Helmsley Spear Starts Cannabis Division

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Helmsley Spear is developing its own strain of commercial real estate agents who will help the cannabis industry get on its feet in the coming years.

The firm’s new cannabis division will help dispensaries with site selection, lease negotiation, government affairs and licensing consulting with Andrew Simon, executive vice president of Helmsley Spear, leading the team along with Gary Levi. Broker Randy Sherman will round out the initial team.

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“We will seamlessly be able to assist those looking for sites to establish growing facilities, or for sites to accommodate warehousing and distribution. In addition, we know there will be robust demand for retail sites, and we can expertly identify those locations and negotiate attractive purchase or leasing agreements,” Levi said in a statement.

Helmsley Spear’s move comes as New York state is in the last stretch of finalizing the licensing parameters through the newly formed Office of Cannabis Management to approve the growing, production and sale of marijuana for recreational use by the public. 

The state plans to issue the first 100 licenses to individuals who can prove they took part in a business that made a profit for at least two years, but need a past marijuana conviction in order to be selected.

The cannabis industry as a whole seems to be buzzing with activity with the announcement last week that Cresco Labs plans to acquire its competitor, Columbia Care, for $2 billion.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in the first quarter of 2021 that the state would make moves to regulate weed, signing legislation that would make it a reality by March of last year. Since then, players in the real estate industry have been enthusiastic about the prospect of dispensaries filling long-time retail vacancies, a serious New York City problem only made worse by the onset of the pandemic.

However, Cuomo — who resigned amidst sexual harassment allegations — was critized by many for the glacial pace moving to legalize recreation marijuana and didn’t make any appointments to the cannabis board month after legalization.

Since taking the reins from Cuomo, Hochul quickly filled out the posts, appointing Christopher Alexander as the executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management and Assemblymember Termaine Wright as the chair of the Cannabis Control Board.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.