New York cannabis regulators probably took in about 7,000 business license applications for marijuana companies during its latest submission window, which closed on Monday, according to one attorney who was heavily involved in the process for scores of clients.
“It’s either just short of 7,000 or just over 7,000,” said Jeffrey Hoffman, who has been working seven-day work weeks for months to help as many clients get licensed as possible. “By and large, this was a successful application submission period. The real questions will now come as we go through the actual licensing process.”
That high number also means there likely will be several thousand broken hearts when the state Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board actually begin choosing license winners, since they don’t plan to offer anywhere near that number of permits.
In this round, regulators will issue a maximum of 1,445 permits for retailers, microbusinesses, growers, processors, and distributors. That’s in addition to the 463 conditional adult use retail dispensary (CAURD) permits previously awarded, 279 conditional cultivators and 40 processors already licensed, and the 10 medical “registered organizations” that just began getting approval to join the recreational market.
The next step is a randomized queuing system that will put the applications in order for review. Though the OCM hasn’t spelled out its timeline for when new permits will be granted, Hoffman said he expects it’ll be fairly quick next month, given that regulators have evinced an eagerness to get the recreational market fully up and running as quickly as possible.
The state had 38 operational legal marijuana shops as of Dec. 19, according to the OCM’s website, which is up from 27 prior to the legal settlement reached this month. Hoffman said there could be as many as 100 operational by the end of January.
“That would be my over-under number,” he mused.
At this point, Hoffman said, every one of the CAURD license holders needs to crank into high gear.
Why? Because the entire system is still vulnerable to litigation, since none of the lawsuits so far have actually resolved the questionable legal underpinnings of the licensing program, Hoffman said. That means another lawsuit could result in another preliminary injunction, which is what stalled the CAURD program from early August until nearly December.
That, he said, means that the longer a CAURD licensee waits to open, the more danger there is of another lawsuit forcing them to wait even longer.
One of the big logistical problems at this point, Hoffman said, is the CAURD licensees don’t have “location protection” anymore, which means that about half of them – perhaps 230 – are now uncertain of having actual leases or sites for their dispensary permits. That’s because of a setback rule that doesn’t allow for a second recreational marijuana shop within 1,000 feet of any other dispensary, making it hard to judge which retail locations will ultimately be eligible.
As a result, the ongoing rollout will continue to be rocky, Hoffman predicted, with more lawsuits of varying types a near-certainty.
“Lawsuits all the way down. That’s what happens regardless, even if the regulators do a good job,” Hoffman said. “The industry is happening, regardless of whatever grade you want to give, it is happening. The steamroller is steamrolling.”