Networking, Fundraising, and Conversations about Cannabis in Forest Hills

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By Celia Bernhardt | [email protected]

Laughter and conversation filled the air at Forest Hill’s spectacularly Halloween-decorated Acey Ducey’s bar on Thursday night, as professionals from a wide range of fields came together to network, eat, drink, and learn. 

Dime Bank hosted the networking gathering, raising money for the Forest Hills Kiwanis Club, a community service organization which wears many hats—its functions range from coat drives for local youth, running the Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade, raising money for programs that benefit children, and hosting networking events for the community. 

Every guest throughout the bar took turns speaking into the microphone to briefly introduce themselves. Local attorneys running for elected positions, real estate workers, and pharmacists were just some of those present. 

Taking some by surprise, the event’s keynote speakers were two professionals in the legal cannabis industry. Sephida Artis-Mills and Danny Carti are both born and raised New Yorkers, Carti having grown up and attended school entirely in Forest Hills before college. They work at HPI Canna, a company with a farm in Poughkeepsie which grows, processes, manufactures, and then distributes cannabis products across the region—“from seed to sale,” as Carti described it. The two drive upstate to the farm from the city every day. 

Sephida Artis-Mills and Danny Carti of HPI Canna address the crowd.

Artis-Mills, who has worked in the past on the legislative side of the industry, explained that because cannabis legality varies across state lines, legal cannabis businesses often face barriers like limited access to banking, insurance, funding, and many different ancillary services. “There are very few things that allow hemp and cannabis businesses to participate,” she said. 

The two also explained the danger of unregulated and illegal “gray market” cannabis storefronts—despite the multitude of stores that have popped up in neighborhoods across the city, there are only about 14 licensed cannabis dispensaries in all of New York State. 

At one point in the night, a guest who works as a licensed pharmacist spoke up. “I commend you for coming out to the public, because I think there are so many misconceptions about what’s going on in your industry…Anything that I can do, that my professional organization can do to support you in your marketing campaign, I would gladly be able to help you make those connections,” she said, to enthusiastic applause from the room.

Q&A with Artis-Mills and Carti.

After the Q&A commenced, guests enjoyed a raffle and no shortage of hors d’oeuvres as they continued chatting and connecting into the night—now with some additional knowledge about an emerging industry ripe for investment and partnership.


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