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Hundreds more cannabis licenses to be approved in early 2024

Updated: Dec 12, 2023





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When New York's Cannabis Control Board issues the next round of licenses to open legal marijuana shops in the state, it's going to be luck of the draw.


The state Cannabis Control Board met Friday in Albany for the first time since the long-awaited resolution of two lawsuits that brought New York's marijuana industry to a standstill since August.


"I think between now and the end of the year, we're going to see a lot more doors opening," Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright told Capital Tonight after Friday's meeting.

The nearly four-month hiatus prevented hundreds of people issued licenses under the state's Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary program — which focused on issuing licenses to people with past marijuana convictions — from opening up shop. 


A week after the court order was lifted, board members have turned their attention to a new priority: Approving retail licenses for aspiring entrepreneurs who have already secured store space.


"We're ready to go, we just need the state to reveiw the licenses," said Paul Suits, one of roughly 1,500 people has space for a cannabis dispensary prepped for business, and applied within OCM's priority window to issue the state's first general adult-use retail licenses.

Suits and his brother co-own Lakehouse Cannabis in Cortland, New York, and applied when applications opened Oct. 4. They traveled to Albany on Friday to tell the board they have everything they need to open their doors except the state's approval.


"We're ready to help Cortland out, to help New York and help our county out with that revenue," Suits said. "We know it'll work — it's just a matter of when."

The Office of Cannabis Management accepted license applications to all aspiring cannabis sellers in two groups: First for people with secured retail space, which closed Nov. 17. The current window for interested entrepreneurs to apply closes Dec. 18.


OCM officials say the general adult-use licenses will issued using a lottery system, and approved in batches during the first quarter of 2024 on a rolling basis.

"We're looking forward to the first quarter of 2024 ... and to see a lot more people joining the ranks of our licensees," Wright said.


The board announced Friday they'd finished the queueing process, or randomized list of the roughly 1,500 people who applied with a solidified location.

OCM officials Friday said the board will approve 250 retail licenses of the applications submitted during the priority period that closed Nov. 17.


Each applicant will be assigned a number of where they are on the list. Suits said he expects to hear from OCM where his application falls in the queue within the next ten days.

Suits is most concerned about hiring staff quickly, but not New York's illicit cannabis market, with thousands of illegal marijuana shops open throughout the state. Suits added he's confident the problem will dissipate as more legal stores open. 


"They want to know where their cannabis is coming from, they want to make sure it's not covered in some weird chemical or pesticide that's going to get them sick," he said.

Hundreds of licensees and farmers packed the board's meetings over the last several months, often speaking for hours during the meetings public comment period. 


But Friday's meeting was sparsely attended, with only seven people addressing the board.

Wright is confident several more dispensaries will open in the state before the end of the year, with more than 400 approved CAURD licensees who can work toward opening who were barred by the injunction.


"Together, we're going to to go through both of those processes and get people opening their doors and their businesses and impacting cannabis in New York state."


Meanwhile, Cannabis Grower Showcases, or the program that allowed cannabis growers to sell their products at approved venues and public events, sunsets at the end of the year.

OCM says the Legislature will need to pass a law to make the program permanent, and with the injunction lifted, enough dispensaries will open to sell thousands of pounds of surplus product New York farmers have from last season.


"If they decide that's the direction they want us to move, we're happy to work with our legislators to get this moving," Wright said.

Senate Cannabis Subcommittee chair Sen. Jeremy Cooney said Friday he's disappointed the program will sunset during the ongoing licensure process.


"I've heard from a number of growers and retailers that the cannabis growers showcases are a helpful tool in the transition to the adult-use recreational program," Cooney said. "I believe there is an opportunity to extend the showcases to regions without CAURD dispensaries or legal retail access. New Yorkers need more opportunities to purchase safe and legal cannabis, not less."


The senator is open to exploring permanent legislation next session, but is open to discussion about the board taking action to extend the program in the meantime to maximize growers' legal opportunities to sell their products.


Two new dispensaries opened in the Capital Region on Thursday and Friday. OCM has granted its final approval to more than a dozen licensees since the injunction was lifted, with their businesses expected to open in the coming weeks. 

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