Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Racing for the ‘pot’ of gold in Peekskill

MaryJaynePhotography –

The long and winding road of New York state’s rollout of legal marijuana stores is entering Peekskill, with one business seeking a special permit to operate, a second one on the way, and a third looking for a place to operate.

Being first to market will offer a huge advantage to the winner, but this race is a complicated one. Two pieces have to fall into place – a license from the state, and a special permit from Peekskill’s Common Council.

Getting the special permit to operate here is one step. But the harder task could be working the way up the state’s lengthy waiting list to win the ultimate prize – a state license.

So far, according to the New York state Office of Cannabis Management, there are only 51 licensed adult-use cannabis dispensaries operating in the state.

The only two in Westchester are both in Mount Vernon: the Westchester Harvesting Company DBA Purple Owl Dispensary, which does not list a physical location, and Elevate at 127 S. Terrace Ave. The Purple Owl is a temporary delivery-only license. There is also one licensed medical dispensary in White Plains and one in Yonkers.

Coming soon, to a location in Peekskill???

On Dec. 12, the operators of a proposed marijuana store presented their request for a special permit to operate at 32 N. Division St. Gracious Greens LLC, based in Poughkeepsie, is seeking a special permit, final site plan approval and associated parking waivers.

They want to renovate the building and occupy the first floor commercial space to become Peekskill’s first cannabis dispensary. The new space would comprise 2,400 square feet.

The building at 32 N. Division St. where Gracious Greens hopes to operate is owned by 32 N. Division St Partners LLC, according to land records.

The proposed dispensary is on Peekskill’s Restaurant Row, North Division Street. Photo from City of Peekskill Planning Department documents.

The two partners behind Gracious Greens, a Minority/Service-Disabled Owned Business, are Michael Ruttenber and Stephen Van Ostrand, both U.S. Marine Corps veterans.

Owners of proposed dispensary. Michael Ruttenber, left, and Stephen Van Ostrand. (Photos from Peekskill Planning Department documents)

Ruttenber led reconnaissance missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ruttenber has worked in strategic security planning and leadership including service with the Westport, Conn. Police Department. He is a part owner of a Krav Maga martial arts studio in Armonk. Van Ostrand is an entrepreneur who has opened and managed many retail operations and worked in the construction industry.

Michael Ruttnber, first row on left, is pictured with other graduates of the Connecticut Police Academy in this July 2010 photo.

In their application to the Peekskill Planning Commission, Gracious Green’s owners wrote “The conceptual business plan for GG’s was created in 2018 and culminated in the issuance of a cannabis dispensary license in Sunderland, Massachusetts. That operation is being sold so that Stephen and his partner, Mike Ruttenber, can concentrate their efforts on establishing a superlative cannabis dispensary and experience in the City of Peekskill, New York.”

However, according to a published report in October 2023, the consultant leading the project in Sunderland for Gracious Green said the owners of that company needed to drop out of the business there.

“They’ve just had a bunch of events occur over the last couple years, which has led them to need to divest from the project, unfortunately,”Peter D’Agostino, who has been serving as the business’ consultant, said at an Oct. 2 Select Board meeting, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

A representative for Gracious Greens LLC declined to comment for this story.

More entrants in the race for marijuana gold

Last August, the first entrant in the race for the Peekskill pot of gold thought they had a lease for a retail space, but that deal fell through.

Valley Greens, a fully-licensed as a Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD), won state approval and is still seeking a place to open.

The three owners have experience working in marketing and business along with ties to Peekskill and Cortlandt. They are dedicated to offering customers a comprehensive experience while also providing informative classes to help spread accurate information about cannabis and its effects.

Shane Jackson, one of the owners of Valley Greens, declined to comment for this story.

The Peekskill Herald has learned that a third candidate to sell cannabis here is about to apply for a special permit at the Planning Commission next month.

Cleaning up the illegal market

Whoever does wind up selling legal pot will have to face competition from the illegal street marketplace. New York City is struggling to shut down the hundreds of smoke shops that proliferate there and Peekskill will face a similar situation on a much smaller scale.

Some smoke shops are known to be selling pot without proper licensing, but because the laws are still unclear, the means to shut them down are murky.

Peekskill City Manager Matt Alexander is overseeing an effort to both clarify enforcement mechanisms and draw up new rules to get control of these smoke shops.

“It’s been difficult to establish for a court case if the ‘marijuana,’ ‘cannabis’ or ‘THC’ [marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol] can be analyzed in a lab with the right determining characteristics, according to the law, to be ruled as an ‘illegal amount’ of substance,” Alexander said last year. “We are pursuing a definition for a testing procedure that might hold up in court.”

The Peekskill Corporation Counsel’s office was working on several options for the Common Council to consider to establish control over smoke shops that might sell marijuana without the proper state license.

Under current zoning law, a smoke shop is a retail use of right and doesn’t require any special permits. Changing the law to require a special permit from the Common Council is one option.

Other possibilities are citing landlords for violations in their buildings, increasing nuisance points penalties that could lead to fines, or instituting a moratorium on any new smoke shops in Peekskill.



About the Contributors
Jim Roberts
Jim Roberts has been in this business for more than 35 years (hard to believe) and still learning every day. A third-generation Peekskill resident, he started as a lowly researcher at the Westchester Business Journal in 1986 and learned how to be a reporter from many veterans in the field. He’s worked in private companies, Connecticut state government and wrote for the Co-op City Times for 10 years before retiring from full-time work in 2019. Roberts wants to contribute to building the Herald into a news website for residents who care about what’s happening in Peekskill.
Jeffrey Merchan
Peekskill native Jeffrey Merchan is a 2022 graduate of Peekskill High School. He is the Collegiate Journalist at Peekskill Herald, funded by a grant from the DJ McManus Foundation. He is currently enrolled at Westchester Community College where he is studying journalism. As the inaugural recipient of the McManus grant, he will be covering city government, schools and feature stories with a focus on Peekskill’s growing Hispanic community.