After years of delay, New York’s adult-use cannabis market may finally be ready to launch.
In late August, the state’s Marijuana Commission announced it would begin accepting applications for medical marijuana businesses operating in New York City and its surrounding counties. It seems like dispensaries may finally be allowed to open up for business.
Hochul’s Plan For New York Cannabis
Gov. Kathy Hochul has made several moves toward actualizing cannabis legislation since taking over as NY State Governor, including appointing Tremaine Wright and Chris Alexander to head the Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management. The state’s plan to have 20 conditional adult-use retail dispensaries open by the end of this year is “still on track” – and Hochul says to expect 20 more each month following the initial launch.
However, there are still many roadblocks in place for recreational cannabis. Many are skeptical about the governor’s ability to meet her deadline for licensure, including fellow politicians and cannabis license applicants who are worried that they will be left out of the market because of a lack of supply or demand.
The Road To Recreational
Nearly two years after former Governor Cuomo signed recreational cannabis into law, the state is still struggling to execute market integration. The Office of Cannabis Management is processing the more than 900 applications it received for the 150 available retail licenses, but a complete set of state regulations has not been published.
The first 150 retailers are to be housed in state-funded locations for social equity businesses, but the agency in charge of the build-outs hasn’t yet confirmed any of its properties. There haven’t been any updates on the progress of the Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund either, which will finance those 150 stores.
The Crackdown On Cannabis
As the state struggles to implement a regulated market, the underground scene continues to thrive. In fact, New York sent 52 cease-and-desist letters to cannabis dispensaries in the state, despite having legalized cannabis for almost two years. Hopefully, those targeted will now qualify for the equity application.
The NY government has made it clear that they want to legalize cannabis, but they have not yet provided specific details outlining how this will happen. This is a significant roadblock to legalization, making it difficult for business owners to prepare for the launch of legal cannabis.
The state is also aggressively fumbling its legal bag by creating conditions for a black market to thrive and then punishing entrepreneurs for existing in a legal loophole.
No one even knows what the final regulations will look like. However, we know that they will be complex and require businesses to comply with many different regulations across several different areas (e.g., medical use vs recreational use; municipality-specific laws). There are also over 900 applications that need to be approved before dispensaries can open, and with only 90 days, that leaves the 20 to-be-approved businesses very little time to launch.
We need a timeline so business owners can adequately prepare for the launch of legal cannabis in NY State. Until then, we’ll continue seeing messy situations and will likely see an even messier launch.
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