New York Cannabis Czar: Rec Licensing Not Likely Until Next Year

The state still needs to finish writing industry rules.

New York’s upcoming recreational cannabis industry is one of the most hotly anticipated business developments in years, but it’s still unclear exactly when the market will get off the ground.

Tremaine Wright, the chair of the New York Cannabis Control Board, said in an interview this week with NY Cannabis Insider that licensing – and therefore sales – almost certainly won’t happen until sometime next year.

She said that industry regulations may be completed by the end of 2022, but licensing won’t start until the first quarter or even the second quarter of 2023.

The state has already received more than 900 applications for retail permits, but Wright said officials haven’t yet been able to begin processing those. The first step is finishing industry rules.

“That is really the first step in opening the full adult-use market in New York State,” Wright said. “We hope to have that completed by the end of this year. And so we believe that that will poise us to be prepared to begin either at the beginning, the end of the first or maybe the beginning of the second quarter of next year with licensing.”

Real estate assistance

There’s also no word on social equity funding or retail locations that are supposed to be secured for the applicants by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), since the 900 applications are all for social equity licenses, known officially as Cannabis Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) permits.

DASNY has been charged with raising a total of $200 million – $50 million in state money and $150 million to be raised from philanthropists – for building out 150 retail locations for social equity cannabis retailers. Another 25 permits are expected for nonprofits.

But, Wright said, the state has made progress on the cultivation front.

“With regard to the Seeding Opportunity Program, we are up and running, our farmers are producing, their harvests are coming in, and processors are in place,” Wright said.

“The retail license applications are being reviewed. And our partners in the Seeding Opportunity effort, DASNY, as well as the fund, are hard at work security locations and raising money. They have not announced any locations. And they are still in the process of raising money.”

But with regard to who may open the first retail location or when the first actual retail license may be awarded, Wright said she simply didn’t know.

“I don’t have any predictions on that. I do not know who the applicants are at this moment. I have not seen any of the applications,” Wright said.

“And the decision on who’s going to be able to execute first really depends on the space that they’re all anticipating using, whether or not they meet the requirements. That would be first and foremost. And they are actually awarded a license,” Wright said. “Then if the space that they are anticipating can be converted to utilization quickly. I don’t have any projections on that.”

Wright’s interview contrasts with what New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told NY Cannabis Insider last week, that 20 stores should open by the end of this year, with roughly 20 more each month after that.

John Schroyer

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