They're your friends, family and neighbors, Michael Richards is fond of saying. They're the local cannabis community, and Saturday, they'll gather for the latest in a series of events in the Auburn area.
Team 315 Cannabis Pros will host the Canablast Auto Show that day at 6993 Clark St. Road in Aurelius. The property is owned by Brian Borst, who founded the group with Richards last September.
Canablast, the group's 10th event, will feature autos from local club Show Stylez, live music by singer-songwriter Brian Stowell, food, DJs and 20 to 40 tables. They'll range from glass blowers and bakers to clothing designers, Richards and Borst told The Citizen. The tables do not include sellers of cannabis, they said, as the group does not allow that at its events. Though cannabis use and possession in New York was legalized by last year's Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, sales remain illegal as the state sets up its cannabis industry. Legal sales are expected to begin by the end of 2022.
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"It's not a drug bazaar," Richards said of the event. "It's a meet and greet within the cannabis community. Beyond that, what happens is immaculate conception."
The group will also hold a raffle at Canablast for a basket of items donated by the tables there. Borst and Richards hope to raise $500, and Richards will match up to that amount. The proceeds will be donated to the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Auburn. The group has previously donated to the Beverly Animal Shelter in Waterloo and the Finger Lakes SPCA of CNY in Auburn.
Raising that amount should be feasible, as previous Team 315 Cannabis Pros events have attracted as many as 200 to 400 people. Borst has landscaped and developed the property for the events.
Outside of the events, there's nothing official about the group. Richards and Borst founded it as a private Facebook page, hoping it would bloom into a grassroots movement of community members. They include cannabis users and growers, as well as what Richards called "legacy operators" waiting to transition into the state's industry. Together they network, and share advice and humor.
Having started growing his own medical cannabis because it was hard to afford at dispensaries, Borst said one of his goals for founding the group was helping others learn how to grow it.
Richards, meanwhile, is a chef who has considered opening a high-end cannabis desert business. Like most entrepreneurs seeking to enter the new industry, however, he's been playing a game of "hurry up and wait." He understands the state has a "gargantuan task" ahead in setting it up, he said, one that can't be rushed. But he and Borst still wish the state was moving a little more quickly.
For instance, they believe home growing — which will eventually be allowed with a maximum of three mature and three immature plants — should already be legal the way home brewing kits are.
They also believe eligibility for the state's first sales licenses is too stringent. The licenses are limited to businesses that have been profitable for at least two years and are at least partially owned by a person convicted of a cannabis offense, or a relative or dependent of one. Much as they support the priority on social equity behind that criteria, Richards and Borst don't know anyone who meets it.
So the founders and members of Team 315 Cannabis Pros will continue to wait. One thing they can do in the meantime, Richards said, is try to destigmatize the thing that brought them together.
"Legacy operators are not just the weed dealers of yesteryear," he said. "We're working with the state to pay taxes and follow the rules — to be the professionals we've longed to be for many years."
On March 31, 2021, recreational cannabis became legal in the state of New York. Immediately, people 21 and older could possess up to 3 ounces …
Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.