Sullivan’s first recreational marijuana store opens

The whole community is happy, says owner Bernie Gonzalez

Posted 4/15/24

Sullivan’s first recreational marijuana store opens

The whole community is happy, says owner Bernie Gonzales


ROCK HILL, NY — Sullivan …

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Sullivan’s first recreational marijuana store opens

The whole community is happy, says owner Bernie Gonzalez


ROCK HILL, NY — Sullivan County’s very first recreational-use cannabis store, Platinum Leaf, has just opened in the Town of Thompson. 

Platinum Leaf is located at 196 Rock Hill Dr. An ice cream store and a liquor store formerly occupied the spot.

It’s been over three years since New York State legalized adult-use cannabis. To address past injustices, New York gave its first marijuana retail licenses to people who were arrested for selling marijuana when it was illegal. When Bernie Gonzalez, who had previously been charged with felonies related to marijuana possession, heard about this program, he “jumped on it,” he said. 

“I know the product,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always done.”

He said reception in the community has been positive.

“The elder community has been very supportive,” Gonzalez said. “The younger community has been very supportive. Everybody’s just coming together and are all happy. And that’s what’s making me happy.” 

The town has also been helpful. “They let us open up and I’m very grateful for that,” he said. “We have had no bad blowback about the store at all.”  

Municipalities had the choice to bar recreational adult-use cannabis retail stores. Thompson did not opt out, leaving the NYS Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) with authority over all license approvals. 

Brick-and-mortar retail dispensaries must adhere to local zoning laws. A dispensary cannot be on the same road or within 500 feet of school grounds or a community facility. A dispensary cannot be on the same street or avenue or within 200 feet of a house of worship.

Using marijuana at dispensaries will be limited to those who possess an on-site consumption license.

“Actually, that type of business in the eyes of the law is no different than a bookstore or just any other retail establishment,” said Thompson Supervisor Bill Reiber.

Money for Thompson

Platinum Leaf’s sales means more revenue for the town. Marijuana sales are the only way Sullivan County towns can reap local sales from the product. And with a four percent municipal sales tax on cannabis, Platinum Leaf stands to be lucrative for Thompson’s bottom line. 

But, Reiber warns, “Don’t count your eggs before they’ve hatched.” The town board has not yet decided how it will use the potential windfall.

“It could be $200 or $200,000,” said Reiber. 

Reiber noted that the casino hasn’t produced the $5 to $7 million a year in tax revenue expected. The reality is “less than half that,” said Reiber.

Any tax revenue from Platinum Leaf will fall into Thompson’s general fund balance, he said. 

Platinum Leaf’s road to opening wasn’t always smooth. 

Just last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered a top-down review of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management to ease problems with its licensing bureaucracy. 

Gonzalez applied in 2021 and received a license from OCM a year later. But it wasn’t this month that Platinum Leaf was actually able to open. Injunctions issued as the result of lawsuits prevented people like Gonzalez from opening their stores despite having licenses.

They had no choice but to wait for the state to give them a green light.

“We were just losing money the whole time,” he said. “And finally, now, over two years later, we finally get to open and see some money coming back in because we lost a lot of money by just sitting there waiting for the injunction to be over.”

Opening a recreational marijuana store in New York is more challenging than opening a restaurant or clothing store because it is not federally legal, which prevents access to certain loans and grants.

Gonzalez said he didn’t use a state loan or state aid. He and two investors—a pharmacy owner and legal professional—funded the venture. 

Why Rock Hill?

The lack of federal regulation also made finding a space challenging. “A lot of banks aren’t really dealing with cannabis, so finding a landlord that was willing to rent to us was harder,” said Gonzalez.

When picking Rock Hill, “I did my homework,” Gonzalez said. “I noticed that Rock Hill didn’t even have a smoke shop. And that’s one of the big problems that we have today with illegal cannabis, is that all these smoke shops are popping up, and they’re selling marijuana, and they’re not doing it illegally.” 

Hochul says illegal weed stores that operate out of smoke shops are a major problem because the state never sees the tax revenue.

Gonzalez said there are risks to shopping at the unsanctioned stores because their product is not lab-tested. “People really don’t know what they’re consuming,” Gonzalez said. At Platinum Leaf, “everything is lab tested. Everything is cultivated in New York. And before we give it to the consumer, we know what exactly we’re giving to the customer.”

Gonzalez said it offers a boutique experience: “It’s not like a smoke shop-style dispensary. You know, when you come in and see the store, you’ll get the feeling that everything is nice and elegant.”

Platinum Leaf’s doors are already open, but the official grand opening will be held on Friday, April 19. For more information, visit 

Sullivan County, cannabis store, Platinum Leaf, Town of Thompson, Rock Hill, Bernie Gonzalez, NYS Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), dispensaries, Bill Reiber, marijuana, Kathy Hochul


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