New York Judge Halts Retail Marijuana Licensing After Military Veterans Sue

NY attorney: "It’s throwing a monkey wrench into a lot of people’s plans."

History is repeating itself. For the second time in less than a year, a New York judge has issued an order halting all state cannabis retail licensing.

Judge Kevin Bryant on Monday sided with four service-disabled military veterans who filed suit against the New York Office of Cannabis Management and other state officials last week. The veterans’ suit claimed that the OCM violated the 2021 state law that legalized recreational marijuana by reserving initial retail permits only for select social equity candidates and forcing the plaintiffs to wait.

Bryant issued an order Monday for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order against the OCM, preventing it from further processing or awarding any conditional adult use retail dispensary marijuana permits, at least until a hearing scheduled for Friday morning.

Fiore TRO order

Bryant wrote that there’s sufficient evidence that the four plaintiffs – military veterans Carmine Fiore, William Norgard, Steve Mejia, and Dominic Spaccio – are facing “irreparable injury, loss or damage unless the defendants … are restrained before a hearing can be had.”

Bryant scheduled a hearing for Friday, Aug. 11, in Albany Supreme Court at 10 a.m. to “show cause why an order should not be entered” preventing the OCM and the New York Cannabis Control Board from authorizing any additional retail permits until another pending lawsuit – filed by the Coalition for Access to Regulated and Safe Cannabis – is also heard and finished.

Until then, Bryant wrote, the OCM and CCB “are hereby restrained from awarding or further processing any more CAURD licenses and/or conferring operational approval upon any more provisional or existing CAURD licensees pending further order of this court.”

Attorneys for the four plaintiffs declined to comment to Green Market Report, and a spokesman for the OCM and CCB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New York City cannabis attorney David Feder, who shared the order on LinkedIn, said he has CAURD clients now scrambling to figure out how this may affect their businesses, since the vast majority of the 463 CAURD licensees are still in the build-out phase.

“It’s throwing a monkey wrench into a lot of people’s plans,” Feder said. “They’re in the process of making significant decisions.”

That includes choices on purchasing or leasing real estate, figuring out delivery business models, purchasing vehicles for deliveries, and searching for financing. The new restraining order only complicates the picture, Feder said.

“People are scared. They don’t know what to do going forward,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Cooney issued a statement to say he was “deeply disappointed” in the ruling.

“It is no secret that New York’s adult-use cannabis roll-out has been slower than expected, and now is not the time to stand in the way of progress made. We must focus on awarding non-conditional licenses, which will prioritize social equity candidates and allow more businesses to open,” Cooney said in a release.

Based on Bryant’s order, Feder said, “I think they have a good case. I hate to say it. … This case has legs.”

Feder noted that the hearing on Friday will be open to the public, and he encouraged stakeholders to show up to observe what exactly happens at the courthouse in Albany.

This is the second time a court case has stalled the New York market rollout. Last year, a federal judge temporarily halted CAURD licensing in five New York regions. Regulators were allowed to issue retail cannabis permits in those areas beginning in May and then June.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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