Just across the street from the bustling Barclays Center subway stop in Brooklyn, a new kind of store has opened its doors. And though it may resemble an Apple Store from a quick glance (the Apple store is actually just up the block), this fresh establishment offers up something danker than the next iPhone: cannabis.
“It’s not your typical dispensary,” notes Citiva president Michael Quattrone as he breaks from his busy day for an interview. “The first reaction I get most often is ‘I kind of feel like I’m in a spa.’… It kinda has a modern-day apothecary vibe.” But though this new Brooklyn Citiva location may offer all the sheen and comfort of a massage studio, it still keeps its cool. Created by a local Brooklyn artist, a mosaic spans the entire back wall, Citiva’s logo sharply in focus. Potted succulents and candles set an ambiance. Cannabis powders, vape cartridges, and capsules sit in well-organized drawers amongst giant interactive table top screens.
Since December 30, the doors to this Citiva location have opened, welcoming Brooklyn’s 2.6 million residents (and any other medical card-carrying New Yorkers who pass through, for that matter). And that is what Citiva truly wants to be: welcoming. The dispensary not only hopes to serve its medical customers, but also to educate, enrich, and give back to the community which has welcomed them.
Calling All Artists and Influencers
Not only do they call upon the borough’s extensive amount of creative talent to line their walls, Citiva of Brooklyn has begun to roll out a new sort of “contest”. “Basically, I want to create a line of packaging created by local artists,” Quattrone says, “If your art is chosen, you’re on the packaging.”
What’s most important continues to be in the inclusion of the community where they’ve secured their new roots. For Citiva, it goes beyond helping out their suffering artist friends. Quattrone goes on to define more of the packaging art contest, stating that he likely could only promise the artist the recognition and glory of being seen by a large public. However, he does state, “But from the proceeds, we’ll donate X amount of money towards an organization or charity decided by survey of what our customers want that money to go to, what is most important to them.” Might that be cannabis research? Something more specific to the community itself? That, he says, will be decided by the people they service.
And while this contest idea still requires some time before Brooklynites everywhere grab their felt tip pens and doodle their best cannabis leaf, it shows the determination and mission of Citiva to involve their customers and community in the store. They don’t stop at polling their customers. They also have plans to host events to educate or just talk about cannabis and how it affects the community.
Yes We Cannabis— Citiva’s Mission for Social Justice
Currently, the company’s facilities have begun expanding; they are in the midst of building a much larger grow house. As these plans unfold, an interim grow house supplies Citiva’s customers. But once the new grow house is up and running, Citiva hopes to turn the interim grow house into an education center.
With this new center, Citiva wants to lift up those burdened by social justice issues or who have been convicted of charges— charges which will hopefully be expunged or pardoned with a new shift in marijuana policy in New York state. Unfortunately, that shift has yet to happen to allow those with prior convictions to work in a NY dispensary. But Quattrone explains the conception of a new program for that foreseeable day on the horizon: “We’re trying to come up with a program where they can actually learn from seed to sale— the whole process.”
With this sort of course, an individual will then have the training and education necessary to be offered a job either with Citiva or in the cannabis industry. Quattrone sees even bigger dreams for the “graduates” of this possible program: “Maybe they’ll go out and start their own company and do their own thing, which couldn’t make me happier.”
Quattrone wants Citiva to be involved in that conversation about social justice. “We go to so many events where the loudest voices in the room are about justice,” he says. But more than being involved, Quattrone prizes the ability to listen in these spaces, especially to the voices of the people who have been in this industry or incarcerated because of it. They attend meetings across the entirety of New York City discussing the themes of social justice and the cannabis industry, attended by investors and residents alike. “There’s so much wrong in the world, you know? And if we can just be conscious about where we’re going with this stuff— that’s a big deal… And I want to help, you know? Invite mentors in— whatever ‘help’ looks like.”
Not only do they interact personally with this New York community to understand how to give back to the marginalized and disenfranchised populations it serves, but Citiva seeks to actively employ a diverse staff. Conscious of racial and gender disparities in the industry, Citiva hires women and people of color at various levels of the company. In this effort, they hope to maintain a wide perspective in the industry.
In the end, Citiva is more than just some patchouli head shop or swanky dispensary set up on Flatbush Ave. Rather, it is a community builder. In this way, Citiva unites and underlines the best things about cannabis itself: its ability to help someone medically alongside its power to build and foster community and connection.
Open Door Policy
Everyone 21 years or older is welcome in the Citiva dispensary in Brooklyn. However, only NY state medical card carriers can purchase any of the diverse products the store offers. Nonetheless, one of the helpful patient care representatives would still be happy to show and potential customer around the place, maybe even with a consultation on one of the giant screens embedded into a tabletop. From here, the screen will lead the customer through an array of questions pertaining to any issues they may be experiencing. Based on the responses one gives, the questionnaire provides options for what may help to solve the issue. But they aren’t only maintaining screen-time for their customer service.
According to Quattrone, this is when the patient care representative steps in and “explains even more than what the screen is already doing—just about the products we offer, what it means to them dosing, potential side effects, or other interactions with the drugs they may or may not be taking.” And to top of the customer experience, the pharmacist oversees that entire purchase, ensuring the customer is aware of those interactions and side effects.
For those without a medical card, the experience of visiting Citiva may be more like visiting a dope museum where you want all the items on display. But considering the imprint the store has left and will continue to leave on this corner of Brooklyn, it may be worth the visit.
Get The Goods
Citiva sells a wide range of cannabis products for its medical consumers. Unfortunately, New York state law still seeks to limit cannabis consumption in many forms. As a result, cannabis flower does not grace their product line. Dispensaries in the state are prohibited from selling edibles or flower and are restricted to selling vape cartridges, powders, and capsules. Nevertheless, the products for sale are cultivated to suit a medical patient’s specific needs.
While the strains themselves can also not be legally listed on the label, the ratios of THC to CBD do receive mention. And while these products range in price, they do come with the obligatory NYC price-tag. But that, Quattrone assures, is confirmation of quality.
Home is Where the High Is—Citiva’s Future in Brooklyn
As New York state works to establish recreational sales of cannabis, Citiva readies itself too. It is in this context of preparing and understanding for that future landscape that Michael Quattrone assures me, “There’s a lot that has to happen regulation-wise… The official bill needs to be reconciled before it becomes an actual law. But we’re ready. Let’s just say that.”
Because at the heart of this company is simply the motive to bring cannabis to the people. “Cannabis has helped in so many ways,” Quattrone proclaims, “and so many people look at recreational versus medical. I think so many people using it for recreational purposes only don’t realize the medical benefits that are happening to them.” But until that future recreational cannabis is legal, Citiva wants to help New Yorkers feel that relief, whether in Brooklyn or its 5 other New York locations.
In fact, the dispensary offers next-day delivery to its customers, servicing even the other NYC boroughs. Soon, they hope to offer delivery down to the same-hour, but unfortunately for New Yorkers hooked on a food delivery app model, that sort of convenience is not launched yet. Nonetheless, Citiva’s Brooklyn dispensary hopes to meld cannabis into that Empire State of mind and keeps its customers happy, no matter their borough. Because, as Quattrone simply put it, “We really want to bring cannabis to everyone that’s legally able to get it.”
New York City couldn’t be more welcoming to that idea.