ITHACA, N.Y.—In the coming weeks, Ithacans may notice a new phenomenon on the Commons: there might just be a faint, soft odor of weed smoke wafting through the busy downtown pedestrian center.

That’s always been there, but now there will be a bustling new dispensary too. Led by Binghamton business owner William Durham, William Jane Dispensary hosted a jovial group of public officials from the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County and New York State in the former Trader K’s space in downtown Ithaca.

The official ribbon cutting on Thursday was hastily announced on Wednesday evening, but by a little after 4:20 p.m., the first public customers were flowing into the store after forming a line of over a hundred people winding down the Commons outside the store. The shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Owner William Durham addresses the crowd at Thursday’s press conference. Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

“Thank you everybody for supporting us, we’re going to make it work,” Durham said during a press conference beforehand. “This is a big situation for upstate New York, big thing for New York state in general. We’re just getting into the cannabis world, we’re just at the beginning, so what better time to be in it than at the beginning.”

Reuben McDaniel, CEO of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), thanked a series of local officials who had helped with the transition. DASNY has been involved, along with the Office of Cannabis Management, in helping foster new owners of cannabis retailers statewide. They matched the former location of Trader K’s in Ithaca with Durham, who was awarded a Conditional Adult Use Recreation Dispensary (CAURD) license in part because of his prior incarceration on marijuana possession, a population that is being prioritized for licenses.

The crowd around 4:45 p.m. outside of William Jane Dispensary. (Photo by Casey Martin/The Ithaca Voice)

DASNY will also be helping to remodel and build out the location further—the exact number is not known but most estimates would be a few hundred thousand dollars, taken from state and private funds. Currently, the space is not much more than the familiar Trader K’s floor and some barriers set up to form lines, appearing similar to a small Apple store, but with cannabis drinks and edibles on display instead of Apple products. Customers must also use cash currently, with ATMs in the space.

“I could not be happier to have this business here, congratulations to Mr. Durham for this incredible achievement and thank you to New York State for providing the infrastructure for this to happen the right way,” said Second Ward Alderperson Ducson Nguyen, who was there in place of Mayor Laura Lewis. “We’re finally going to live up to Ithaca’s decades-long reputation for being a haven for cannabis use, except now safe and legal.”

Ithaca’s well-reputed affinity for cannabis was referenced a few times throughout the celebration.

“We were really worried if we would qualify for a cannabis dispensary, we weren’t sure the market was going to support it,” snarked Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson. “Obviously, you are here to demonstrate that’s not the case.”

DASNY CEO Reuben McDaniel becomes the first pre-opening customer at William Jane Dispensary. Owner William Durham checked him out at the cashier. Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

Jokes aside, it is certainly a landmark moment for Ithaca and an example of how rapidly the cannabis industry is spreading across New York State—the first Southern Tier dispensary just opened last month in Binghamton and Durham was just awarded his license late last year. The grand opening of the store was very well attended, with the aforementioned line forming around 4 p.m. and instantly growing. The first two people in line were Mike Smith, from north of Syracuse, and Yvette Jenkins, from Cortland.

Smith said he traveled down because he “just likes to try different strains” while Jenkins thought the event started at noon and had spent the day hanging around downtown Ithaca as a result. Did she enjoy her time?

“It depends what’s in there,” she said.

Richard Guttridge became the first Ithacan to legally purchase cannabis in the city around 4:50 p.m. Informed of the news, he offered his reaction.

“It feels pretty good, it’s been a while,” Guttridge said. “I moved here in 1971 or 1972.”

Had he been waiting that entire time for cannabis to be legalized?

“Well, I knew I couldn’t smoke any pot, because I knew it wasn’t legal,” he said with a wry smile. “I can’t wait to try it.”

Guttridge with his purchase. Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at