The New York cannabis industry has weathered a tough year, with a stop-start recreational marijuana market rollout that began 12 months ago and only just got the go-ahead for broad expansion, which has some insiders grateful and feeling optimistic.
“Over the last couple of weeks, there’s a lot of excitement for the license round, and a little bit of celebration,” said consultant and attorney Kristin Jordan. “The community is ready to put 2023 behind us and look forward to the promise of 2024.”
Jordan said there’s a real “air of excitement” in the state now that the universal cannabis licensing is underway. She also hinted that even the big registered organizations – the large companies which hold the state’s 10 medical marijuana licenses, such as Curaleaf and Green Thumb Industries – are slowly but surely developing supply chain relationships that will put to rest fears that they will take over the market and crowd out small businesses.
“At some point, we forgot that these medical companies are comprised of our friends and neighbors. They’re not just the C-suite,” Jordan said.
Jordan added that those fears will likely going to be proven misplaced, as well, because of state limits on how big the R.O.’s are permitted to get. Like any other retailer, they’ll be allowed a maximum of three storefronts – for a combined total of 30 stores statewide – compared with the 463 retail shops already licensed by the state.
And each of those R.O. stores will have to ensure that a minimum of 50% of the products they carry are made by non-R.O. companies, thus ensuring that the bigger players will need smaller players as time goes on, she pointed out.
Not only that, but realistically speaking, she said it’s not likely the R.O.’s could even sweep in and gobble up smaller competitors even if they wanted to, given the enormous financial losses many – including Acreage Holdings and Curaleaf – have posted for several years running now.
“We have to look at what’s happening with the medical market and the R.O.’s specifically over the last few years. There have been tremendous downsizes in staff across the board, several layoffs from these big operators. The medical market has shrunken tremendously. I don’t know where folks think all this money is coming from,” Jordan said.
On top of general operating and expansion costs, R.O. will need to pony up $5 million to transition from medical-only sales.
“I think this idea of dominating is a bit of a fallacy. I think surviving is more the goal here,” she said of the R.O.’s. “We see this even on the federal level. Foes are now friends.”
More importantly, Jordan said, New York is primed for its cannabis industry maturity now that two court battles that stalled licensing have been resolved. That allows the conditional adult use retail dispensary (CAURD) program and its 463 shops to start opening across the state.
“It’s imperative for the entire industry to come together and find common ground. This month, it’ll be very interesting to see … how the relationships on the supply chain side will go. But there’s a lot of thought and care around how these interactions are happening,” Jordan said.