In at least one area, Buffalo is finding itself favorably compared with Denver, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore.

That area: marijuana.

A new survey by cannabis marketing company Leafly has ranked the Queen City No. 4 on its list of “The Best Weed Cities in the United States,” beating out such places as Baltimore, Seattle and all of California.

Innocence Cannabis is a new licensed cannabis microbusiness resulting from a partnership between grower Tom Szulist who runs Singer Farm Naturals and Valentino Dixon, who was falsely convicted of murder and spent 27 years in prison before he was exonerated.

Derek Gee/Buffalo News

Some were surprised by the ranking, considering the state’s famously flawed rollout of the legal cannabis market. But others thought it was spot on, especially as legacy cannabis growers and sellers continue to transition into the state’s legal market.

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“I’m a big believer in Buffalo and upstate as the Humboldt of the East,” said Aaron Van Camp, owner of dispensary Dank on Main Street, referring to Humboldt County in California’s so-called “Emerald Triangle.”

Humboldt County has a storied cannabis history dating to the 1960s with the “Back to the Land” movement, which saw young people moving to the area to get closer to nature and begin farming. Since then, it has been at the forefront of the cannabis industry, producing some of the country’s highest-quality cannabis and most sought-after strains.

Van Camp, who started in the legacy market and was eligible for his retail license because of a prior pot conviction, said Western New Yorkers learned a lot about cannabis from the legacy market that gained entry through Canada.

“We were a major hub because of the tractor trailer traffic at the Peace Bridge and it helped lead us into a lot of stuff other places were behind on,” he said.

With prohibition in place, the cannabis industry in Buffalo got its start – like it did everywhere else – on the black market.

John D’Angelo, owner of Case Study Labs and a cannabis industry marketing consultant, agreed.

“The city’s rich cannabis culture has largely thrived underground,” he said.

The city’s No. 4 spot is well-deserved, he said.

D’Angelo said “Buffalo’s cannabis culture runs deep,” which he attributed to the influence of fans of the music groups the Grateful Dead and Phish.

Though it blossomed out of sight, a lot of passion and knowledge went into creating premium cannabis in Buffalo’s legacy market, he said.

“It’s a testament to Buffalo’s enduring cannabis heritage and its promising future in the industry,” he said.

Samuel Coronado was part of the underground scene that has only now come into the light with legalization.

Public Flower CEO Sheldon Anderson talks about his recreational adult-use cannabis dispensary.

“I’m from a neighborhood where we were doing what we had to do it as young as 11 and 12 years old, on the West Side,” he said. “It was a little different back in the day.”

He and his wife, Aileen, are the owners of Western New York’s latest licensed dispensary, Mary Janes at 2179 Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda.

“It’s been a long time coming, so we’re very excited to be open,” he said.

Like Van Camp, the Coronados are Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licensees, who qualified by having a significant business presence in the state and having been convicted of a cannabis-related offense.

Coronado said he has been sharpening his knowledge of cannabis for years and is still shocked that he’s now able to share it legally.

“It’s still unbelievable. I can’t wrap my head around it yet,” he said. “I never thought this would ever happen.”

The criteria for the rankings considered factors such as a region’s legality, internet searches for cannabis-related topics and number of medical-marijuana-prescribing doctors. It also took into account the number of head shops in an area, the number of music venues and the number of hiking trails. Leafly produced the survey with realty company Real Estate Witch.

Buffalo dropped a spot from third place last year, pushed out by Las Vegas, which rose from sixth place.

The Buffalo metropolitan area was singled out for the high consumer ratings of its dispensaries on Leafly.com, the number of dispensaries open in the region and its reasonable pricing for high-quality cannabis. According to the site, an ounce of high-quality cannabis in Buffalo costs $318, compared to $380 in New York City.

About a dozen state-licensed dispensaries operate in Western New York, but the total number was pushed up by the scores of dispensaries on the tribal reservations, which are listed on the Leafly site.

Dispensaries are thriving on tribal reservations. Nativa Cannabis, a Seneca Nation-licensed recreational cannabis dispensary in Niagara Falls, just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

“There was a line of excited customers outside the door our first day. The excitement among our customers has remained high throughout our first year as the market continues to grow in Western New York,” said Josh Jimerson, chairman of Seneca Development, which oversees Nativa Cannabis.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul is urging the state Office of Cannabis Management to get as many legal adult-use dispensaries open as quickly as possible. Thousands of hopeful licensees are in a queue for state approval to be granted licenses.

“We’re pushing and pushing and pushing to get more legal licenses in the pipeline approved, get more legal shops open,” she said during a New York City news conference Friday. “That is a top priority of mine with a lot of catch-up to do.”

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“}]] A new survey by cannabis marketing company Leafly has ranked the Queen City No. 4 on its list of “The Best Weed Cities in the United States,” beating out such places as Baltimore, Seattle and all of California.  Read More