Bell Boulevard’s first legal marijuana dispensary welcomed by Bayside community

NY Elite Cannabis landed in Bayside last month, and the family-run business has since been welcomed by locals.
Photo courtesy of NY Elite Cannabis

After a grand opening in mid-June, NY Elite Cannabis on Bell Boulevard in Bayside already has several regulars among the dozens of daily customers purchasing legal cannabis products. 

Many of these regulars are on a first-name basis with the owner, Carson Grant, who has called Queens home for nearly four decades since he immigrated from Jamaica in 1987. As someone who was disproportionately targeted by police for marijuana charges during the early 2000s, opening a dispensary with the help of the state marked a full-circle moment. 

The 9,500-square-foot space is one of the largest legal dispensaries that have opened across the state in the past two years. The Bayside store carries a range of marijuana flowers, edibles, vapes and tinctures cultivated in farms across the state and adheres to a rigorous testing process set by the New York State Office of Cannabis Management

“I wanted something for grown and sexy folks,” said Grant, who envisioned a clean and modern space where people would feel comfortable and receive optimal customer service.

The dispensary, located at 42-15 Bell Blvd., is 9,500 square feet. Photo courtesy of NY Elite Cannabis

But he still senses that some of his older customers have difficulty shaking off the stigma of buying marijuana products out in the open, given the country’s troubled history with cannabis. They are the same people who, like Grant, recall a time when sparking up a joint in public would get you promptly arrested. 

It is a feeling that Grant is familiar with, as he was arrested on multiple occasions for possession and distribution. But after his final arrest in 2010, he knew that he had to focus on earning a legal income as a single father for the sake of his two daughters. 

“That was the injustice that was done to certain communities,” said Grant, recalling police circling Jamaica, Queens, his longtime neighborhood, to make arrests. “That wasn’t a good feeling.”

For over a decade, he successfully ran an Amazon storefront that sold collectible toys depicting film characters such as Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. But in 2022, he heard about an opportunity to get back into the cannabis business – this time legally through a program seeking to bring justice to individuals personally affected by the war on drugs. 

“I did not see this coming. It just came out of nowhere,” said Grant on the cultural shift that has brought the plant into mainstream culture. “To see people openly indulging in marijuana or having it visible, that’s when I realized that everything has changed.”

Grant qualified to receive a CUARD license from the NYS Office of Cannabis Management—not only due to his past drug arrests, but also because he met other requirements, such as having run a profitable business for at least two years. He applied for a license to sell in September 2022, and two months later, he was approved.

Since the grand opening, dozens of people have come into the store located at 42-15 Bell Blvd. each day. Photo courtesy of NY Elite Cannabis

He knew that he wanted to open the dispensary in Queens, and began scouting locations when he came across a spot on Bell Boulevard, between 42nd and 43rd Avenue, which used to be a Flushing Bank.

“Bayside is a very bustling community,” he said, adding that he knew it would be the perfect location with regular foot traffic generated by the popular restaurant and nightlife scene. 

Before opening, Grant had fears that his business would not be accepted by the Bayside community. But in the past month, his fear gradually shifted to excitement after seeing the positive reactions from locals who say they have been patiently waiting for him to open.

He says his customers so far range from ages 21 to 78, with many of the morning regulars in their 60s and 70s. They’re the ones who prefer the gummies over the smoke products. 

“It’s just shocking that the locals have embraced me and welcome finally bringing legal cannabis into the community,” said Grant, who often hears the community’s frustrations with illegal smoke shops that sell unregulated products that easily end up in the hands of minors. 

When given the chance, he takes time to educate people on the difference between legal dispensaries and smoke shops. 

He says that NY Elite Cannabis is practically his second home now. This feeling is enhanced by his two daughters, both now in their twenties, who work with him on what has become a family business. 

The first month, he said, has already exceeded expectations, but he notes that there is still more work to do. He is still building a staff of Bayside locals with experience in the cannabis industry, as well as working to get the delivery side of operations up and running. 

“It’s a very unbelievable feeling,” Grant reflected. “It doesn’t feel real sometimes.”