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Settlement in NY cannabis case could restart long delayed legal weed dispensary rollout

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A lawsuit against NY cannabis regulators that had stalled the opening of new legal weed dispensaries has been resolved, opening the door to the resumption of the long-delayed rollout.

A group of service-disabled veterans who sued the state over licensing for legal pot shops has “reached an agreement in principle” to settle the lawsuit, a lawyer for the plaintiffs wrote to a state appeals court Monday.

The lawsuit was filed by four service-disabled veterans who charged that the state program to prioritize social justice goals by first giving out licenses to people impacted by the War on Drugs and their families was illegal.

The settlement has yet to be finalized, but the news of a tentative agreement sparked chatter in group chats among prospective dispensary owners. The letter offer hope for cannabis entrepreneurs who’ve suffered financial loss and mental stress during the three-month-long injunction.

The lawsuit, filed in August, alleges the state’s Cannabis Control Board overstepped its authority and violated its own cannabis law by opening the retail license application first to those with marijuana-related offenses and their families — instead of opening applications to the general public.

An injunction was imposed in August, which prevented any new retail licenses from being issued and any new dispensaries from being opened — grinding the state’s already slow rollout to a halt.

“The Office of Cannabis Management does not comment on pending litigation,” spokesperson Aaron Ghitelman said in an email. A spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul also declined to comment.

There are 26 licensed dispensaries operating in New York State — the rest are unlicensed shops that sell unregulated weed.

Roger Thomas, co-founder of Mello Tymes who hopes to open a cannabis dispensary in the Bronx, said that he’s hopeful the injunction will lift soon, opening a window for him to get his shop up and running.

“I reached out to a designer and told her to start working with our buildout guy right away,” Thomas said. “… We were waiting for the injunction to get lifted so we can get started on that. We have a potential location, drawings for the locations.”

However, he says he expects more lawsuits as soon as the years’ end.

“Something else might come up,” Thomas said. “So we figure we need to get open ASAP. That’s the only way we’ll get through the lawsuits.”

New York State Supreme Court Judge Kevin Bryant allowed a handful of exceptions to the injunction, but most of the hundreds of licenses just had to sit and wait even as they lost money on rent payments and contracts they were required to fulfill.

The settlement agreement comes after the state’s application did open up to the general public as it moved towards the next stage in its rollout. The licensing window launched Oct. 4 and will remain open until December. The settlement must first be drafted and the final version approved by both sides, according to Brian T. Burns, lawyer for the veterans, in the letter.


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