Brooklyn, Recommits To Closing Down Illegal Smoke Shops

February 29, 2024

Watch the video here at

Announcement Follows Continued Actions Taken by Adams Administration to Hold Unlicensed Operators Accountable for Hurting Local Businesses and Endangering Neighborhoods

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today celebrated the opening of Matawana Dispensary, the first Black woman-owned legal cannabis dispensary in Brooklyn. Building on an announcement in his State of the City address last month, Mayor Adams recommitted to supporting the equitable growth of the legal cannabis market and ensuring justice-impacted individuals are not undermined through an illegal market by working with Albany to grant local authorities the power to inspect and shutdown illegal smoke shops.

“For too long, Black and Brown communities have faced high rates of drug-related incarceration and have been denied opportunities to build wealth. As we close out Black History Month, New York City is taking steps to right the wrongs of the past by supporting equitable growth in the legal cannabis industry,” said Mayor Adams. “But it’s not enough to support the opening of new legal cannabis shops — we must also close down the illegal operators that threaten the success of legal shops and put the safety of our communities at risk. We have been clear in our call to state lawmakers to give us the power to shut down illegal smoke shops, and we will continue to work with Governor Hochul and all our partners in Albany who are fighting to give us this authority.”

“I am encouraged to see the quickening pace of legal retail dispensary openings in the city and thank our colleagues at Cannabis NYC and the Office of Cannabis Management for all that they are doing to support the growth of the local market,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “To fulfill our promise to trailblazers like Leeann and to the communities most impacted by drug-related criminalization policies of the past, we have to pursue two priorities in tandem — developing services and supports for cannabis entrepreneurs and businesses while working with the state to close down illegal operators.”

“As a Brooklyn native who left New York due to denied access to medical cannabis, this is a full-circle moment,” said Cannabis NYC Founding Director Dasheeda Dawson. “Not only do I have the honor of leading the city’s efforts in developing an equitable, sustainable legal cannabis industry, but we are bearing witness to history with the first Black, woman-owned cannabis dispensary opening in my home borough. This opening reflects the Adams administration's commitment to building economic opportunity in communities most impacted by prohibition-era policies, transitioning legacy to legal, and becoming the ‘City of Yes’ for the multibillion-dollar global cannabis industry.”

“The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with our partner agencies at the direction of Mayor Adams to conduct inspections of unlicensed smoke shops so the legal market can thrive,” said New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda. “The New York City Sheriff’s Office Joint Compliance Task Force to Address Illegal Smoke Shops has seized over $29 million in illicit products that were being sold in illegal shops in close reach of our children and houses of worship, and found 92 percent of the locations inspected to be in violation of the law. As we protect our children and families from these unregulated products, we encourage those that do participate in this market to shop at a licensed location where the products are regulated and safe.”

“I'm proud of Matawana Dispensary, not just as an emerging small business, but as a symbol of equity in New York City’s legal cannabis industry,” said New York City Department of Small Businesses Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. “Businesses like this propel New York City as the global capital for legal cannabis and boost our city’s overall economic resilience.”

“Draconian prohibition laws cost my family almost everything, but the plant itself is a healing herb,” said Matawana Dispensary Founder Leeann Mata. “When it became legal, I used it to treat my anxiety and created formulations that helped my mother with pain and helped her conquer an opioid addiction. I have been able to support elders with homemade CBD creams.”

The legalization of cannabis has allowed a new economy to emerge in New York state while addressing the harmful impact of the ‘War on Drugs’ on Black and Brown New Yorkers. Leeann Mata, owner of Matawana Dispensary, is an East New York native who previously taught at a New York City Department of Education public school. A first-generation New Yorker with family originally from Trinidad, Mata and her family members were justice-impacted through the previous criminalization of cannabis, but now are part of a new legal, cannabis economy. However, for New York City’s new cannabis economy and businesses like Mata’s to thrive, the city and state need to protect the legal market from illegal actors. The Adams administration is working with Albany to secure the authority for local municipalities to have explicit control over cannabis enforcement to finally end this public health and safety issue.

New York City is using every tool available to protect young people from dangerous, illegal cannabis and tobacco products, while sending a clear message that anyone helping these illegal, unlicensed shops to spread throughout the five boroughs will be held accountable. Coordinating with both city and state authorities, the Adams administration formed the New York City Sheriff’s Office Joint Compliance Task Force to Address Illegal Smoke Shops. This task force is dedicated to conducting enforcement against unlicensed establishments selling cannabis, cannabis-infused edibles, illegal vaping products, illegal cigarettes, and other illegal tobacco products. Since forming, the task force has imposed almost $90 million in penalties — including an estimated $29 million in illegal products seized and over $61 million in civil penalties issued. Since the start of the Adams administration, the city has closed 160 illegal businesses, conducted over 46,000 inspections, collected over $18 million in fines, and issued 17,000 summonses.

Additionally, the city has sent letters to over 408 landlords and owners of buildings across the five boroughs warning that they could be legally liable for the continued unlicensed sale of cannabis or tobacco products by their tenants, resulting in 15 evictions. Last year, the city also filed a federal lawsuit against four major distributors of flavored disposable e-cigarettes for unlawfully distributing exotically flavored disposable e-cigarettes to retail vape and smoke shops, convenience stores, and directly to consumers in New York City through online sales. Two distributors have agreed to stop selling e-cigarettes in New York City while the remaining two are facing a preliminary injunction from the New York City Department of Law.

“I'm proud to see Brooklyn's first Black woman-owned dispensary open in the heart of my district,” said U.S. Representative Dan Goldman. “With the opening of Matawana, Leeann Mata is making history. Her advocacy to improve the criminal justice system and example of restorative justice are truly admirable. As more licensed dispensaries open their doors, I look forward to more community advocates like Leann becoming small business owners.”

“Congratulations to Leeann Mata on the opening of her new small business. I am a champion for small businesses and M/WBEs, and I am especially proud that this is the first Black woman-owned business of its kind,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Matawana will provide economic empowerment to those disproportionately affected by Draconian drug laws and generate tax revenue that will be invested in communities historically targeted for enforcement, including Ms. Mata’s home of East New York. In Albany, I will support her by passing my SMOKEOUT Act, which will shutter all the unlicensed shops that unfairly compete with legal dispensaries like hers.”

Media Contact
(212) 788-2958