New York marijuana regulators announced at the Thursday meeting of the state Cannabis Control Board that they will be doubling the number of “justice-involved” retail permits, from 150 to 300.
Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York Office of Cannabis Management, said the change was due in part to the “incredible news” that many of the qualified applicants will be able to pay for their own retail locations instead of relying on the state to provide shops, but he said it’s also because the OCM wants to “expand the market as quickly as possible.”
That’ll be done in part, he said, by shoring up a state fund run by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, which is intended to provide loans for social equity retailers, to get cannabis dispensaries leased, built out, and open for business.
The fund so far has received $50 million in state money, but it reportedly has failed to raise an additional $150 million that was intended to come from private investors. To date, only 66 conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CAURD) licenses have been issued, though the office received more than 900 applications last fall.
That is why, Alexander implied, it was crucial news that many of the CAURD applicants won’t need the fund to pay for their retail setups, which helped drive the increase in licenses.
“It’s important to understand that the resources of the fund are not limitless, and under the expansion, the first group of 150 licensees will continue to have access to the fund if they want it,” Alexander said. “Those who decline will free up resources that will be made available – but not guaranteed – to those in the expanded group of 150 applicants.”
Alexander further said the OCM is aiming to get “the majority of the remaining applications in eligible regions from the pool of 300 to the board for licensure” by the next Cannabis Control Board meeting in April.
The increase in available licenses will be proportional across the state’s 14 regions, including in the five regions – Brooklyn, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mid-Hudson, and Western New York – that have been stalled by a lawsuit by Michigan resident Kenneth Gay, Alexander said.
The new permit totals by region:
- Brooklyn, 38
- Capital Region, 14
- Central Region, 14
- Finger Lakes Region, 18
- Long Island, 40
- Manhattan, 44
- Mid-Hudson Region, 34
- Mohawk Valley, 4
- North Country Region, 8
- Queens, 32
- Richmond, 6
- Southern Tier, 6
- The Bronx, 20
- Western New York Region, 22
Attorney Scheril Murray Powell, the chief operating officer of the JustÜs Foundation, thanked the board during the meeting for the license increase.
“Doubling the number of licenses is a victory for all CAURD applicants who took the time to fill out their applications. Many of them had to overcome PTSD in order to return to the same courts where they were convicted to request their certificates of disposition,” Powell said. “This is a huge victory.”
The increase apparently does not affect the number of licenses available for qualified nonprofits that have also applied for cannabis retail permits, such as Housing Works, the first recreational marijuana shop to open in New York.