Empire State Expands to More Cannabis Retail Applicants

This story was reprinted with permission from Crain’s New York and written by Mario Marroquin

Despite a growing number of legal challenges to New York’s cannabis licensing program, Albany’s Office of Cannabis Management this week greatly expanded the number of retail and processing licenses available to the public.

On Wednesday OCM, which is tasked with regulating legal cannabis sales and distribution throughout the state, opened a 60-day window for cultivators, processors, distributors, microbusinesses, and retailers to apply for general licenses that would see the cannabis industry be greatly expanded across the state. Before this, only businesses owned by individuals with marijuana-related convictions or nonprofits with a history of serving currently or formerly incarcerated individuals were eligible to receive a license.

Approximately 1,000 general retail dispensary licenses will be made available this year. But unlike OCM’s conditional adult-use recreational dispensary licensing, which was halted by Albany Supreme Court Judge Kevin Bryant in August, there are no restrictions on the basis of region. The Office of Cannabis Management said that due to the pending litigation challenging the conditional licensing program because of its licensing priorities, applicants to that program should instead apply for an adult-use retail dispensary license, which may even allow for some limited consumption on-site.

The office provided the following breakdown for the approximate number of licenses available throughout the state:

  • Retail dispensaries: 500 to 1,000
  • Microbusinesses: 220
  • Cultivation: 40
  • Processors: 155
  • Distributors: 30

OCM said applicants without control of a site on which to run a retail business can apply for a provisional license and may be granted up to a year to submit proof of their control of a location to finalize their application. However, applicants must comply with zoning rules around school buildings and houses of worship.

Applicants also will be able to apply for a microbusiness license, which is for companies that cultivate cannabis and may plan to process and sell it as well.

Crain’s reported in August that one month after OCM expanded its conditional dispensary licensing program in the city by 118 licenses, Bryant issued an amended injunction that halted the program in its entirety, preventing approximately 30 dispensaries from opening in the fall.

Legal challenges to the state’s marijuana regulations have continued to climb in recent months. According to a report from October on NYup.com, New Yorkers have filed a number of lawsuits against OCM and the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which made medical and adult-use cannabis legal in the state in 2021.

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