New York grants first licenses for legal marijuana dispensaries

New York granted its first 36 dispensary licenses on Monday, taking a monumental step in creating a legal — and lucrative — recreational marijuana marketplace.

The licenses approved by the state’s Cannabis Control Board were the first of 175 the state planned to issue, with many in the first round reserved for applicants with past marijuana convictions.

Eight nonprofit groups were among the 36 licensees granted Monday.

Some of the pharmacies, selected from a pool of more than 900 applicants, are scheduled to open by the end of the year.

New York has also planned a $200 million public-private fund to help “social justice” claimants repair the ravages of the drug war, particularly in communities of color.

“This is a monumental moment and represents the final leg of the cannabis supply chain that requires licensing,” said Tremaine Wright, Chair of the Cannabis Control Board.

“Not long ago, the idea of ​​legalizing cannabis in New York seemed incredible. Now, not only have we legalized it, but we are building a legal adult-use market with an equity-based approach that embodies the ambitious goals of the state’s marijuana law.

A court ruling earlier this month has delayed the board in approving pharmacies in some parts of the state because of a dispute over licensing criteria. Despite this, officials said they would issue the remaining licenses as soon as possible.

Angel Tuuseta and Emely Chavez, who operate Royal Leaf NY in the Bronx, were among those who landed one of the first licenses.

“I’m still trying to understand it,” said Turuseta, who was surprised to be contacted shortly after the board meeting.

Another new licensee, Queens’ Suzanne Furboter, was also struggling for words. “It’s very exciting and we’re grateful,” she said.

Housing Works, a New York City nonprofit, said the license received Monday would allow it to continue its work to help low-income New Yorkers living with HIV or AIDS.

“We knew that sales from the legal recreational cannabis industry would allow us to help more people and improve the services we provide to our customers, whether that’s helping people wrongfully imprisoned in the War on Drugs or… of people affected by homelessness and/or living with HIV/AIDS,” the agency said in a statement.

With the first licenses now issued, it remains to be seen whether officials will ramp up their efforts to prosecute dozens of unauthorized pharmacies opened over the past year by people who shrugged off license requirements.

New York legalized the recreational use of marijuana in March 2021, but is still in the process of licensing people to sell it.

The Cannabis Board also advanced proposed regulations for the sale of marijuana, with a focus on public health, product quality and safety, and preventing those under the age of 21 from purchasing cannabis.

While some were happy about the development on Monday, others looked more cautious.

“We’re a little concerned that these licensees are doomed,” said Reginald Fluellen, a spokesman for the Cannabis Social Equity Coalition.

He claims that more attention needs to be paid to the quality and safety of the products that are placed on the shelves in these legitimate pharmacies, and that more resources need to be made available to train entrepreneurs and their employees.

Of equal concern, Fluellen said, is whether these new legal recreational dispensaries will be able to compete with existing medical marijuana dispensaries if they are allowed to enter the recreational market at the same time as new licensees. However, medical facilities may have to wait another three years before entering the recreational market, according to the draft regulation released on Sunday.

The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association welcomed the Cannabis Committee’s move to issue licenses, but said the accompanying draft regulations, which have been approved for public comment, “raise a number of serious concerns.” Among them, the group said, is “the restrictive nature of the state’s medical program.”

Dan Livingston, executive director of the Cannabis Association of New York, hailed the long-awaited issuance of the first licenses as “tremendous progress” in building a sustainable cannabis industry in the state, adding that “New York’s cannabis growers and processors can finally start producing products for the Prepare for sale in these soon-to-be-opened stores.”

“It’s exciting to see a full supply chain being built and we look forward to starting legal sales soon,” he said.