It’s official: New York won’t be accepting applications for cannabis companies until next year.
The state had previously set a target of accepting applications for cannabis businesses this fall, but now it looks like the earliest we’ll see licenses awarded is summer 2023. That means that New York’s cannabis industry will be a year behind their projected timeline and small-business owners who were counting on getting licensed this fall are going to be left out in the cold.
This isn’t just bad news for small businesses—it’s bad news for everyone who wants to see an equitable, sustainable industry grow in New York State. Without additional city/state assistance, it will be an extinction level event for a lot of people who were banking on licenses being awarded this fall.
Major Delays In Licensing For New York State
If you’re looking to get into the weed business in New York, you might want to hold off on growing and processing until next year.
On August 25th, 2022 at an event in Yonkers, Chris Alexander, Executive Director at the Office of Cannabis Management, was asked by an audience member whether people can start growing and processing weed for sale to retailers.
Alexander said that only businesses that received conditional cultivation and processing licenses can currently do that. The expected timeline – given by NY state cannabis officials in May of this year – was to be this fall, but Alexander had something different to say.
“Middle of next year,” Alexander said. “You’ll see regulations come out sooner – in the next two months or so – but middle of next year you’ll see those applications open for cultivation, for processing, and to do the activities you just laid out.”
Business owners, cannabis growers, and other participants in the retail state are worried by the current state of uncertainty in the market, as it’s making it quite difficult for them to begin operations.
Medical Marijuana And NY State Licensing
When New York announced its new cannabis legalization law, the state decided to focus on giving preferential treatment to people who had been convicted of drug crimes. This is a unique approach that has left some industry players scrambling to make sense of how it will affect them.
This decision shook players in New York’s struggling medical marijuana industry, many of whom were banking on the profits they would earn in the recreational space.
Instead of vertically integrating the market (aka bringing existing medical marijuana dispensaries into the recreational market), they’re extending permits to people with prior cannabis convictions
The 10 medical marijuana licensees and those companies with an interest in their business are not dealing with it well. Some donated to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign, and nearly all hired lobbyists, spending more than $2 million this year in hopes they can make the best of what some have projected to be a $6 billion market.
The Equity Of The Social Equity Licenses
All this noise could be one of the reasons the government is slow to act on these licenses, but in all honesty, New York state’s transition into a fully legal recreational market has been anything but smooth.
New York’s cannabis licensing process has some serious shortcomings.
The CAURD licenses will be available to those who have been convicted of a marijuana-related offense or have a close relative who was convicted. Additionally, they’ll have to prove they have owned or controlled a business that’s been profitable for at least two years and pay a $2,000 application fee—which is kind of difficult for people with felonies to prove they have profitable business history.
It’s also sort of antithetical to the point of these laws in general: if they’re trying to help people who’ve been marginalized by the criminal justice system get back on their feet, why are they making them jump through hoops? And why is it so expensive? We need policies that give people who were disadvantaged by our broken system an actual shot at success after serving their time.
It is clear the state and city are not doing enough to help small businesses who are trying to enter the cannabis industry. Without additional assistance from the city and state, many small business people will be left behind by larger groups with more capital. This situation favors larger groups who can play the long game and wait for licenses, rather than taking risks by starting up a business before there are clear timelines for when licenses will be awarded.
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